What is HBO Max?

Currently, there are a lot of different networks introducing their own streaming services, and it’s no surprise that HBO has made the list. HBO Max, a direct-to-consumer video service launched last spring, allows you to watch your favorite HBO shows whenever you want. The service offers something for everyone — from preschoolers to teens to grownups — with scripted and unscripted series, competition shows, documentaries, animation for kids and adults, movies, and more. It’s also slowly overhauling HBO’s model, forcing consumers to figure out how exactly they want to access the premium streaming network’s content.

HBO Max has many special features that make it stand out and a few quirks that make it not ideal for all consumers, including the fact that it’s not available on Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick. Here’s what you need to know.

HBO Max

When did HBO Max launch, and how much does it cost?

HBO Max launched on May 27, 2020, and costs $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.

Most paying HBO subscribers were automatically upgraded or switched to HBO Max when the platform was released, but after July 31, HBO Go users found that their accounts no longer worked. That’s because HBO Go was phased out while HBO Now was rebranded to just HBO. Your account credentials for HBO Go should still work for HBO, but you’ll need to download a new app.

What platforms is HBO Max available on?

HBO Max is free for AT&T customers who are already subscribed to HBO. AT&T customers with some newer unlimited plans also have free access to HBO Max, which is available on most Apple devices, including Apple TV, Android TV devices, Chromebooks, Google Chromecast and Chromecast, and even YouTube TV. It is not, however, immediately available on the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku.

There is one wrinkle in HBO Max’s rollout regarding the company’s other streaming apps, HBO Go and HBO Now. WarnerMedia has said they’ll phase out HBO Go as of July 31 and rename HBO Now to simply HBO. If you’re an HBO Go subscriber, you will now have to subscribe to either the newly formed HBO or to HBO Max. For HBO Now subscribers, the changes will be subtle. It will be the same app, just with a shorter name.

HBO also has agreements in place with a number of other cable providers and platform creators.

Cox Communications, the largest private telecom provider in the U.S., gives all of Cox Contour’s existing HBO subscribers instant access to HBO Max at launch for free, in addition to their existing HBO linear and on-demand services. Other customers are also able to purchase HBO Max directly from Cox.

All of Verizon’s existing Fios TV and Fios Internet customers who subscribe to HBO or HBO NOW get immediate access to HBO Max at no extra cost. Verizon’s other Fios customers are able to purchase HBO Max directly from the company, as an add-on to video services, or as a standalone streaming service available to internet-only customers.

Altice USA is giving all of its existing Optimum and Suddenlink HBO and HBO NOW subscribers immediate access to HBO Max and its expanded programming at no extra cost. Other Altice customers are able to purchase HBO Max directly from the company as part of a cable TV package, as an add-on to a video package, or as a standalone streaming service available to internet-only customers.

HBO Max is also available to many independent cable and broadband companies through an agreement with NCTC. Existing HBO customers of those participating NCTC companies get access to HBO Max for free, while other customers can purchase HBO Max directly through their cable or broadband provider. For a full list of NCTC’s member companies, visit NCTC.

HBO Max is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gaming systems. PlayStation users in the U.S. who subscribe to HBO Max may download the HBO Max app via the PlayStation Store. Xbox One users who subscribe to HBO Max are also able to access the HBO Max app on existing consoles and via the Microsoft Store.

Finally, HBO Max is offered on select Samsung TVs. Owners of Samsung smart TV models made from 2016 onward are able to download and purchase HBO Max directly on their TVs.

What shows and movies does HBO Max include?

HBO Max included 10,000 hours of premium content at launch. The library includes the entire HBO service, titles past and present from Warner Bros., top content from around the world, and a monthly offering of new Max Originals, including Seth Rogen’s comedy An American Pickle, Jordan Peele’s horror series Lovecraft Country, and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series Raised by Wolves. Check our list of the best shows on HBO Max right now, for the latest additions.

Raised by Wolves on HBO Max
Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves, on HBO Max

The streaming service pulls from WarnerMedia’s deep content library, including films and TV from Warner Bros.’ 100-year content collection, New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, a curated selection of classic films in partnership with TCM, and more. HBO Max also offers an extensive selection of third-party acquired series and movies.

WarnerMedia’s extensive portfolio of programming and acquisitions that were available on day one include the complete libraries of Friends, The Big Bang TheoryRick and MortyThe BoondocksThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and many more popular shows. Within the first year of launch, the platform will add the libraries of South ParkGossip GirlThe West Wing, and more classic shows.

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. At launch, HBO Max became the exclusive online home for the puckish Time Lord, with all 11 seasons of the modern Doctor Who series available. 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 Westworld, Watchmen, VeepCurb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, and upcoming projects from J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, to name a few — are also available in some form on HBO Max.

Beyond series and specials, HBO Max will also feature a library of more than 2,000 feature films within the first year. Immediately at launch, audiences will have access to 700 blockbusters films via HBO, including Crazy Rich AsiansA Star Is BornAquaman, and Joker, as well as films acquired specifically for HBO Max via Warner Bros., the Criterion Collection, and the acclaimed Studio Ghibli. 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. Twenty of these films are currently available.

HBO Max will also exclusively release Zack Snyder’s fan-demanded Director’s Cut of Justice League at some point in 2021.

The WarnerMedia portfolio also gives HBO Max the ability to curate their film offerings from 100 years of filmmaking. At launch, available films will include CasablancaThe Wizard of OzCitizen Kane, The MatrixThe GooniesWhen Harry Met SallyThe Lord of the Rings, Gremlins, 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.

WarnerMedia also encompasses the Godzilla and King Kong MonsterVerse films, which will not be available immediately at launch. Another major Warner Bros. Pictures property that won’t be included at launch is Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, which NBCUniversal purchased the exclusive streaming rights to in a deal that runs through 2025. We regularly update our list of the best movies on HBO Max, too.

What about original series and films?

The slate of Max Originals currently available to viewers includes scripted comedy Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick; 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.

Over time, Max Originals will continue to premiere on HBO Max at a regular cadence throughout the summer and fall. The first HBO Max Original series to air was Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series Raised by Wolves. Some of the upcoming content includes The Flight Attendant, starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco, based on the novel of the same name by New York Times bestselling author Chris Bohjalian; all-new original episodes of the DC fan-favorite Doom Patrol; a new season of the mystery-comedy Search Party; the three-part documentary series Expecting Amy, an unfiltered and intimate view into comedian Amy Schumer’s life on tour during her difficult pregnancy; the adult animated comedy Close Enough from J.G. Quintel, creator of Cartoon Network’s Emmy-winning Regular Show; and Adventure Time Distant Lands – BMO, the first of four breakout specials reviving Cartoon Network’s beloved franchise Adventure Time.

Soon, HBO Max will air the highly anticipated Friends unscripted cast reunion special.

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.

The first three one-hour shows from the Star Wars director will include Justice League DarkOverlook, and DusterJustice League Dark was previously conceived as a movie for the DC Expanded Universe but will now be a series on HBO Max. Based on the comics series of the same name introduced in 2011, Justice League Dark follows supernatural characters like Zatanna, Deadman, Swamp Thing, and John Constantine as they take on occult characters.

Overlook is a 10-episode horror-thriller that is a quasi-spinoff of Stephen King’s The Shining. It will feature some of the same characters from King’s story but focus primarily on the haunted hotel at the center of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film. Duster is set in the 1970s Southwest and revolves around a getaway driver working for a rapidly growing crime syndicate.

HBO Max will also eventually 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; 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 Dashaun Wesley and judged by Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, and Leiomy Maldonado, alongside a weekly rotating guest judge, while commentary will be provided by 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 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. HBO Max is also developing a film adaptation of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s novella, Throttle, produced by David S. Goyer’s Phantom Four label.

Does HBO Max support 4K?

HBO Max launched without 4K or high-dynamic-range (HDR) resolution support. Nevertheless, the network does expect to deliver those capabilities in the future.

What about the DC Universe?

We don’t know how the launch of HBO Max will affect WarnerMedia’s existing DC Universe platform. The proprietary platform currently offers all DC Entertainment series and films, as well as some original programming. However, WarnerMedia has confirmed that Doom Patrol, DC Universe’s original series and its most popular show, will stream on both DC Universe and HBO Max. DC Universe officially launched in late 2018 and includes a vast library of digital comics, making it an intriguing option for comic lovers. It also features original series such as Titans. 

HBO Max remains new among the various types of HBO programming, so there will undoubtedly be several adjustments and updates surrounding the content you can watch. As opposed to much of the popular HBO content of previous decades, HBO Max features programming for all ages—definitely one of the highlights of this streaming service. Just make sure you check the compatibility of your device prior to subscribing. If you’re interested in streaming everything from Sesame Street and The Jungle Book to Friends, Rick and Morty, and The Office, then HBO Max is worth checking out.

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