HBO Max is finally here, and there are a few things that set this platform apart from other streaming services. The next big contender in the so-called "streaming wars" features a vast library of WarnerMedia content, including beloved NBCUniversal properties, DC Comics spin-offs, and even classics like the Looney Tunes. There are a whole lot of pros and cons to this subscription.
HBO Max is WarnerMedia's answer to Disney+, Apple TV+ and other companies' new proprietary streaming services. It includes movies, TV shows and specials from everything under the umbrella of Warner Bros., making it a serious competitor in this burgeoning industry. The service costs $14.99 per month if you subscribe directly, though one of the unique things about it is how it can be bought as an upgrade, a bundle or a tie-in with other services. Some of these features may hint at the niche HBO Max is hoping to fill in the market.
For some fans, HBO Max will be a must-have just for some of the iconic shows and movies in its library. Fans nearly rioted when Friends was removed from Netflix, for example, but it was taken down so that it could be put up here. For those that want a classic comfort-watch to play on repeat, HBO Max may be the best option.
At the same time, HBO Max comes with some drawbacks, including some technical and convenience shortfalls.
Subscribers were put off on launch day when they found that some streaming devices don't support the app yet, so they will not be able to watch by their preferred method. If this isn't fixed, it could hurt the service badly. Still, the draw of all the family programming HBO Max has to offer may be enough to offset the downsides. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about HBO Max.
For starters, HBO Max costs a great deal more than its competitors. The service goes for $14.99 per month for new subscribers, though in some cases, those with cable packages or certain types of HBO Now subscriptions can upgrade for less. HBO Max also offered a promotional price to those who subscribed early, but as of launch day that is over.
According to a report by CNET, sometime within the first year, HBO Max plans to launch another subscription option that is cheaper, but has advertisements built in. Eventually, it will also overtake HBO Now all together, merging the two apps into one.
For reference, HBO Max's competitors are less than half the price — Disney+ costs $7 per month and Apple TV+ costs $5. However, experts say these are lowball prices to draw subscribers in, and they will go up in the next few years. HBO Max might simply be showing more honesty with users.
In some cases, cable subscribers who already have HBO will be upgraded to HBO Max at no extra cost or will be able to opt-in to do so. This is particularly true for AT&T subscribers since AT&T is WarnerMedia's parent company. However, the specifics on which plans in which regions are granted access is complicated, so check with your provider if you are not sure.
Cable Tie-ins are one of the most unique aspects of HBO Max's model and signal that the service may be trying to target audiences who haven't entirely cut the cord yet. Some industry experts are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the company moves forward with these partnerships.
Many people were already using HBO Now as an add-on to another streaming service, and they will be able to do the same with HBO Max. Anyone who has an existing subscription to HBO Now as an add-on to Hulu, YouTube TV, Google Apple TV will be upgraded to HBO Max at no additional cost, according to CNET. This could change as the service opens up more subscription tiers, and the specifics can vary a lot depending on which service you're using.
As of launch day, the biggest complaint about HBO Max circulating on social media is that it does not work with Roku or Amazon Fire TV streaming devices. According to the U.S. Researcher Parks Associates, about 70 percent of TV streaming devices in the U.S. are Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices, so this narrows the playing field a lot for now. However, Apple TV has an app ready to go for the service, so users are in luck there.
As for the others, they may have to get creative. HBO Max is available on most mobile platforms, so anyone with a ChromeCast or other screen-mirroring feature on their TV can cast the service from their phone, tablet or computer to the TV. Video game systems are also a good option — both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have HBO Max apps ready to go for launch day. Some newer Samsung Smart TVs have them as well.
If all else fails, users can always plug their laptop or computer straight into the TV with an HDMI cable, though this is a hassle many people do not want to bother with. It is not clear if HBO Max will ever get a place in the Amazon Fire TV and Roku app stores.
On the upside, HBO Max comes with one of the most diverse libraries of existing content of any streaming service so far. Unlike Disney+, the service is not looking to maintain a "family-friendly" standard, so adults can enjoy everything from Game of Thrones and Westworld to Rick and Morty and South Park.
However, HBO Max may become a must-have for households with children as well. The service has all of Sesame Street, including specials and even new content. It will also have generations' worth of older cartoons going back to classic Looney Tunes and beloved Cartoon Network series, allowing parents to take a trip down memory lane with their kids.
HBO Max will include everything that is on HBO itself, including originals and licensed content. It will also have a huge supply of content from Comedy Central, beloved shows from The CW and DC Comics screen adaptations. It has classic movies, recent blockbusters and cult classics, including some that have never been available to stream before, such as the Studio Ghibli collection.
In general, the HBO Max library is not as easy to break down by subsidiaries as some of its competitors are, but that just means its the most diverse option yet. The streaming service will ultimately have over 18,000 movies and over 10,000 hours of content in total, though some of its most-anticipated hits are not available at launch.
At launch, HBO Max includes six new programs made specifically for the platform — called "Max Originals." Unlike Netflix's method of dumping a season at a time, new episodes of Max Originals will be released on a weekly basis.
The Max Original shows include the highly-anticipated new Looney Tunes series, and a Sesame Street talk show for kids called The Not Too Late Show with Elmo. There is also a craft series called Craftopia — hosted by some beloved personalities from YouTube — and a competition show based on underground drag balls called Legendary.
The only live-action scripted Max Original so far is a rom-com series called Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick. Kendrick co-produced the show with Paul Feig, and three episodes are available as of launch day, with more coming.
Finally, the only Max Original movie available on Wednesday is a documentary called On The Record. The film features a look at controversial record executive Russell Simmons through the lens of the Me Too movement.
Rather than giving away all its originals at launch, HBO Max has a carefully scheduled time line to release more content throughout the summer, with even more titles expected in the fall, and then a few in 2021. The service's next upcoming release is on June 18, when fans will see an unscripted competition series for kids called Karma.
After that, the second season of Doom Patrol will be released as a Max Original on June 25. Doom Patrol was the break-out hit of the short-lived DC Universe streaming app last year, and fans are glad it will live on here. That same day will see the release of Esme & Roy Season 2 — the continuation of a Sesame Street spin-off — Search Party Season 3 — the revival of a TBS comedy-thriller — and Adventure Time: Distant Lands-BMO — a spin-off of the acclaimed Cartoon Network series.
On July 9, HBO Max will release a new animated comedy called Close Enough, a series originally developed for TBS in 2017. It comes from the creator of The Regular Show, and features the same distinctive animation style. That day will also see the release of Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries about comedian Amy Schumer's pregnancy.
On July 16, HBO Max will release The House of Ho, a "docusoap" about a multigenerational family. The following week it will release Tig n' Seek, an animated children's series from Cartoon Network Studios. The Thursday after that, July 30, sees the release of a scripted comedy called Frayed and an unscripted drama called The Dog House, which is about a British animal rescue operation.
Finally, the last original on HBO Max's slate comes on Thursday, Aug. 6 — American Pickle, a comedy film starring Seth Rogen. This one raised a lot of eyebrows when it was announced earlier this year. In it, Rogen plays an immigrant in the 1920s who gets preserved in a pickle brine for 100 years, and awakens to meet his great-grandson — also played by Rogen. The two then have adventures together in modern-day Brooklyn.
More Upcoming Originals
HBO Max has more Max Originals on the way after that, though they have not been scheduled for release yet. This includes the unscripted Friends cast reunion special that many fans are dying for. It also includes some of the most anticipated scripted productions on the way.
For superhero fans, HBO Max has promised to do a lot with DC Comics properties, including a new Green Lantern series from The CW's Greg Berlanti. Berlanti will also produce a one-hour drama anthology called Strange Adventures, and Elizabeth Banks will produce a half-hour comedy called DC Super Hero High. Finally, J.J. Abrams has been tapped to produce a new series set in the Justice League Dark universe.
Outside of DC Comics, Abrams is also producing a show called Overlook, set in The Overlook Hotel from Stephen King's The Shining, as well as a 1970s crime show called Duster. Abrams is one of the biggest creators that HBO Max has signed a deal with, but others include Reese Witherspoon, whose company Hello Sunshine has a two-picture deal with the streamer. Finally, outside of the super hero lane, Berlanti has a separate four-picture deal with HBO Max.
HBO Max also promises a new half-hour comedy from Issa Rae, and another from Mindy Kaling. It will also feature five stand-up specials with Conan O'Brien, including two hosted by O'Brien himself.
The service will eventually include a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy called Super Intelligence, a comedy starring Gina Rodriguez called Bobbie Sue and a documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain. On the animated side, the service has promised "two re-imagined seasons" of The Boondocks and a new hybrid live-action/animated comedy from Robert Zemeckis called Tooned Out. It will also eventually feature a new Cartoon Network Studios series called The Fungies, and it will tap some of its classic Hanna-Barbera characters for a new Jellystone series from Warner Bros. Animation.
Finally, one of the most controversial and viral aspects of HBO Max is its plan to "release the Snyder cut" — the mythical version of Justice League edited together by original director Zack Snyder. That is expected to hit HBO Max some time in 2021. At the time of this writing, the theatrical cut of Justice League is available, along with other DC movies from the last several decades. Some fans speculate that the release of "the Snyder cut" will impact the future of DC Comics adaptations for years to come, and may set a precedent for the relationship between filmmakers, fans and streaming services.
All in all, the launch looks bright for HBO Max and the future looks even brighter. The service is available now for $14.99 per month.