HBO Max Launch Still on Schedule Despite Coronavirus Pandemic

HBO Max is still scheduled to launch on time in May, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to stick to the date comes after WarnerMedia, HBO's parent company, agreed to make 500 hours of HBO programming available for free on HBO Go and HBO Now while millions of Americans are at home during the outbreak. New AT&T TV and DirecTV customers are also receiving HBO subscriptions for free for a year.

WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chief strategy officer Sean Kisker told Variety work on the new streaming service has not slowed, despite the pandemic. "It's hard enough to launch a streaming service, never mind in the middle of a pandemic," he said. "So starting two years ago, when this thing kicked off, there’s been a pretty constant stream of effort, and the team has run basically at one speed. We really haven't missed a beat from a remote-working POV."

The streaming service is "still very much on" schedule, Kisker said. "I think if we could've gone a little bit early we would've, but we’re absolutely on schedule for the May launch," he added. "Based on what I'm seeing and reading, the opportunity for people to be at home will be there for a little while."

Even though HBO Max will not be available for a few weeks, fans of the premium cable network's programming can still binge on The Sopranos, Veep, Six Feet Under, McMillion$ and hundreds of other programs without needing an HBO subscription. Notably, HBO did not include the beloved Game of Thrones among the free shows. However, WarnerMedia is offering a free year of HBO for new AT&T TV and DirecTV subscribers through June 27. You do need to sign a two-year contract though, and HBO will not be free for the second year.

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The exact launch date for HBO Max in May has not been revealed. WarnerMedia has revealed cost details though. The streaming platform will cost $14.99 a month, which sounds like a premium compared to other services. Disney+ costs just $7 a month, while Apple TV+ costs $5 a month. Netflix now has several tiers available, with the lowest set at $8.99 a month and the premium service at $15.99 a month.

HBO Max had hoped to have a Friends reunion episode ready to go at launch, but that has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The special will include all six cast members looking back on the beloved series. All 236 episodes will be exclusively available to stream on HBO Max.