Introducing… HBO Max
By Abb Jones
HBO Max, the latest big league streaming service, launched overnight, packed with double the amount of TV shows and movies than its regular service, and just in time to help entertain weary Americans stuck at home through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Sorry rest of world, HBO Max’s first international expansion will be to Latin America in 2021, and then Europe.
Like rivals Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, AppleTV+ and Hulu, HBO Max has a sprawling list of content. Where it differs is in price. New subscribers can get HBO Max for $15 a month (at hbomax.com), the same price HBO charges for its linear channel available on most pay-TV providers and its pre-existing standalone streaming service, HBO Now. (HBO Now subscribers get upgraded to HBO Max at no additional charge.) By comparison, Netflix’s cheapest tier is $9 a month, Disney+ is $7 a month and AppleTV+ is $5 a month. Amazon Prime is $119/year, the equivalent of $10 a month. (But you also get faster delivery intervals on Amazon Prime products.)
But what if you are already an HBO subscriber through a cable provider? If your cable provider has already struck a deal with HBO, then you get the upgrade at no additional cost. But be forewarned: HBO doesn’t have such deals with every provider. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, does not at present have a deal with HBO, meaning that for now at least, if you want HBO Max, you’ll need to cancel your HBO subscription via Comcast and purchase it directly. (Update: As of this afternoon, Comcast tweeted that its Xfinity X1 and Flex customers get HBO Max at no additional charge.)
But wait – before you do that, you must consider your TV streaming platform. HBO Max currently is NOT available on two major ones – Amazon Fire TV and Roku – which make up 70% of the nation’s television streaming devices. So unless you have a smart TV with direct access to apps or Apple TV, take that into consideration before cutting the HBO tether to your cable provider. HBO Max is available on mobile devices and gaming consoles.
So what about the content? What is this new platform going to give us compared to “regular” HBO? Well, in addition to DOUBLE the amount of content (the complete library of Warner Bros. films; all of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films; the DC films like Joker, Wonder Woman and Aquaman; classic movies like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and The Shining), you will now have access to all seasons of the HBO original Game of Thrones, the sitcom Friends and the animated comedy series South Park, just to name a few.
HBO Max also has a number of original shows available at launch:
- Love Life, the romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick, produced by Kendrick and director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy, A Simple Favor)
- Legendary, a competition show based on underground drag balls
- On The Record, a #metoo documentary about record executive Russell Simmons
- Craftopia, a YouTuber-hosted craft series
- New Looney Tunes cartoons
- The Not Too Late Show with Elmo
The following HBO Max Originals are already scheduled for release this summer:
- Karma, an unscripted kids adventure competition series (June 18)
- Doom Patrol, the second season of the DC Universe series (June 25)
- Esme & Ray, the second season of the Sesame Workshop preschool animated series (June 25)
- Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries about comedian Amy Schumer’s life on tour during her pregnancy (July 9)
- Close Enough, an animated comedy about millennial roommates (July 9)
- The House of Ho, a multigenerational family drama series (July 16)
- Frayed, a comedy about a wealthy Londoner who goes back to her Australian hometown (July 30)
- The Dog House, an unscripted British animal rescue series (July 30)
- American Pickle, HBO Max’s first original film, a comedy starring Seth Rogan as a 1920s immigrant preserved in pickle brine for 100 years who meets his great-grandson in modern-day Brooklyn (August 6)
And if all of this isn’t confusing enough, we have yet ANOTHER major streaming player, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, scheduled for launch across the United States on July 15th.
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