And now there is Max. The road to the streaming service dubbed “the one to watch” is a long and twisted one that’s seen two major rebrandings in just a handful of years. But here we are, with the former HBO Max now combined with (and living under the same corporate umbrella as) Discovery.
The short version? HBO, once upon a time, was owned by Time Warner, which at one point was owned by AT&T, which decided maybe a telecom didn’t need to be in the entertainment business after all, and so it did a deal that combined WarnerMedia with Discovery. Tucked away in that timeline was the dawn of the streaming age, with HBO first navigating a messy dual live/on-demand strategy with HBO Go and HBO Now (or was it the other way around?), before merging those into a single HBO Max service.
And since the merger with Discovery, there’s now just … Max.
It’s important to think of Max not just as a rebranded HBO Max. Because it’s not. The addition of the Discovery content is a big deal, because that’s a lot of cable-friendly shows to go along with the prestige that is HBO, plus the also-cable-friendly lineups from the likes of TBS, TNT, and more.
As of May 23, 2023, Max has three tiers from which to choose.
- Max with ads: Costs $10 a month or $100 a year. You’ll get all the same content with some advertising, but it all tops out in 1080p resolution. You should expect up to 4 minutes of ads per hour.
- Max without ads: Costs $16 a month, or $150 a year. There are no ads, and you can download content (limited to 30 downloads) to watch offline on mobile devices. Resolution is still at 1080p (that’s a change from the old HBO Max), and you can stream on up to two devices at once.
- Max Ultimate Ad Free: Costs $20 a month or $200 a year. If you want anything in 4K resolution or anything with Dolby Atmos for audio, this is what you’ll need.
Note that if your subscription is managed through another service — say, if you’re grandfathered in with a free plan because you have AT&T’s internet service — you may not yet have the option to upgrade to the Ultimate option.
Not yet global
There were a number of headaches on Day 1 for Max, mostly having to do with the fact that some platforms required you to download a new app, while others just updated the old HBO Max app.
And complicating that was that Max so far is a U.S.-only streaming service. That led many to believe that Max was not working, when really it just wasn’t yet available. The reason for that almost certainly is because with the addition of Discovery content, the distribution rights had to be reworked, and that takes time.
So at launch, Max was available in the U.S., along with American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Max will be going international, though. And presumably bringing the Discovery content with it. First up is Latin America and the Caribbean by the end of 2023. Then Europe and Southeast Asia sometime in 2024.
Watch Max with a VPN
If you live outside of the supported countries, you might still be able to watch Max via the old tried-and-true method of using a VPN. That’s short for virtual private network, and it’s a technology that basically directs all of your internet traffic through a specific set of servers in a specific location — say, inside the U.S.
Using a VPN to get around geofencing is a bit of a gray area (depending on who you ask), so just keep in mind that this could be a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game. It’s entirely possible that Max (like other some streaming services) could block the use of a
The good news? There are a lot of good VPN companies from which to choose.
What’s on Max?
Once you get over all that fuss over price and availability and bugs and whatnot, it’s time to get to the important part. What’s on Max.
You can break down the taxonomy like this: Max is everything HBO, plus Max Originals (those are shows and movies that aren’t on the old legacy HBO, but were/are on HBO Max. OK, it’s still confusing). Things like Game of Thrones, Succession, Sex and the City — the stuff that makes HBO HBO. And you’ll get movie releases, too, though that’s certainly not as important as it was in the years before streaming.
Plus you get all the other networks that made up HBO Max, like the DC universe, and all the Turner networks. That means TBS, TNT, CNN, HLN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies, TruTV, and Adult Swim. You’ll also find other networks like Studio Ghibli, Rooster Teeth, and Pogo.
And then there’s all the Discovery content and sub-brands — Naked and Afraid, Deadliest Catch, Dr. Pimple Popper — you get the gist.
That’s a lot of stuff in one place.
Where to watch HBO Max
This last part is the easiest. You can watch Max on pretty much anything that has an internet connection. That means streaming devices, like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, and Android TV. The same goes for smart TV platforms from all the major manufacturers.
And you can always watch Max in a web browser if you’re on the go or just prefer to do things that way. The point is there’s nothing inherently special or difficult about watching Max.
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