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HBO is one of those networks that really does not need any introduction. We have all collectively come together over an HBO show at one point or another over the last nearly 50 years that they have been broadcasting and creating original series. Maybe you were tuning in every week when The Sopranos originally aired. Perhaps you are more of a comedy fan, and you have been keeping up with Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Chances are, at the very least, you probably tuned in for Game of Thrones, HBO’s biggest and most epic show to date.
Whatever it is that you love about HBO, you may be excited to learn that HBO has a new premium streaming service out now, HBO Max. If you are anything like me, your immediate response to learning about this might have been, “…but why? Doesn’t HBO already have two streaming services? … Why on earth would they need a third?” This seems like a fair enough question, right? Well, there are a few reasons why HBO would opt to continue offering its older streaming apps, HBO Go and HBO Now, alongside the shiny, new HBO Max.
Firstly, both HBO Go and HBO Now are only available to users that have cable plans and have paid extra to subscribe to HBO through their cable providers. In the wake of cord-cutting culture, only allowing those with traditional cable providers to access HBO is not the smartest business decision – it leaves out a huge portion of potential subscribers, particularly those of the younger demographic (who are the ones watching the most TV anyway).
Another reason for HBO to launch HBO Max comes in the form of new, original HBO Max content. By producing new HBO originals that only Max users can access, HBO Max has figured out a way to boost their premium service, offering a more exclusive viewing experience. This helps HBO to further separate Max from its two other streaming apps; it also finally puts HBO into direct play in the highly competitive premium streaming platform industry – allowing HBO to butt heads with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus – HBO has officially entered the 21st-century media marketplace with HBO Max.
But you and I are well-aware of just how congested the premium streaming service industry is becoming these days. With nearly every single cable network wanting a piece of the streaming platform pie (NBC, too, has their own streaming platform coming out soon called Peacock), the world of streaming seems to be quickly turning into a more elaborate, more expensive (if more convenient) version of the cable, at least if you want to be able to access all of your favorite content.
I worry that, before we know it, every network is going to have its own streaming service that requires $10 to $15 a month to access. Obviously, we cannot all afford to subscribe to every platform out there, which is precisely why StreamingSites is dedicated to providing you with in-depth and thoughtful reviews of each and every streaming site and app on the market. Finally, a convenient, honest, and clear-cut way to decide whether a new streaming service is worth your hard-earned money.
So, with that, is HBO Max worth it? Well, let’s take a deeper dive into the service and everything that it offers in order to find out once and for all, shall we?
Warner Media announced back in October of 2018 that it would be launching an Over The Top (OTT) streaming service in 2019, which was to feature content from its various entertainment brands. The plan originally included three subscription tiers and a scheduled 2019 launch.
However, Randall L. Stephenson, chairman, and CEO of AT&T (Warner Media’s parent company) changed the script on everyone in May of 2019, indicating that this service would be utilizing HBO’s brand name, tying in cable providers (as HBO cable subscribers would automatically have access to the service). A beta of the service was to be expected by the final quarter of 2019, with a launch early on in 2020.
In July of 2019, Warner Media finally announced that the service would be known as HBO Max and that it would launch in the Spring of 2020. Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine was signed on as an initial production deal; a deal was also struck with acclaimed writer, producer, and director, Greg Berlanti. HBO Max, of course, officially launched on May 27th, 2020, with plenty of content and original productions to its name.
The HBO Max app design is rather intuitive. It most definitely blows the design of HBO Now, and HBO Go out of the water (apps that are both infamous for subpar and awkward design). It seems, then, that HBO had something to prove with its development of the HBO Max app. And I think that they did an okay job.
Browsing the app, for instance, is very intuitive and easy. As you scroll down, you will find that content is separated by type or category. At the very top of the app, you’ll find a carousel of featured movies and shows. Swipe horizontally through all of the featured offerings. Immediately below this, you’ll find a section of HBO original series, which, again, you can swipe through without losing your placement on the page whatsoever.
Keep on scrolling to find some more archives – Max originals, featured movies, Harry Potter (all eight films), HBO series: editors picks, buddy comedies, family content, edgy animation, civil rights documentaries, LGBTQ+ content, musicals, true crime, and so much more. The library of shows and movies seems to go on forever, all while being very easy to navigate and browse.
At the bottom of the app, you’ll find three main menu tabs to choose from: Home, Search, and Account. I like how stripped-down HBO Max has decided to make this app. Everything is simplified, streamlined, and natural. There isn’t any excess or clutter, which is a common downfall for streaming apps such as this one.
Content and Features
HBO has a longstanding reputation to uphold when it comes to content. This has always been where HBO has separated itself from its competitors, by being able to offer some of the highest quality, grade-A series and movies ever made. Does this hold true with HBO Max’s offerings? I think it is fair to say that it does.
One of the fan favorites when it comes to HBO Max’s offerings is, without a doubt, Friends. It was very smart, I think, of HBO Max to snatch up the syndication rights to Friends just before the launch of Max. They nabbed this monstrously popular and binge-worthy classic from Netflix just in time. I’m not sure if Friends alone is going to be enough, though, to convince people to jump on board with a monthly HBO Max subscription fee. What else does this service offer?
Well, HBO Max also has any and everything when it comes to original HBO content. Find all of your favorite series (and mini-series), such as Chernobyl, The Wire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Barry, Last Week Tonight, Real Time with Bill Maher, West World, etc. This is, of course, to be expected. And HBO has never been a network to settle for meeting expectations. They go above and beyond as well, offering a very impressive selection of syndicated content (I mean, in addition to just Friends).
There is a little bit of something for everyone on HBO, Max. Get nostalgic by throwing on the shows and movies you grew up with, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, or Looney Tunes. Pair that with some modern hits and classics like Rick and Morty, The Big Bang Theory, Adventure Time, and Crazy Rich Asians, and you have the recipe for one of the best streaming services out there at the moment.
Oh, and you cannot forget about the Max original series, such as Love Life, Legendary, On the Record, and The Not-Too Late Show with Elmo.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
HBO Max is available, of course, on iOS and Android devices. It is also compatible with Chromecast, Apple TVs (4th gen and newer), PS4, Samsung TVs (2016+), and Xbox One. Unfortunately, though, you cannot access HBO Max with Roku, Firestick, or Amazon products. This is a huge disappointment, considering that myself and most of the people that I know use something like a Roku or Firestick in order to access their streaming apps. I think it was likely a huge mistake not to include at least a Roku build with the launch.
That being said, I’m sure a Roku and Amazon release is coming eventually … I hope!
Pricing and Plans
HBO Max is on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to premium streaming services. They have ditched; it looks like the 3-tier subscription model, in favor of a single option. You are looking at paying $14.95/month for access to HBO Max. Unless, of course, you already pay for HBO through your cable provider … then, it’s a complimentary service.