Game of Thrones finally returns Sunday after a nearly two-year hiatus for its final episodes. The series, based on George R.R. Martin’s series of novels, is considered by many to be the last monoculture show. In an era in which television audiences have become more fragmented than ever before, Game of Thrones might be the last show that, it seems like, everyone watches.
But of course, not everyone watches Game of Thrones, in part because not everyone has HBO. How can those without cable or HBO subscription partake in the final Game of Thrones season? There are a few ways.
In the early years of Game of Thrones, there was a lot of grumbling from fans that there was no way for fans to buy an a la carte subscription to watch the show. This meant fans either had to spring for an expensive cable subscription or watch the show through less legal means. One campaign, called Take My Money HBO, articulated this specifically.
HBO, and its then-parent company Time Warner, finally bowed to those with this viewpoint when they launched HBO NOW in 2015. This gave non-cable subscribers the opportunity to pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for access to HBO, including the archives of older seasons and other shows.
Therefore, Game of Thrones fans who lack cable can subscribe to HBO Now and watch the show through there.
Another option for Thrones fans who aren’t cable subscribers? They can rely on friends in a few different ways. Some HBO show fans have been known to borrow friends’ or family members’ passwords for either HBO Now or HBO GO, the streaming platform for authenticated cable subscribers.
HBO’s longtime CEO Richard Plepler has said in multiple interviews over the years (per Buzzfeed) that he and HBO don’t object to sharing of passwords. And while HBO has since been sold to AT&T, and Plepler has departed the company, there’s been no announcement of a password-sharing crackdown by the network’s new leadership.
Game of Thrones can be a fun show to watch in a communal setting, so another option for those without cable is to go to an organized watch party or set up a weekly Sunday night excursion to the home of a friend or loved one who has HBO. Some fans may not want to appear to be mooching, but since the upcoming season is only six episodes, they won’t need to spread their watching among too many different friends.
There are also sometimes public screenings of new Game of Thrones episodes, but HBO has come down on those in the past, including cease-and-desist letters in 2015, per BGR.
Entirely illegal and not at all recommended, Game of Thrones, for nearly all of its existence, has been at the top of essentially every list of the most pirated TV shows and continues even after the launch of HBO Now. Per TorrentFreak, Thrones dropped off the list of most pirated TV shows in 2018, for a simple reason: It didn’t air a new season that year.
However you watch it, enjoy the new season of Game of Thrones.