WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service: Everything we know so far

An unscripted Friends reunion is in the works at HBO Max

The streaming video environment is getting even more crowded now that AT&T’s WarnerMedia announced plans to launch the newly dubbed HBO Max, its own direct-to-consumer video service featuring many of the assets from its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner in 2018.

With a long list of TV shows and movies at its disposal, including a special reuniting the cast of one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, HBO Max has plenty of potential. But many details regarding the service and its offerings remain a mystery. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

What shows and movies will it include?

A July 2019 report indicated that HBO Max will have 10,000 hours of content at launch, including every episode of Friends, which leaves Netflix in 2020Friends has been one of the most popular shows on streaming networks for a while — Netflix paid $100 million to stream it for a single year — and WarnerMedia knows it: In addition to the complete run of the series, WarnerMedia is also trying to put together Friends reunion for HBO Max.

Don’t get too excited, though. The reunion won’t be a new adventure starring Ross, Phoebe, Chandler, and the rest. Instead, it’ll be an “unscripted” panel-style discussion between the Friends cast and crew, who’ll reminisce about their time ultra-popular sitcom. The Hollywood Reporter also warns that the reunion is far from a done deal and that scheduling concerns and contract disputes could scuttle the whole thing.

HBO Max will have other classic TV comedies as well. It will contain the complete run of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and it will be the only place where you can stream The Big Bang Theory and South Park, two exclusives that reportedly cost WarnerMedia over $1.5 billion cumulatively.

Just days after a Studio Ghibli representative told reporters that the Japanese studio’s films would never come to streaming services, WarnerMedia announced that all 21 of Studio Ghibli’s animated features would stream exclusively on HBO Max. That lineup includes family-friendly favorite My Neighbor Totoro, the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises. Most Ghibli films should be available on HBO Max at launch.

Greg Berlanti, who oversees the “Arrowverse” on The CW, will produce two new DC Comics shows for HBO Max: Green Lantern and an anthology series called Strange Adventures. The service will also be the exclusive streaming source for all new Warner Bros. dramas produced for The CW network, beginning with the fall 2019 season that features the premieres of Batwoman and another Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene.

If you’re one of the legions of fans who catches up with Doctor Who via streaming services, HBO Max is going to be a must-have. When HBO Max arrives in spring 2020, it will become the exclusive online home for the puckish Time Lord, with all 11 seasons of the modern Doctor Who series available at launch, Variety reports. Future seasons of the show will also stream exclusively on HBO Max, arriving on the service sometime after they’ve made their debut on BBC America.

The full slate of HBO’s original series — including VeepThe Larry Sanders Show, and upcoming projects from J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, to name a few — are also expected to be available in some form on HBO Max.

Premium cable programming from HBO and even Cinemax is likely in the mix, too, as well as additional content produced by Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, and Looney Tunes, which all fall under AT&T’s WarnerMedia banner now. It’s all up for grabs, theoretically anyway.

It’s worth noting that WarnerMedia encompasses a wide range of Warner Bros.-produced feature films in addition to substantial TV content libraries. That includes the DC Extended Universe superhero movies, all of which will be available on the service, as will Godzilla and King Kong’s shared Monster-verse films and the Lord of the Rings franchise. One major Warner Bros. Pictures property that won’t be included at launch, however, is Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, which NBCUniversal purchased the exclusive streaming rights to in a deal that runs through 2025.

When will it launch and how much will it cost?

HBO Max launches in May 2020 and will cost $15 a month. Given that HBO costs about $15 on its own through cable providers or HBO Now, and given how much extra content HBO Max contains. However, it would still be more expensive than its peers. Netflix’s most popular package costs $13, a Hulu subscription is $6 (or $12, if you want to skip commercials), and Disney+, will set you back just $7 a month (or $70 annually, if you sign up for a year at a time).

What about original series and films?

As far as original content goes, the biggest gun in HBO Max’s arsenal is J.J. Abrams, who recently signed a $250 million production deal with WarnerMedia to produce new content for the company. That’s less than the $500 million early rumors said the deal was worth, but the rest of the facts seem to be the same: Mainly, that Abrams signed with WarnerMedia because he was interested in its plans for HBO Max, and that he’ll be creating a number of original series for the platform.

HBO Max will offer four young-adult films produced by Greg Berlanti, the producer behind many of The CW’s popular superhero shows, as well as two (or more) original movies produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. Let Them All Talk, a Steven Soderbergh-directed movie starring Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, and Candice Bergen, will be an HBO Max exclusive.

On the TV side, a Gossip Girl reboot is currently in development for HBO Max, while The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco will produce and star in The Flight Attendant, a murder mystery, for the service. Series based on the novels Station Eleven, Made for Love, and Circe are in pre-production, while Starstruck from comedian Rose Matafeo will be a collaboration between WarnerMedia and BBC Three. Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort will star in Tokyo Vice for the streamer.

Other original series planned for the service include Love Life, a romantic comedy from Paul Feig and Anna Kendrick, an animated Gremlins prequel, and Dune: The Sisterhood, a spinoff series inspired by Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune.

Will it support 4K?

Right now, there’s no word on whether HBO Max will offer streaming video in 4K or high-dynamic range (HDR) resolution.

Currently, the HBO Now streaming service — which offers streaming access to HBO programming without a cable subscription — does not offer either of the high-resolution formats for video. However, with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and the upcoming Disney+ service all offering 4K streaming video, there’s reason to believe WarnerMedia will need to do the same to stay competitive.

What about DC Universe?

 It is unknown how the launch of HBO Max will affect WarnerMedia’s existing DC Universe platform that offers all of the DC Entertainment series and films along with some original content. although WarnerMedia has confirmed that Doom Patrol, DC Universe’s most popular show, will stream on both DC Universe and HBO Max. The DC Universe service also includes a vast library of digital comics, as well as original series like Doom Patrol and Titans, and was officially launched in September 2018.

Updated on November 13, 2019: Added details regarding the Friends reunion. 

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