In May of next year, AT&T will unleash HBO Max. While there are still a few reasons to remain skeptical of AT&T’s latest attempt to break into streaming, HBO Max will very likely be more than able to go toe-to-toe with Netflix, Disney Plus and other on-demand services.
Read on to learn everything we know about HBO Max so far.
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What is HBO Max?
You may think of HBO Max’s parent company AT&T as a telecommunications company– and it is. However, it’s also much more than that. After AT&T swallowed up Time Warner last year, it became the world’s largest media company by market cap.
HBO Max has summoned its newly acquired resources to attempt to beat Netflix and Disney Plus at their own respective games. Like Netflix, HBO Max had made the production of exclusive originals a top priority. The fact that a surprising number of these originals are animated shows might be interpreted as a direct challenge to Disney Plus.
HBO Max 60-Second Summary
The jewel in HBO Max’s crown could be its HBO content. HBO Now doesn’t even give you full access to the HBO vault and it costs about twice as much as Netflix and Hulu, yet it still managed to score around five million subscribers anyway. The full HBO catalog could win over even more streamers, as can the addition of Warner Brothers’ massive movie vault. The acquisition of several hot properties from other production companies (Friends, Seinfeld, etc.) makes HBO Max look even more tempting.
After HBO Max gets rolling, it will dip its toe into the live TV space. That’s when things will really get interesting. Most live TV-focused streaming services cost about $50/month. It’s highly likely that a huge percentage of their subscribers are primarily interested in news and sports. If HBO Max can offer even a basic news and sports package while maintaining the $15/month price point, it could manage to peel off a significant number of its competitors’ subscribers.
HBO Max Pros and Cons
There’s a lot to like about HBO Max, especially in terms of content. There’s literally something for everyone: lots of cartoons for the kids, award-winning HBO dramas for the adults, tons of new and old Warner Brothers movies and more.
On the other hand, the fact that it’s owned by AT&T gives one pause. The comapany’s most recent decisions in the entertainment space haven’t yielded great outcomes. Its purchase of DirecTV was almost unanimously considered to be a huge disaster. AT&T’s rebrand of DirecTV’s streaming service DirecTV Now didn’t save it from losing 37% of its customers.
- All 45 years of HBO’s award-winning content
- Strong lineup of cartoons and animations
- Classic movies from the Turner Classic Movies vault
- The exclusive home of several iconic TV shows
- Live news and sports is on the horizon
- Expensive compared to other on-demand services
- HBO Max will be HBO’s third streaming app
- No clear HBO Max upgrade path for some HBO subscribers
HBO Max Plans and Pricing
Right now, there’s only one subscription option: a $15/month plan that gives you complete access to HBO Now and all of its features. That price point strikes a balance between on-demand specialists like Netflix and full-featured, live TV-focused cable replacement services like Hulu with Live TV.
HBO Max Content Library
A high-level look at HBO Max’s upcoming originals reveals that there seems to be a noticeable focus on series and family-friendly content. That focus makes a lot of sense, considering that HBO’s back library provides plenty of entertainment for adults. The upcoming animated Gremlins reboot seems designed to appeal to both kids and adults, while its upcoming Adventure Time specials will surely trigger nostalgia in older millennials and gen Xers.
Warner Brothers films
Warner Bros. can do essentially whatever it wants with DC comic book characters and stories. The fact that every single DC-related movie (except for the newest ones, of course) will be a part of the on-demand catalog at launch could be one of the service’s major draws. Other notable Warner Brothers films include the Matrix trilogy and the Lord of the Rings franchise. Content from the Turner Classic Movies vault rounds out the catalog with classic movies from the past. Warner Brothers also owns Adult Swim, which is the company behind surprise hit Rick and Morty.
Content from other production companies
AT&T signed deals with NBC to acquire the right to stream Friends and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The BBC will bring Doctor Who, Luther, Top Gear, and the Ricky Gervais version of The Office to HBO Max. In addition, HBO Max will be the exclusive home of Comedy Central’s South Park.
HBO Max Interface
One common complaint about HBO Now is its clunky interface. HBO Max’s interface seems to be much slicker and more responsive by comparison.
The most interesting thing about HBO Max’s interface is a feature is called Recommended by Humans. It lets HBO Max users create content lists and share them with the public. Various celebrities will provide lists of their favorite HBO Max shows and movies.
HBO representatives gave The Verge to a sneak peek of the HBO interface in October. It is worth checking out if you’re interested in what HBO Max will look like.
HBO Max Device Support
HBO Max hasn’t revealed which devices will be supported at launch. According to the HBO Max website, the streaming service “will be available on many popular devices” including streaming media players, phones and tablets. The FAQ goes on to state that further details will be revealed in the months leading up to the service’s May 2020 debut.
HBO Max Offline Viewing
One thing that we do know for sure about HBO Max’s feature set is that it does include an offline viewing feature. As is the case with HBO Go and HBO Now, you can download titles so that you can watch them later during airplane trips and in other situations where internet access is not an option.
HBO Max Customer Support
If HBO Now’s support site is any indication of what HBO Max’s support site will offer, you can expect above-average customer support features. In addition to the standard self-service ticket system and knowledge base, HBO Now offers live phone and chat support. The support team also answers questions via Twitter and other social networks.
The most important part of any streaming service is its content library. HBO Max is very strong in that respect. For many, the HBO vault alone will be worth the $15/month fee. After all, HBO helped usher in the Golden Age of Television. The people behind HBO continue to make great decisions in terms of content development, as evidenced by the massive success that was Game of Thrones. Millions pay $15/month for HBO Now, and millions more will pay for HBO Max to get Time Warner content and Max Originals.