HBO will stream to non-cable subscribers... in four European countries

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HBO will start selling streaming subscriptions to non-cable customers for the first time in October, but only to citizens of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. The new service, dubbed HBO Nordic, will offer customers access to the linear, 24-hour movie channel that cable customers are used to, as well as an on-demand library of HBO, Showtime and Starz content for under €10 a month (about $12.50).

The company has been offering a similar streaming service internationally with HBO Go, which makes all HBO original programming available online, but it is only available to those who subscribe to the network though a traditional cable contract -- a move that has been criticized by cord-cutters.

Although one would hope this was just the first step in a wider rollout, HBO says we should’t count on it. According to a company spokesman, the model is specific to the Nordic region, taking into consideration the various factors specific to these countries, and doesn't impact HBO offerings in other territories.

Variety notes that this is a market where HBO doesn't have to protect an entrenched business model as lucrative as the one in the US, where a standalone product would jeopardize its deals with distributors from Comcast to DirecTV. On the other hand, the move will give them a head start against Netflix, which just yesterday announced plans to bring its streaming video service to the region before year-end.

All in all, there's no guarantee that cable-free HBO will be coming to other markets any time soon, but ongoing trends suggest it could happen eventually. Roughly 2.65 million subscribers have dropped their cable or satellite television service since 2008 according to reports, with 1.05 million of those in 2011 alone. Cord cutters are instead opting for cheaper online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus.

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