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HBO Go vs. HBO Max

HBO has long been a hub for premium content, and its streaming services, HBO Go and HBO Now, have made that high-quality content more available than ever. From Westworld to Westeros to Newark, New Jersey, HBO subscribers can experience new worlds and gripping stories on just about all of their devices, from streaming devices to PlayStation 4.

Now, however, the rich are getting richer. HBO Max, launching May 27, 2020, will offer yet another content streaming option, and one that is far more extensive than the largely similar HBO Go and HBO Now. Rather than a sibling to the two previous services, HBO Max is more like the family’s favorite youngest cousin.

To help you figure out which service is right for you, or if you’d like to get both, we’re breaking down the similarities and differences between HBO Go and HBO Max.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

HBO Go is free with an HBO subscription, but that’s the only way to access it. As such, the easiest way to get HBO Go is to have a cable or satellite subscription. The monthly rate for HBO Go, then, varies between providers and plans. Some providers offer HBO subscriptions for as little as $5 a month, some charge as much as $20, and some offer introductory plans that include HBO for free for a certain amount of time.

There is, however, a cord-cutters option. Some providers offer HBO access to internet-only customers, allowing them to access HBO content online. You can also add HBO subscriptions to some streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu. AT&T TV Now subscriptions also include HBO and HBO Go access at no extra charge. Additionally, many colleges offer HBO Go for free to students.

HBO Max costs $15 a month, making it more expensive than most streaming packages. (Netflix’s most popular package costs $13, a Hulu subscription is $6 or $12 for ad-free each month, and Disney+ is $7 a month or $70 annually.) At launch, however, HBO Max will be free for AT&T customers who are already subscribed to HBO, and HBO Now subscribers will be automatically upgraded to HBO Max. Some AT&T customers with newer unlimited plans will also gain free access to HBO Max.

Given that HBO alone often costs about $15 a month through cable providers, the $15 price tag for HBO Max’s considerably larger library certainly seems warranted.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

HBO Go hosts every film, comedy special, and television series that HBO offers, and most new content is available at the same time as its original broadcast. That means classics like The WireThe Sopranos, Oz, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as newer favorites like Westworld, Game of Thrones, The Deuce, and The Plot Against America, are all available via HBO Go.

HBO Max has all that, plus much, much more.

At launch, HBO Max will include 10,000 hours of content. The service draws from WarnerMedia’s deep content library, which includes Warner Bros.’ 100 years’ worth of filmmaking, as well as content from New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, TCM, and more.

Some of the most high-profile TV shows available at launch include Friends, The Big Bang TheoryRick and MortyThe BoondocksThe Fresh Prince of Bel-AirAnthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and many more popular shows. Within the first year, the platform expects to add the complete libraries of South ParkGossip GirlThe West Wing, and more classic shows. It will also serve as the exclusive online home for all 11 seasons of the modern Doctor Who series, as well as all future seasons of the show after they’ve debuted on BBC America.

HBO Max’s feature film library will include more than 2,000 films at launch. Subscribers will have access to 700 films via HBO, as well as films acquired specifically for HBO Max via Warner Bros., the Criterion Collection, and the acclaimed Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli. All 21 of Studio Ghibli’s animated features will stream exclusively on HBO Max, including the Oscar-winning Spirited AwayMy Neighbor Totoro, and The Wind Rises. The WarnerMedia portfolio will add, among others, CasablancaThe Wizard of OzCitizen KaneThe MatrixThe GooniesWhen Harry Met SallyThe Lord of the RingsGremlins, all of the Lego movies, and every DC film from the last decade, including Wonder WomanJustice League, and every Batman and Superman movie from the last 40 years — all available at launch.

All that, and we haven’t even gotten to original content yet. HBO Max will also offer an extensive slate of Max Originals, with fresh titles released every month.

On day one, the slate of Max Originals that will be available to viewers includes Anna Kendrick’s romantic comedy, Love Life; Sundance 2020 Official Selection feature documentary On the Record; underground ballroom dance competition series Legendary; Craftopia, hosted by YouTube star LaurDIY; new Looney Tunes Cartoons; and Sesame Workshops’ The Not Too Late Show with Elmo.

LOVE LIFE Trailer (2020) Anna Kendrick Romantic Comedy

Throughout the summer and fall, HBO Max will continue to release new Max Originals, including Kaley Cuoco’s The Flight Attendant, all-new original episodes of the DC fan-favorite Doom Patrol, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series Raised by Wolves, and the first of four breakout specials reviving Cartoon Network’s beloved Adventure Time franchise.

Looney Tunes Cartoons Official Trailer HBO - HBO Max | Coming May 27 2020

Sometime after launch, HBO Max will also air the highly anticipated Friends unscripted cast reunion special.

HBO Max has a huge production budget and project deals with creators like J.J. Abrams, Greg Berlanti, and Cary Fukunaga. You can see the full slate of what’s expected in the HBO Max pipeline here. HBO Go quite simply does not compare to HBO Max in terms of content.


Since 2010, HBO Go has amassed a huge arsenal of compatible devices and browsers. The extensive list includes Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Android phones and tablets, Android TV, Apple iPad, Apple iPhone, Apple iPod Touch, Apple TV, Chromecast, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, MacOS, Microsoft Edge, PlayStation 4, Roku, Safari, Samsung Smart TVs, TiVo, Windows 10+, and Xbox One.

HBO Max’s compatibility is less obvious. So far, HBO has stated that Max will be available on “phones, tablets … streaming media players and game consoles,” as well as Mac and PC browsers. It seems that HBO Max will have basically the same availability as HBO Go, except for cable boxes. For cord-cutters, that’s no problem. For cable subscribers, they still have a dozen other ways to access HBO Max.

So: HBO Go or HBO Max?

Domhnall Gleeson and Merritt Wever in Run
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You may have already discerned where we’re leaning here. HBO Max isn’t here yet but all signs seem to point to it rendering HBO Go practically obsolete. HBO Max will be available almost everywhere that HBO Go is, cost about the same, and provide significantly more content. HBO is using the HBO Max launch to automatically turn HBO Now subscribers into HBO Max subscribers, so it’s entirely possible they eventually try to move all subscribers to HBO Max. You don’t have to make the jump immediately on May 27 but you’ll get far more bang for your buck from HBO Max than HBO Go.

Once you’ve chosen your desired platform, peruse our picks for the best movies and shows on HBO. If you opt for neither, well, these are the best movies on Netflix.

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Brandon Widder
Brandon Widder is a multimedia journalist and a staff writer for Digital Trends where he covers technology news, how-to…
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