Competition between streaming services will get even stiffer now that AT&T’s WarnerMedia has 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 possibly 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 2020. Friends 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 a 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 will reminisce about their time on the 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, including the complete run of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and it will be the only place where you can stream both The Big Bang Theory and South Park — two exclusives that reportedly cost WarnerMedia more than $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 also 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.
Furthermore, if you’re among the legions of fans who enjoy 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 Veep, The 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?
At launch, HBO Max will be free for AT&T customers who are already subscribed to HBO. AT&T customers with some newer unlimited plans will also gain free access to HBO Max, which will be available on most streaming platforms, including Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and even YouTube TV.
HBO Max launches in May and will cost $15 a month, which makes it more expensive than other streaming packages. 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). However, given the amount of extra content HBO Max provides and the fact that HBO currently costs about $15 through cable providers or HBO Now, the higher price seems warranted.
What about original series and films?
As far as creators go, 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 remain true, namely 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 also be an HBO Max exclusive.
Berlanti will also 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.
Other scripted originals include a series adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic historical novel The Last of the Mohicans led by Cary Fukunaga and Watchmen director Nicole Kassell, as well as Grease: Rydell High, a Cristin Milioti-led comedy called Made for Love, and limited series Station Eleven, starring Mackenzie Davis.
A Gossip Girl reboot is also currently in development for HBO Max, while The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco will produce and star in The Flight Attendant, an upcoming murder mystery. Series based on the novels Made for Love and Circe are in preproduction, while Starstruck — a film 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. HBO has also announced plans to produce a one-hour series based on Adam Silvera’s bestselling YA novel More Happy Than Not.
HBO Max will also try its hand at unscripted programming. Voguing series Legendary will be hosted by Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) and judged by Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, and Leiomy Maldonado, alongside a weekly rotating guest judge, while commentary will be provided by Dashaun Wesley and DJ MikeQ. Design competition show, The Greatest Space, hails from the producers behind Queer Eye and The Amazing Race. Both are expected to launch in spring 2020.
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, HBO Now — 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 Disney+ all offering 4K video, there’s reason to believe WarnerMedia will likely do the same to stay competitive.
What about the DC Universe?
It is unknown how the launch of HBO Max will affect WarnerMedia’s existing DC Universe platform, which currently offers all DC Entertainment series and films, as well as some original programming. That said, 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 such as Doom Patrol and Titans, and officially launched in late 2018.
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