What is HBO Max?

There are so many different networks introducing their own streaming services, but few have gone the route of HBO. In addition to its regular premium channel subscription, HBO launched HBO Max last spring, a direct-to-consumer video service that gives you access to all of your favorite HBO shows, as well as much, much more that isn’t included with the regular HBO package.

HBO Max 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 the first step in an overhaul of HBO’s model. Now, consumers have to figure out exactly how they want to access the premium streaming network’s content and whether they feel all of the bonus content that HBO Max offers is worth it.

Here’s what you need to know about HBO Max.

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.

But if feels too steep, HBO is planning to launch a cheaper, ad-supported tier for HBO Max in June 2021. We don’t know how much this new tier will cost, but Warner Media has said that customers on the ad-supported plan won’t be able to watch same-day theatrical releases — like the upcoming reboot of Dune — when they debut. While advertisements will be a feature of this more affordable tier, ads won’t play on HBO original titles like Euphoria, The Sopranos, or Game of Thrones.

Most paying HBO subscribers were automatically upgraded or switched from their HBO Go accounts to HBO Max when the platform was released. 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, Xbox Series X, and even YouTube TV.

After launching without compatibility with Amazon Fire TV Stick, HBO Max was finally made available on the Fire TV Stick in November 2020, and in December it added support for Roku and PlayStation 5, giving the service a very broad reach in terms of devices.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020)

HBO Max with cable providers

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.

If you’re a console gamer, HBO Max is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox One or Series X 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 or Series X 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, Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, 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.

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.

In November 2020, the platform made news when it announced it would make Warner Bros. Wonder Woman 1984 available to subscribers at no extra cost on the same day as the theatrical release. About a week later, Warner Bros. doubled down, saying they’d release their entire 2021 slate day-and-date on the service. That includes highly anticipated films like The Matrix 4, Dune, The Suicide Squad, and The Sopranos prequel.

Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max
Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984 will premiere on HBO Max the same day as its theatrical release

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 Lovecraft Country, Westworld, Watchmen, VeepCurb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, and upcoming projects from J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, to name a few — is 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 is also the exclusive home of Zack Snyder’s fan-demanded, four-plus-hours Director’s Cut of Justice League, which debuted in March 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.

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

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 other great series content has continued to roll out as well, including 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, the first of four breakout specials reviving Cartoon Network’s beloved franchise Adventure Time.

At some point in 2021, HBO Max will air the highly anticipated Friends unscripted cast reunion special, though it’s unclear exactly when that will happen.

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, premiering December 10.

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, including 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 production, 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.

The Flight Attendant on HBO Max
The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco returns in The Flight Attendant

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’s day-and-date premiere of Wonder Woman 1984 will also represent its 4K HDR debut. The film will be presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos surround sound, marking a great deal of improvement over the platform’s previous formats. Since its launch, HBO Max has not supported anything better than full HD resolution and hasn’t been making any promises about future HDR releases. The Wonder Woman 1984 announcement hopefully works out for the future of 4K on HBO Max.

What about the DC Universe?

The DC Universe (DCU) service is now DC Universe Infinite and it only offers digital comics. DCU’s streaming content has entirely transitioned to HBO Max. This move makes HBO Max the number one service to have if you want access to all your favorite DC Entertainment movies and series like Titans and Doom Patrol.

Out of all HBO’s viewing options, HBO Max is the most recent addition, given that fact, we expect to see more changes to HBO Max and its content in the coming future. There’s also something for parents with HBO Max. It is the first HBO offering to feature kid-friendly programming, a feature that will make it specifically attractive to families. You’ll find everything from Sesame Street and Adventure Time to South Park, Friends, The Office, along with an endless list of other popular titles. If you have a compatible device, HBO Max is hands down worth looking into.

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