HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now cheat sheet: Who gets what

HBO Max vs HBO Go
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Past and present HBO subscribers trying to figure out HBO Max vs HBO Go shouldn't have such a confusing dilemma, but that's still the state of things today as HBO Max has arrived. 

And we just found out that all of this confusing mess is about to be cleaned up. While the below face-off is currently accurate, the branding around all of these services is changing soon. 

WarnerMedia, in a statement emailed to Tom's Guide, said that "Now that HBO Max has launched ... we will be sunsetting our HBO GO service in the U.S." Sunsetting, for those who don't speak corporate jargon, translates to "retiring."

The statement continued, "We intend to remove the HBO GO app from primary platforms as of July 31, 2020. Most customers who have traditionally used HBO GO to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max," 

Further, HBO states that the HBO NOW branding is going away, as "the app and desktop experience will be rebranded to HBO."

So, we've put together a round-by-round face-off, which simplifies a lot out of the gate. Not only will you see that HBO Max and HBO Go have surprising similarities (designed to push people away from one and to the other), but you'll also figure out how HBO Now factors in. Here's everything you need to know.

Our HBO Max vs HBO Go face-off explains why everyone who currently pays for HBO Go should probably get HBO Max.

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: At a glance

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Header Cell - Column 0 HBO MaxHBO GoHBO Now
Monthly Price$14.99Typically $15 (set by your TV provider)$14.99
Annual pricing$11.99 per month for 12 monthsNot availableNot available
IncludesHBO original programming, licensed movies, HBO Max originals, WarnerMedia movies and TV shows, FriendsHBO original programming, licensed movies,HBO original programming, licensed movies
Does it include HBO Max?n/aUnlikelyYes
Supported devicesAccording to HBO, it will be on "phones, tablets ... streaming media players and game consoles" and Mac and PC browsers.Amazon Fire, Roku, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, PlayStation 4, Macs and PCs, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox One, TiVoAmazon Fire, Roku, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, PlayStation 4, Macs and PCs, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox One
AvailableMay 27NowNow

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: Price

This is the only category in this HBO Max vs HBO Go face-off where they're dead-even. HBO Max (just like HBO Now) will cost $14.99 per month, which is a penny shy of the $15 per month rate that cable providers typically charge for HBO channels — which includes HBO Go access.

By matching HBO's existing pricing, HBO is setting Max up to be the new default HBO for all, as it will offer more channels. All you'll need to do is call your TV provider and cancel HBO, and start a new subscription with HBO Max.

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: Supported devices

HBO says HBO Max will be widely available on "phones, tablets, Mac and PC browsers, streaming media players and game consoles," and announced device support includes Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and select Samsung Smart TVs.

To give you an idea of what that list of devices will be, HBO Go and HBO Now are currently on Amazon Fire, Roku devices, Android and iOS, Android TV and Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, desktop web browsers on Macs and PCs, and Samsung Smart TVs. We think it's safe to assume HBO Max will eventually make it to all of those devices — and it's still a bit surprising that it launched without Fire TV or Roku.

The only device that HBO Go is on that HBO Now isn't on is TiVo. And I think that divide will stay true for HBO Max, as Go is meant for people who haven't cut the cord yet. HBO Go is meant to deliver a variety of ways to watch the HBO content people pay for through their TV providers. 

Those without a streaming box (we recommend our best streaming device picks) or a Smart TV won't be able to get HBO Max onto their TV.

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: Shows and movies

The difference between HBO Go and HBO Max is going to be found primarily in the content they offer. HBO will continue to have big-name shows, as the upcoming Game of Thrones Prequel: House of The Dragon will be on both standard HBO and HBO Max.

This tidbit confirms that HBO Go subscribers won't be shut out on all of the network's big shows, and will likely continue to get HBO's high quality premium programming. That includes shows such as Westworld, RUN and Insecure, as well as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. 

HBO Max vs HBO Go: both will get house of the dragon

(Image credit: HBO Warner)

But as its name suggests, HBO Max will have the maximum amount of HBO content thanks to HBO Max Originals. HBO, in an email to the press, said that HBO Max will pack 10,000 hours of "premium content." It's unknown how much content is in HBO Go/Now right now, but HBO did just start to stream 500 hours of free shows and movies, which is about as much new content that regular HBO released in 2018. 

And, as mentioned above, HBO Now will soon include HBO Max, so it's basically HBO Go subscribers who are out in the rain. Our guide to all of the HBO Max shows explains everything, but the Max Originals, as they're called, start on day 1 with the following titles:

  • Craftopia: A kid-friendly competition-based reality TV show starring YouTuber LaurDIY (aka Lauren Riihimaki). Contestants will be 9 to 15 years old.
  • Legendary: Voguing meets the streaming runway, with this competition show featuring judges such as Law Roach, Jameela Jamil, Leiomy Maldonado and Megan Thee Stallion and a cast that includes MC Dashaun Wesley and DJ MikeQ. 
  • Love Life: Anna Kendrick stars in this scripted series that tells many stories, chronicling her character's love life throughout her entire life. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) is executive producing, as is Kendrick herself.

HBO Max will also provide a larger back catalog of TV that HBO Go doesn't offer. The day 1 HBO Max list includes:

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Doctor Who (including new episodes) 
  • Rick and Morty
  • The Boondocks
  • The Bachelor
  • Sesame Street
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • Batwoman (CW)
  • Nancy Drew (CW)
  • Katy Keene (CW)
  • The first season of DC’s Doom Patrol
  • The O.C.
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • The CNN catalogue of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

HBO Max vs HBO Go: HBO Max will get Joker

(Image credit: Niko Tavernise)

HBO Max isn't just TV; it's also going to have movies you won't see on HBO. Those include every Batman and Superman movie from the past 40 years, plus Joker, The Criterion Collection and all 20 of the Studio Ghibli films.

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: Who's getting HBO Max for free?

Many HBO Now subscribers will get free access to HBO Max. You need to be paying for HBO Now directly through HBO (or Apple or Google) to get the upgrade. Those who pay for it through another service — such as Comcast, Apple Channels and Amazon Prime Channels — will want to "stay tuned for more details as we get closer to our launch date," according to HBO. We're still waiting on details.

Those HBO Now customers who are getting automatically updated to HBO Max will get an app update that transforms Now to Max. Subscribers who buy HBO via Charter/Spectrum, DirecTV and AT&T TV, Hulu, YouTube TV, Verizon, Cox and others will get HBO Max as well. 

I'm a Spectrum subscriber, and just used my Spectrum login credentials to sign in with HBO Max after I downloaded it. Easy peasy.

Select AT&T customers also get HBO Max for free, starting with anyone already paying for HBO via AT&T. The folks who get HBO Max through AT&T for free are: AT&T Unlimited Elite wireless subscribers, Internet 1000 members, AT&T TV Now Max subscribers, DirecTV Premier members or U-Verse U400 or U450 plan participants. 

HBO provides similar advice for existing HBO GO subscribers (i.e. those who "subscribe to HBO through a cable or TV provider").

HBO Max vs HBO Go vs HBO Now: Outlook

HBO Max isn't here yet, but this HBO Max vs HBO Go face-off pretty much seals the deal that HBO Max is best for everyone. Not only is it going to be everywhere that HBO Go is (minus cable boxes), but it will cost the same and provide a ton more content. 

HBO isn't even letting HBO Now subscribers make the choice, as it's adding HBO Max for free. So, stay tuned to see how HBO Max lands and if it changes the streaming media landscape.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.