HBO Max Review

9

Great

Price 9 out of 10

Interface 7.5 out of 10

Compatibility 9.2 out of 10

New Shows 8 out of 10

HBO Max is a streaming service different to the pre-existing HBO Go and HBO Now. When AT&T acquired Time Warner, they became the owner of HBO, CNN, Turner Broadcasting and the Warner Bros television and film studio. The entertainment unit was named WarnerMedia, and it’s this section of the company which provides the streaming service with fresh content so it can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus. 

HBO Max is built around HBO programming, with all of the titles people have enjoyed watching over the years being put in one central hub. There are also several notable acquisitions – for example, Friends was taken off Netflix in January 2020 in preparation for its move to the streamer. There is content from WarnerMedia companies such as DC Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock Entertainment, The CW, CNN, TruTV, TBS, TNT, Crunchyroll, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, Hanna-Barbera, Turner Classic Movies and Turner Entertainment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A strong library of HBO content, with classics that people associate with the brand.
  • Unique user interface with picks from influencers and talent.
  • Investments in popular titles such as South Park and the Studio Ghibli films.

Cons

  • Higher price point than other streaming services on the market.
  • Parent company is a telecoms business, so is inexperienced in video streaming.
  • A later launch date than Apple TV+ and Disney+ – will people still be considering new services?

Types of content available

In July 2019, it was reported that HBO Max would feature 10,000 hours of content upon launch. This library features exclusives such as the complete run of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Big Bang Theory and South Park. All 21 of Studio Ghibli’s animated films are also part of the library, with notable titles including Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.

Original content includes DC Comics shows from Greg Berlanti called Green Lantern and Strange Adventures, a Riverdale spinoff called Katy Keene, an adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans, Grease: Rydell High, a comedy called Made for Love and a limited series called Station Eleven.

All 11 seasons of the modern Doctor Who have been picked up by HBO Max, and there are further seasons being planned. When they have made their debut on BBC America, they will move to the streaming service.

The DC Extended Universe superhero movies are also available, as are the Godzilla and King Kong films. The Lord of the Rings franchise is a part of the library, too. However, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World won’t be available until 2025 due to an exclusive streaming rights deal purchased by NBCUniversal.

J.J. Abrams signed a $250 million production deal to produce new content for HBO Max, and a number of original series can be expected on the platform. Other originals with big names behind them include at least two original movies from Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine. 

Further recognisable names include The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco producing and starring in The Flight Attendant, Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort appearing in Tokyo Vice, Anna Kendrick’s work on romantic comedy Love Life and a film from comedian Rose Matafeo called Starstruck. 

Existing content being picked up includes a Gossip Girl reboot, an animated Gremlins prequel and a Dune spinoff called Dune: The Sisterhood.

Top HBO Max TV shows and movies

  • Made for Love – A woman married to a tech CEO tries to escape him. However, he becomes obsessed with finding her and forcing her to connect with him using brain chips.
  • Dune: The Sisterhood – A series comprising ten episodes which is based on the Dune sci-fi novels. The Bene Gesserit women are focused on.
  • The Flight Attendant – The titular character wakes up next to a dead body in a hotel room in Dubai. Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory stars and produces.
  • Gossip Girl – The classic series is back in a reboot, centering on rich teenagers who go to private schools in New York City.
  • Tokyo Vice – Centers on the Tokyo Metropolitan police and stars Baby Driver actor Ansel Elgort.
  • The Boondocks – The animated series makes a comeback in a revival on HBO Max. The original is also available in the library.
  • Legendary – A competition series which focuses on people who participate in voguing battles. 
  • Love Life – Starring Anna Kendrick, this is a romantic comedy series spanning half an hour.
  • Raised by Wolves – Ridley Scott is the director for this science fiction series.
  • Karma – A competition show for kids who solve puzzles and challenges while off the grid.
  • Americanah – A limited series, starring Lupita Nyong’o. It focuses on a young Nigerian woman who moves to the US.
  • Circe – A limited series based on the novel. The central focus is the Greek mythological god Circe.
  • Looney Tunes – There are 80 new shorts, each lasting 11 minutes. Classic characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck make a return.
  • Adventure Time – The TV series is back with four specials, each of which is an hour in duration.
  • Gremlins – The Animated Series – The creatures from the two movies make a comeback in an animated series on the streamer.
  • Station Eleven – A dystopian series which focuses on how the world goes on after most of its population is killed in a pandemic.
  • The Greatest Space – A competition series featuring contests between interior designers.
  • Grease – Rydell High – Based on the classic 1950s Broadway and movie musical, this musical TV show brings back original characters and introduces new ones.
  • Craftopedia – A competition where kids complete crafting challenges.

User interface

Content on HBO Max is available for offline viewing, which means you will be able to keep up to date with your favorite shows while on the go. Furthermore, there are measures such as a PIN system in place for parental control. This way, you can be sure that kids won’t log into the streamer without your knowledge and watch content which is inappropriate for them.

HBO Max is similar to Disney Plus in that it has content hubs based on brands – much like Disney has hubs for Star Wars, Marvel and so on. Another measure is ‘co-viewing’ homepages, with suggestions that represent the viewing tastes of multiple people in a household. This makes viewing easier for couples or families, as a profile won’t just contain recommendations for one person.

While Netflix provides recommendations based on their famous algorithm, HBO Max focuses on featuring pics from ‘talent’ and ‘influencers’. There are short videos alongside the content they choose. This is similar to the way some physical book shops recommend particular books, with a note on why they have been chosen. Some of the talent featured on HBO Max includes Bill Hader and Regina King. 

How to watch

There is not currently too much information available on compatible devices, but it’s likely that HBO Max will be similar to other HBO services such as HBO Go in this regard. Where HBO Go is concerned, the streaming service is available on Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire tablets, Android phones and tablets, Android TV, Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, web browsers, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, TiVo and Xbox One. Compatibility with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was discontinued in January 2019, so it’s likely these devices are also not compatible with HBO Max.

What setup do I need?

It would be reasonable to assume that the setup requirements for HBO Max are similar to a sister service such as HBO Go. Where HBO Go is concerned, those streaming on their computer will need Windows 7 or later, or Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or later for the optimum experience. Furthermore, compatible browsers are the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10 devices or Safari version 10 or later. Internet connection speeds of 5.0 Mbps or more are recommended to prevent issues such as lagging or buffering.

How to cancel HBO Max

  1. Head to your account settings.
  2. Go to the section which concerns billing and subscriptions.
  3. Scroll down to the option for cancelling your account.
  4. Confirm the selection.

Plans available

HBO Max is priced at $14.99 a month, which is the same price WarnerMedia charges for HBO Now. Those who are signed up to HBO Now will get all of HBO’s content as well as extra TV shows and movies without a price increase. With this monthly subscription price, users will not have any ads supporting the service. There have been talks about introducing an ad-supported version of HBO Max, presumably for a lower monthly price.

Trials and subscription options

There are plans in place for subscribers who are already subscribed to HBO Now or HBO Go. For example, those who signed up for HBO Now through DirecTV or AT&T TV Now will reportedly receive HBO Max for a year free of charge. Those with AT&T smartphones on unlimited data plans may also be eligible for a free year of HBO Max, and people who signed up for HBO Max directly through WarnerMedia could also be eligible for this perk.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like those who signed up for HBO Now via a third party – such as Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video – are eligible for the offer. The same goes for those who have a standard HBO cable subscription which was obtained through a provider which isn’t AT&T.

Competitors

HBO has been a well-known name for many years now, as people associate it with shows such as Game of Thrones, Chernobyl and The Sopranos. By building on its enviable pre-existing library and producing further high quality content, HBO Max has a good chance of coming out on top in the streaming wars. 

AT&T has said that it has a goal of 80 million subscribers for HBO Max by 2025, with 50 million of those coming from the United States. Currently, HBO has around 35 million subscriptions, nine million of which pay for the HBO Now service. To compare these figures with other streaming services on the market, Disney has said they want between 60 and 90 million Disney Plus subscribers by 2024, and Netflix currently has around 158 million subscribers.

What we liked about HBO Max

HBO Max has a lot of enviable content in its library. Whether it’s Studio Ghibli films, the Gossip Girl reboot or new series such as Station Eleven, there is plenty to compete with other major services such as Disney Plus and Netflix. The user interface is also a plus point, as instead of recommending content based on a single profile, it will combine potential titles people may enjoy by examining what everyone in a household watches. Furthermore, by including picks from influencers and talent, HBO Max stands out with more of a personal touch than its competitors.

What we disliked about HBO Max

As HBO Max has a price point which is higher than all of its competitors, this may put some people off. Due to the fact there are now so many streaming services out there, paying $14.99 per month for a single subscription may not be worth it for a lot of potential subscribers. The fact remains that many people will want to have a good range of content, and this is best achieved by subscribing to multiple services. There is a chance that other services may be more successful simply because they are offering a monthly plan which is around a third of the price.

Is HBO Max worth it?

As with the other new streaming services out there, only time will tell if HBO Max is a worthy contender in the streaming wars – and worth shelling out for on a monthly basis. It’s true that there are plenty of popular titles from the last few decades in your arsenal with a HBO Max subscription, but not enough time has passed to see how people rate new and original content compared with that found on other platforms, such as Apple TV+, Disney Plus, NBC’s Peacock and HBO Max.

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