HBO Max provides a one-stop-shop for all of your favorite shows from HBO and other WarnerMedia production houses. With exclusive rights to Sesame Street, anime from Studio Ghibli and HBO Original content, the $15-per-month streaming service has gotten a lot of attention.
But it only works in the United States. When you cross the border into Canada, HBO Max blocks your access. Canadians watch HBO content by subscribing to the Crave streaming service and paying for an extra HBO subscription. But there’s no interoperability between Crave and HBO Max. So even though you’re paying for HBO Max while on the road, you can’t watch Friends or the Snyder Cut. The best way to stream the HBO Max content you’ve paid for when traveling in Canada is to use ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN: the best VPN to stream HBO Max from Canada
ExpressVPN is the most reliable way to unblock HBO Max in Canada and other countries where the streaming service is not available. The company regularly checks the most popular websites and services to ensure its users can use the internet no matter where in the world they are.
This level of customer support goes even further with ExpressVPN’s round-the-clock support center. They provide live chat to help you set up your VPN and can help resolve issues you may run into while on the road.
Whether you’re using ExpressVPN to rewatch The Sopranos or to securely download your emails, this high-performance solution keeps your privacy secure while letting you use the internet as if you were back home.
Core ExpressVPN benefits
30-day Money-Back Guarantee. Rather than trying a de-featured version for a few days, you can use every ExpressVPN feature for a full 30 days. Although you will be charged the regular monthly fee, you can get a full, no-questions-asked refund at any time during that first month if ExpressVPN isn’t right for you.
Discounted Plans. You can choose between a 1-month, a 6-month or a 12-month subscription. Rather than going month-by-month, you’ll save more than 20% by choosing the 6-month plan or 35% by choosing the 12-month plan. The money-back guarantee applies to all of them, so there’s no risk in getting the savings up front.
Many VPN Servers. Server congestion is one of the biggest issues with cheap VPN providers. Too many people get funneled into a handful of servers, slowing the bandwidth for everybody. ExpressVPN operates more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the world.
Use the Fastest Servers. The ExpressVPN app checks to see which VPN servers have the lowest so you get the best connection for your online activity.
Dedicated Support Staff. While Flixed’s testing found ExpressVPN to be very reliable, sometimes connection glitches happen. ExpressVPN has support staff ready 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week to help you get your VPN sessions working.
Account Sharing. A single ExpressVPN subscription can be used by five devices at the same time. You can protect your home network, your laptop and your phone while also sharing connections with others in your family.
These are compelling reasons for using ExpressVPN when away from home. But it isn’t just HBO Max that can be unblocked. ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN providers that work with Hulu.
Related: How to Watch Hulu or Hulu Plus in Canada – Updated for 2021
In addition, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are truly international and have country-specific catalogs with content you can’t get in the United States. ExpressVPN lets you get the most out of your Netflix subscription.
Related: How to Watch American Netflix in Canada – Updated for 2021
How to unblock HBO Max in Canada with ExpressVPN
When you’re visiting Montreal or Vancouver, all you need to do to watch HBO Max in Canada is follow these three simple steps.
Step 1: Sign Up for ExpressVPN
Go to the ExpressVPN website to sign up for the monthly, 6-month or annual plan. If you go through the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, the money-back guarantee gets more complicated since the refund has to come from Apple or Google rather than ExpressVPN.
Step 2: Download and Install the ExpressVPN Client
- The ExpressVPN app is in the app store for most mobile devices. Or go to the ExpressVPN site to get the app for Linux, macOS and Windows computers. The website will first let you download an installer.
- The installer walks you through the process of getting the app on your computer.
- Once installed, simply launch the app:
Step 3: Connect to an HBO Max-compatible server
- When you’re visiting Canada, go to the app’s “VPN Locations” menu where you’ll see a list of countries. Scroll through the list or use the search bar at the top to select “United States”:
- There are more than twenty server locations in the United States. You’ll get the best results by choosing one closest to you.
- Select one of the location names to connect.
- If you see the “VPN is On” message, then your connection is working. Now you can stream HBO Max in Canada:
What ExpressVPN has just done is create a “tunnel” through the internet that makes it look like you’re in the United States. When you log into HBO Max or other websites, their geography-checking systems will think you’re home instead of traveling abroad. This will let you access your HBO Max subscription.
What are other publications saying about ExpressVPN?
With so many VPN services out there, it can be hard to figure out which ones really work. The technology press has reviewed ExpressVPN and here’s what they have to say:
“ExpressVPN has a great service. The speeds are phenomenal, the device support is off the charts, and the country locations and number of servers are vast.” – PCWorld
“This is a quality VPN which delivers in just about every area.” – Techradar
“ExpressVPN’s dedication to privacy is impressive, and its fleet of far-flung servers outclasses much of the competition.” – PCMag
Other ExpressVPN use cases
Unblocking HBO Max in Canada or other travel destinations is just one reason for using ExpressVPN. The service was actually created to protect people and their data when connected to the internet.
Protecting your online privacy
People around the world are realizing that the benefits of being online come with risks. It seems like a day doesn’t go by that some company announces it’s been hacked. Or new revelations appear about how social media companies sell your online history to advertisers and others. More than ever, people are looking for ways to protect their personal privacy while surfing the web.
Using a VPN like ExpressVPN is one way to do that. The connection between the client app and the VPN server is fully encrypted which means none of your internet service provider’s monitoring systems can tell which websites or services you visit.
Protect your data from insecure WiFi hotspots
Using the public WiFi at cafés, airports and hotels is convenient. Unfortunately, those systems are rarely secure. Hackers can use easily-available technology to intercept your wireless connection. They can then watch as you enter passwords or credit card numbers.
Creating a VPN connection the minute you join a public WiFi hotspot will keep your personal information secure. Even if a hacker scoops up the data flowing from your device, the military-grade encryption is impossible to break.
Why all the interest in HBO Max?
The success of Netflix and Amazon Prime made the Hollywood studios see a new opportunity for their businesses. They could bypass TV companies and movie theaters to create direct relationships with people who love their content by creating their own streaming services. CBS All Access was one of the first of these direct-to-consumer services, but it was the launch of Disney+ in 2019 that sealed the deal.
HBO Max leverages the popularity of HBO’s brand to bring all of WarnerMedia’s content under one roof. You get popular HBO Originals like Game of Thrones and Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as content from WarnerMedia TV channels like Adult Swim, CNN and Turner Classic Movies.
An added bonus comes from Warner’s ownership of movie studios like Castle Rock Entertainment (Miss Congeniality, The Polar Express) and DC Films (Wonder Woman, Joker). In the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic, WarnerMedia chose to release its 2021 movies on HBO Max at the same time they appeared in US movie theaters. You get thirty days to watch these new releases in the comfort and safety of your home.
In addition to its own content, HBO Max licenses content from other companies. Sesame Workshop, for example, has made HBO Max the home for Sesame Street. Anime giant Studio Ghibli has given HBO Max exclusive streaming rights to most of the animate films in its archives. Sony Pictures, the Criterion Collection and Legendary Entertainment also provide content to HBO Max.
Related: HBO Max Review
The $15 monthly subscription Americans pay for HBO Max is close to the price Netflix charges and much higher than you would pay for studio-owned streaming services like Disney+ or Peacock.
HBO Max is available on most streaming platforms. In the home, you can use platforms running Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku as well as the latest Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles. On the road, HBO Max works with most browsers and has apps for both Android and iOS.
You can create up to five profiles for family members so everyone gets their own recommendations and watch lists. Kids profiles can limit the kind of content your children can access.
Why is HBO blocking access from Canada?
Often, the licensing deals WarnerMedia signs with third-party content providers only apply in the United States. Those companies sign deals with local distributors in every country and they don’t want HBO Max to undermine those deals. Likewise, Warner itself has signed international distribution deals for HBO Originals and other Warner-produced movies and TV shows.
Letting people all over the world join the US-centric HBO Max would undermine Warner’s own business. To stop that from happening, HBO Max blocks people from using its service anywhere but in the United States. Far from the most sophisticated approach, so-called geo-fencing ends up punishing HBO Max’s customers when they take a trip out of the country. Government and military families stationed overseas are blocked from using HBO Max and keeping up with pop culture back home. It can also stop Americans who live near the Canadian or Mexican borders from using HBO Max at all since geolocation techniques can be inexact.
How does HBO Max block access from Canada?
There are many ways that websites and streaming services can block your internet connection. The simplest approach followed by companies like HBO Max is to check your virtual address.
The internet works through a system of Internet Protocol addresses, or IP addresses. These are not the words you type into your browser, like www.flixed.io, but a group of cryptic numbers best understood by the internet’s traffic-routing computers. Each country is assigned blocks of IP addresses which they distribute to the companies and internet service providers (ISPs) who make up the local internet.
When you connect to the internet in Canada, your online activity passes through the Canadian ISP’s unique IP address and onto a series of other Canadian IP addresses before passing across the border onto the United States’ internet. A streaming service can look at this series of addresses and determine that you’re killing time in a hotel room in Canada. It’s then a simple matter of blocking any connection requests that don’t originate from the United States — even if those requests come from legitimate HBO Max customers.
ExpressVPN will unblock HBO Max in Canada and other countries because the streaming service thinks you’re in the United States. Even though your connection to the internet is through a Canadian ISP, the connection to HBO Max will appear to come from the ExpressVPN server in Los Angeles or Atlanta.
Can HBO Max block VPNs?
Streaming services will often try to block VPNs in order to show their business partners that they’re enforcing the geographic limits of the distribution agreements. By compiling lists of IP addresses from known VPN providers, a service like HBO Max can block any traffic coming from that VPN company. There are a couple of problems with this approach.
First, many Americans use VPNs to protect their privacy while in the United States. Aggressively blocking VPN providers would alienate legitimate customers just trying to use the service they’ve paid for.
Second, VPN providers can change the IP address of their servers with a simple entry on the command-line. Keeping up with constantly-changing VPN provider IP addresses is like playing whack-a-mole and rarely worth the effort.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.