HBO will offer customers the ability to view content streamed online next year, without also paying to subscribe to the cable channel.

At an investor conference in New York, Richard Plepler, the CEO of HBO's parent company Time Warner, says the company plans to unveil the service to American customers starting next year.

"That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped," Plepler said. "It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO."

One barrier that will remain, however, is the border to the north: HBO confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that the service will not be available in Canada when it launches in the U.S. in January.

Currently, HBO offers HBO Go streaming as an add-on for its cable customers. But the move targets the 80 million American households that don't currently subscribe to cable television but might like access to HBO's programming.

Research firm Forrester estimates that about 40 per cent of American adults with an internet connection stream online video from sites like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon to their televisions.

Game-changer for TV: analyst

HBO has been the home of some of the most popular shows on cable television, including The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Game of Thrones and True Detective, and its content would presumably be among the most sought after for any streaming service, so the move could be a game-changer for the TV industry, Forrester analyst James McQuivey said.

"HBO and ESPN are the two main reasons why people have cable and satellite TV," he said. "The whole industry has eyed them for years, nervous that one day they would decide to do exactly what they said they'll do in 2015. We don't know until we see pricing and packaging how rapidly this will force a change in the way pay TV operators work, but it will definitely force a change."

One early victim of the move appears to be Netflix, the giant of the online streaming space, as the company's shares lost almost four per cent on the Nasdaq on Wednesday — although it was a bad day for stocks in general.

With files from The Associated Press