Friends and Veep? Warner’s new HBO Max streaming service changes HBO forever

Get ready for a whole new HBO. While WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service will be known as HBO Max, the service is more than just a new spin on the popular premium network. HBO Max will combine HBO’s slate of original series with other content from WarnerMedia’s vast library, including Friends.

According to a press release from WarnerMedia, HBO Max will be the new home for the hit ’90s sitcom in 2020, which Netflix previously paid $100 million to stream for a single year. And that’s just for starters.

HBO Max will also include the complete run of shows as disparate as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars, and will also be the only place to find all new CW series, starting with this fall’s Batwoman and the Riverdale spin-off, Kathy Keene. Movies from Warner Bros.’ sprawling catalog, including DC Comics films like Wonder Woman and Shazam, are expected to be on HBO Max as well, though we’re still awaiting full details there.

HBO Max will also have its own slate of original content, including four made-for-TV movies from Greg Berlanti, the man behind many of the CW’s current hit series, and two films from Reese Witherspoon’s production company. Other original series coming to HBO Max include Love Life, a romantic comedy from Paul Feig and Anna Kendrick, an animated Gremlins prequel (yes, seriously), and Dune: The Sisterhood, a spin-off of Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming feature film.

Naturally, all of HBO’s original series and movies will be expected on HBO Max, too, including everything from Veep to The Larry Sanders Show, as well as JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele’s Lovecraft Country and Joss Whedon’s new series, The Nevers. WarnerMedia has already changed course significantly when it comes to the company’s streaming plans, however, so nothing is set in stone.

WarnerMedia plans to launch HBO Max in spring 2020, although a specific release date hasn’t been announced. WarnerMedia did not say how much the streaming service will cost, but previous reports indicate that subscriptions will run about $17.

All in all, HBO Max marks a major shift for the HBO name. Ever since The Sopranos arrived on the scene in the late ’90s, HBO has become better known for its high-quality original dramas, comedies, and TV movies than its rotating line-up of third-party feature films. With HBO Max, HBO is returning to its roots in a way: Once again, HBO is primarily a content distribution platform, not a prestige TV brand. It’s a move AT&T execs were eager to implement shortly after the company bought WarnerMedia in an $85 billion deal, part of an effort to better compete with streaming juggernauts like Netflix.

HBO Max also has big implications for current HBO customers. If an HBO Max subscription really costs just a few bucks more than regular HBO and has that much more stuff, there’s really no reason to get HBO through your cable or live TV streaming service, assuming that you have a decent internet connection. It’s also not clear what HBO Max means for HBO Now, Warner’s stand-alone HBO streaming service, although we’d guess that Now’s days are numbered. Everything that HBO Now can do, HBO Max can do better.

Note: This story is ongoing. We’ll be updating it as it develops.

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