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Everything you need to know about HBO Max

From pricing to subscription options and the differences from normal HBO

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HBO Max logo Image: WarnerMedia

HBO Max, the latest platform to enter the streaming wars, launched in the U.S. on May 27. The streaming service from WarnerMedia is following the lead of its competitors like Disney Plus and NBC’s upcoming Peacock by launching with a slate of beloved properties (Friends, Studio Ghibli movies) as well as flashy, star-studded original programming.

The HBO Max launch has been a bit confusing, from the name (HBO Max includes more than just HBO titles) to the pricing (it costs the same as HBO, with twice the content) to whether or not HBO subscribers will get HBO Max for free (it depends).

Below, we break down everything you need to know about HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO?

Short answer: There’s a lot more content.

Longer answer: HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s answer to Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, NBC’s Peacock, and the bevy of other new streaming services currently crowding the marketplace. Where HBO is a premium cable TV channel, HBO Max is a bona fide streaming platform.

Can I get HBO Max free if I already have HBO?

Maybe! It depends on how you subscribe to HBO. Most subscribers who pay for HBO will be automatically upgraded to HBO Max, whether they subscribe through a traditional cable company or a digital streaming platform. And HBO has confirmed that the HBO Now app will be automatically converted to an HBO Max app on all compatible devices. There are some exceptions, however. WarnerMedia hasn’t signed deals with Amazon or Roku, meaning that folks who subscribe to HBO through one of those providers won’t get the upgrade.

That sounds complicated!

It is, but here’s a complete breakdown of subscriptions, cable services, and AT&T plans that will get you HBO Max.

Which devices have HBO Max?

HBO Max is available in web browsers at HBOMax.com, but WarnerMedia is also releasing an app on a wide variety of platforms.

Here’s the full list of devices that will have the HBO Max app at launch:

  • PS4 and Xbox One consoles
  • Samsung smart TVs
  • Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV)
  • Google devices (Android phones, tablets, and TVs; Chromecast devices)

How much does HBO Max cost?

At $14.99 per month, HBO Max is the most expensive streaming service on the market. (For comparison, Netflix’s cheapest tier costs $8.99 a month, while a bundle with Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus costs $12.99 per month.) However, that’s the same price as an HBO subscription — with twice the content.

The New York Times reports that WarnerMedia is also working on an ad-supported version of HBO Max, which would presumably be cheaper than the current ad-free service. While it’s not available at launch, that ad-supported tier is similar to the approach that NBCUniversal is taking with Peacock, its upcoming subscription service. Peacock will offer a free version of the platform with commercials and a limited selection of content.

Does HBO Max support 4K?

HBO Max doesn’t support 4K or HDR at launch, but a WarnerMedia spokesperson confirmed that “4K HDR is a part of the HBO Max product roadmap.”

What’s streaming on HBO Max?

HBO Max is anchored by HBO programming (i.e., everything that’s on HBO will also be on HBO Max). But there’s also a huge back catalog of content, including TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Pretty Little Liars, The Big Bang Theory, and Doctor Who, and films like The Shining, 13 Going on 30, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. HBO Max will also be the exclusive streaming home in the U.S. for Studio Ghibli movies, marking the first time that beloved films like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service will be available to stream in the States.

HBO Max is also branching out into original content, with several “Max Originals” available at launch and many more on the horizon. Launch titles include two reality competition shows (a ballroom competition, Legendary, and a kids crafting competition, Craftopia), a rom-com anthology series starring Anna Kendrick, and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo. Max Originals coming later include adaptations and “reimaginings” of classic properties, like a Dune spinoff, new Adventure Time specials, and a Grease prequel.

What about the Snyder Cut of Justice League?

Oh yeah, that too.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting HBO Max’s launch?

Most of HBO Max’s launch titles were filmed well before social distancing measures shut down film and TV production. However, the planned Friends reunion special, originally set to be available at launch, has been delayed. WarnerMedia Entertainment chair Bob Greenblatt told Variety that he hopes the special will go back into production by the end of the summer.

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