HBO Max, the upcoming streaming service from WarnerMedia, is poised to take on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus later this month. Including shows from Cartoon Network, CNN, DC Comics, HBO Originals, TNT, Crunchyroll, and Sesame Workshop, that's over 10,000 hours of content that puts the current streaming giants in WarnerMedia's crosshairs, and it's launching soon.
But in the vicious, dog-eat-dog world of streaming, you don't even have a hope if you can't put your money where your mouth is. That's why HBO Max features serious scalps like The Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty, and South Park. Not only that, but iconic '90s sitcom Friends will be a subscription driver on its own, let alone with a Friends reunion on the way.
With the HBO Max release date fast approaching, it's time to start asking yourself whether the content on offer is worth the cost of another monthly sub, especially given that HBO Max will be one of the more expensive platforms around when it goes live. We know the launch offerings, second wave slate, and plenty more content to come, and it's looking healthy. So, below you'll find everything you need to know about HBO Max's launch offerings, price, supported devices, and more.
HBO Max release date: May 27
HBO Max has a release date: it will launch on May 27. Check out a trailer of what to expect below.
HBO Max price: what it'll cost you each month
HBO Max will cost $14.99 (around £11, AU$22) per month. That puts it on the dearer end of the streaming service spectrum. However, it's also the same price as HBO Now, and HBO Max should offer a lot more entertainment goodness for your hard-earned cash. By comparison, Disney Plus is $6.99 per month, while Netflix's Standard tier is $12.99. HBO Max's subscriber target is 50 million by 2025 – a lot by anyone's standards, but considering HBO had 54 million US subscribers as of 2017, it's really not out of the question.
HBO Max won't replace HBO Go and HBO Now: both services will apparently set to carry on, though HBO Max has been characterized as the "workhorse" of Warner's pay TV efforts. Still, given there's three variations on the platform, below you'll find a breakdown of their differences.
HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: what's the difference?
One potential problem facing HBO is the confusion between the different HBO-branded services. Here's a quick explainer:
- HBO Max: the new direct-to-consumer streaming service that we're focusing on in this article.
- HBO Now: the existing direct-to-consumer streaming service that costs $14.99 a month.
- HBO Go: features the same content as HBO Now – but you can only access it as a bonus with a cable subscription to HBO. In addition, you can access the same HBO content on both services through Amazon Prime Video for $14.99 per month.
When HBO Max launches in May, HBO Now subscribers can switch over to Max for the same monthly price, but only if they're directly subscribed through hbonow.com. If you're subscribed to HBO Now through a third-party, the HBO Max FAQ says to 'stay tuned for more details'. The same notice is used for those subscribed to HBO through a cable or TV provider.
People subscribed to HBO through AT&T-related services, meanwhile, can watch all the HBO Max content they want for no additional cost, too. If you have HBO via AT&T TV or U-Verse TV, that comes with HBO Max. People subscribed to 'premium' AT&T mobile and broadband services will apparently have the offer of bundles with HBO Max 'at no extra charge'.
It's a little complicated to unpick, then, but if you're among the millions already directly subscribed to HBO Now, switching to HBO Max should be nice and simple.
HBO Max devices: how will you be able to stream it?
Apple devices will be supported at launch on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD. Users can subscribe to HBO Max in-app, too. If you're already subscribed separately, of course, you can log in to the app and use it as normal.
In addition, subscribers can access HBO Max seamlessly within the Apple TV app. If you own a second or third generation Apple TV device, you can stream HBO Max via AirPlay. Also, following a deal with Google, the service will also be available on Android, Chromecast, and Android TV.
A more complete list of compatible devices for HBO Max hasn't been revealed yet, and probably won't be until closer to launch. Still, if HBO Now is any indication, it'll hopefully work on the majority of phones, tablets, games consoles and other devices.
HBO Max launch shows: everything you can stream day one
Original content is the lifeblood of any new streaming service, and HBO Max has a lot in the works alongside the content coming from HBO itself. Here are the HBO Max original launch shows that'll be available straight away:
- Love Life: an anthology series starring Anna Kendrick that explores a single person's romantic relationships.
- On the Record: this documentary explores the accusations surrounding music mogul, Russell Simmons, and the relationship between women of color and the #MeToo movement.
- Craftopia: a crafting competition for kids, fronted by YouTuber, LaurDIY.
- Legendary: eight houses of 'divas' compete for a cash prize in this unscripted series.
- The Not-Too-Late-Show with Elmo: A 'late-night' talk show for kids with the iconic puppet.
- Looney Tunes Cartoons: The new series of 80 11-minute episodes will feature Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Marvin the Martian.
Upcoming original shows and movies coming to HBO Max
But launch content is just the start: there will be 31 original HBO Max series in 2020, a number that'll swell to 50 by 2021. Here's what's to come in the second wave of Max Originals:
- Karma (June 18): hosted by YouTuber Michelle Khare, Karma test the mental and physical stamina of kids aged 12-15 by taking them completely off-grid and setting them challenges.
- Adventure Time: Distant Lands (June 25): these four breakout specials of the hit animation start with the adventures of the adorable little robot, BMO.
- Doom Patrol season 2 (June 25): DC's motley group of heroes return now that they're shrunk in size and stranded on Cliff's toy race track.
- Esme & Roy (June 25): this animated series from the makers of Sesame Street sees colourful monsters overcoming obstacles as a team.
- Search Party season 3 (June 25): a comedy thriller about over-privileged young people in search of a missing friend, and bad things ensue.
- Close Enough (June 9): surreal animated comedy that follows families navigating their thirties, and the many commitments that entails.
- Expecting Amy (June 9): three-part documentary on comic Amy Schumer. Includes her difficult pregnancy and her work on a comedy special.
- The House of Ho (July 16): This non-fiction series traces the multiple generations of the Ho family, from Hue and Binh who migrated to the US from poverty in Vietnam, to the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by their children.
- Tig N' Seek (July 23): this zany animation follows 8-year-old Tiggy and his pet cat, Gweeseek as they cause chaos in the Department of Lost and Found.
- The Dog House (July 30): the British Dog Rescue Centre is a place where homeless dogs are matched with new owners. Happy crying inevitable.
- Frayed (July 30): this 1989-set comedy follows Sammy Cooper, a wealthy London housewife that must return to her home in Australia and confront the reasons why she originally fleed there.
- An American Pickle (August 6): Seth Rogen is a struggling laborer who somehow becomes perfectly preserved in brine and wakes in the present day.
When it comes to future originals, arguably the biggest is the Friends reunion, which is likely to film at the end of the summer. "We’re holding out for being able to get this special done hopefully by the end of the summer, if the stars align and hopefully we can get back into production" WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt said. The six-character reunion was originally slated to launch day one, but has been delayed by Covid-19. Then there's the brand new House of Dragon Game of Thrones prequel, coming at some point in the future, too.
There are six DC Comics adaptations in the mix, including Green Lantern, a live-action series from Arrow producer Greg Berlanti, and Justice League Dark from JJ Abrams. Abrams is also making two other series for HBO Max, The Shining-related show Overlook, and a 1970s-set show called Dusters.
Strange Adventures comes from Berlanti, too, which is an anthology show that "will explore close-ended morality tales about the intersecting lives of mortals and superhumans." There's also a three-part animated Aquaman show on the way. Called Aquaman: King of Atlantis, the show will follow the early days of Arthur Curry's rule as king.
Also from DC Comics comes DMZ, a show about a modern-day American civil war adapted by filmmaker Ava DuVernay. Along with Doom Patrol, HBO Max will also become the new joint home DC Universe shows such as Titans and the Harley Quinn animated series. These are examples of how HBO intend for Max and DCU to work in tandem, but "we're still working out what those mechanics are" an HBO exec said at the TCA winter press tour in January 2020. Elizabeth Banks will produce DC Superhero High, imagining life in high school for the comic book icons.
Michael Mann will direct the pilot Tokyo Vice, about American journalist Jake Adelstein's life as a police reporter in the Japanese city, which sounds like its biggest swing at a conversation-starting original – and will star Ansel Elgort of Baby Driver fame.
Dune: The Sisterhood is a spin-off of the upcoming Dune film, with the pilot sharing a director in Denis Villeneuve. Raised by Wolves is a Ridley Scott-produced series about two androids raising a child on another planet, while 80s cult hit Gremlins is an upcoming animated series too. Speaking of animated series, Santa Inc. is an eight-part animated comedy starring Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, set on the North Pole during Christmas season.
College Girls, meanwhile, is a teen show from The Mindy Project's Mindy Kaling. Rap Sh*t is about a Miami-based female rap group trying to get famous. Search Party, a great-but-overlooked TNT adult mystery drama, is moving to HBO Max for its third and fourth seasons. Post-apocalyptic drama Station Eleven is based on the book of the same name. Made For Love is an adaptation of Alissa Nutting's novel, starring Cristin Milioti. Generation is a Lena Dunham-produced show about modern sexuality in a conservative environment. A new version of teen drama Gossip Girl is in the works, with Kristen Bell returning as the titular character in voice only and Selena Gomez is fronting a cooking show, so far called Untitled Cooking Project.
In terms of original movies in the works, Superintelligence, starring Melissa McCarthy, author film Let Them All Talk from Steven Soderbergh, and legal comedy Bobbie Sue starring Gina Rodriguez. Expect a suite of original reality TV shows and kids' shows, too. Animated original Scoob!, starring Mark Wahlberg and Zac Efron, will launch on-demand while cinemas are closed by the coronavirus, but it hasn't been confirmed for HBO Max yet. The Sundance 2020 award winner, Charm City Kings, is also coming to HBO Max after the company picked it up from Sony. There's also a ten-part dark comedy starring Jean Smart (of Watchmen fame) as a Las Vegas diva.
And following the news that Audience Network will no longer be a home for original content, raising questions over series like Mr. Mercedes and Loudermilk, but sources say that at least three originals transition over to HBO Max. However, don't expect Cinemax content to come to the service: programming production at the company is to wind down, which leaves series like Jett and Warrior in unknown territory.
HBO Max: other shows and movies you'll be able to stream
HBO Max will have an enviable backlog of TV shows to binge, so we'll just list some highlights here, even if the timeframe of their respective releases is a bit unclear at this point: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, South Park, Rick and Morty, The OC, The Big Bang Theory, Adventure Time, The Office UK, Luther, Doctor Who series 1-11, The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Barry, Veep… Basically, there's a lot to look forward to if you've paid attention to any TV in the past 20 years.
That's the key thing with HBO Max: if WarnerMedia owns it, that means it's probably coming to HBO Max at some point. New original shows from The CW, like Katy Keene and Batwoman, are coming to HBO Max, though older shows like Riverdale are part of a pre-existing Netflix agreement. Cartoon Network and Adult Swim shows will be part of the offering, too. And let's not forget everyone's favourite TV chef, Anthony Bourdain: all 12 seasons of Parts Unknown are heading to HBO Max.
And what about movies? It's looking promising. The Matrix trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, The Conjuring movies, Lego movies and Gremlins movies will all arrive within the service's first year. So too will every Batman and Superman movie from the last 40 years.
Notably, the Harry Potter films won't be on HBO Max – Universal has an exclusive streaming deal on those until 2025, which includes the Fantastic Beasts movies. However, fans will have been heartened to hear Reilly's comments on the subject at the TCA winter press tour: "Those discussions will continue on. At some point, you can’t have our experience without having Harry Potter be a part of it."
HBO Max has another ace up its sleeve: the rights to Studio Ghibli's complete library, including Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Speaking of anime, streaming service Crunchyroll will provide a 'curated' selection of shows for HBO Max, too, which will rotate on a quarterly basis.
That's a lot of different places to draw content from, and you can expect newer Warner movies to make it on there, too. Joker, the billion dollar-grossing Joaquin Phoenix-starring DC film, will be on HBO Max in 2020.
HBO Max app features: downloads and recommendations explained
HBO Max will let you download content for offline viewing. It'll also have a PIN system for parental control, personalized profiles, and brand-based content hubs similar to how Disney Plus categorizes Star Wars and Marvel. You'll also have the option of 'co-viewing' homepages that represent the tastes of multiple people in your home.
If you're sick of Netflix's algorithm-based recommendations, HBO Max will feature picks from "talent and influencers", with short videos accompanying the content they chose. That is a little different from how the other streamers are doing it. As you can see above, that talent includes actors like Bill Hader (Barry) and Regina King (Watchmen), both of which are synonymous with existing HBO shows.
HBO Max could win the streaming wars, if price doesn't slow it down
HBO is a name synonymous with prestige TV, from shows like Oz and The Sopranos through to Game of Thrones and Chernobyl. With HBO Max, it'll likely come to mean something else entirely – but that association is still a massive asset. In the 'Peak TV' age, HBO has more than held its own, producing the likes of Succession and Watchmen and remaining the center of the TV conversation while a streaming arms race occurred around it.
That is what HBO Max is building upon: the best TV of the last two decades, coupled with every major brand Warner can throw at it. Not all streaming services will survive this content war, but HBO Max has a lot in its corner.
That said, HBO Max's content chief doesn't see the current landscape in terms of "streaming wars" at all. During the Television Critic's Association winter press tour (via THP), Kevin Reilly took to the stage to admit that he sees most households subscribing to multiple services, rather than each of them being at war with each other: "These are all going to be different products where each household is going to be piecing it together," Reilly said.
HBO Max probably won't launch in the UK
In October 2019, Warner Bros and European broadcaster Sky renewed their programming deal in the UK, with part of that deal involving co-development of new shows with HBO Max (via Deadline). That means it's extremely unlikely HBO Max is going to launch any time soon in the UK. Indeed, the Game of Thrones spin-off House of Dragon will launch on Sky, just like its predecessor.
The upside for UK subscribers? That subscription to Now TV should still get you all that great HBO content for years to come without you needing to spend anything extra. It's a smaller pond for streaming services in Britain, after all.
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