HBO Max just launched nationwide, bringing yet another streaming option among an already crowded market that includes CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime and among others. Upon first hearing the brand name, HBO Max sounds like an expanded HBO or merging of HBO Go and HBO Now. But at $14.99 per month (the typical price of HBO’s suite of channels), the service brings much more than just HBO content, so much so that you might wonder why the seemingly-finite brand name was chosen.
HBO Max’s trophy is certainly all ten seasons of Friends that are streaming exclusively on the platform. The show that premiered over 25 years ago has seen a resurgence in popularity after a long run on Netflix. And, the quality of the show (that was once 4:3 but converted to 16×9) is surprisingly good streaming in HD.
Doctor Who (2005), The Big Bang Theory, The Boondocks, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are among other series streaming on the service, providing hours upon hours of binge-worthy TV not found on other services.
HBO Max also has HBO Original Series included in the subscription such as Game of Thrones, Sex in the City, and Westworld, as well as Warner movies A Star is Born, Casablanca, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And, any movies licensed to HBO can be streamed such as the Alien franchise (FOX), BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features), School of Rock (Paramount), Jaws (Universal), The Abyss (FOX), and X-Men movies (FOX).
Beyond what you find on HBO, the service features content from partner “Hubs” that include DC, Sesame Workshop, TCM (Turner Classic Movies), Studio Ghibli, CN (Cartoon Network) Collection, Adult Swim Collection, Crunchyroll Collection, and Looney Tunes.
This is where HBO Max expands beyond a standard HBO subscription. They’ve got all eight Harry Potter films, feature DC movies Wonder Woman, Joker, Aquaman, Ready or Not, and Suicide Squad, and classics from TCM such as Ben-Hur, North by Northwest, and Rebel Without a Cause, to name a few. The content adds a lot more to the already large library available with HBO.
There’s only a limited amount of original content at this time. HBO Max is categorizing 100 episodes of Looney Toons as original, the 8-episode kids competition show Craftopia, and the documentary On the Record. But that’s it for now. The rest of the “original” content is from Warner-owned networks.
There’s more content headed for HBO Max really soon, including premium movies like Ad Astra, Doctor Sleep, Ford v Ferrari, and The Good Liar.
The streaming quality from HBO Max is very good, even if it maxes-out in HD. This could be a reason for 4k TV owners not to bother with HBO Max for now, but you’ve got to remember the majority of content is still HD. Plus, 4k TVs do a great job of upscaling digital content when the source is good, and this is what we found with HBO Max. Take a classic like North by Northwest, for example. The Alfred Hitchcock film from 1959 looks as good as ever streaming on HBO Max.
Supporting mobile devices include Android (running Android OS 5+) and Apple iOS (with iOS 12.2+) tablets and phones. Smart TVs that currently support HBO Max include Android TV (OS 5+) and Samsung TV (2016+). Streaming media players and gaming consoles include Apple TV (4th gen.+), Chromecast PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. And, of course, browsers on laptops and desktops. A wider range of support should be coming soon.
There doesn’t seem to be a need to keep HBO Max if you’ve already got subscriptions to HBO, TCM, and the other “hub” networks mentioned above. However, TV shows like Friends, Game of Thrones, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may be reason enough to keep the service (after all, hearts were broken when Friends left Netflix last year). And, fans of Warner Bros. movies from franchises like Harry Potter and the DC Universe may find HBO Max a practical way to access all those titles from one location, albeit in HD only at this time.