Peacock vs HBO Max: Which new streaming service is best?

peacock vs hbo max
(Image credit: Warnermedia; NBCUniversal)

2020 has been a banner year for streaming services, and Peacock vs HBO Max is the big duel between the new kids on the block. HBO Max has been out for months now, but as it's yet to yield a Mandalorian-level hit, the service is definitely open to attack.

Peacock's easy advantage comes with its lower prices and (more importantly) free tier, which will give it a strong chance to succeed in the crowded market, make sure you check our Peacock TV promo codes page for the latest offers. Peacock TV will also earn eyes with some of the biggest sitcoms of the last decades.   

We're not counting HBO Max out yet, though it really needs Roku and Fire TV support, which Peacock also lacks. Its $15 per month price may sound high compared to Peacock, but that's the same price HBO's been for years, and the service shows no signs of stopping. 

Both seem like they belong in the best streaming services debate, so let's break these two competitors down. Our Peacock vs HBO Max face-off will give you everything you need to know to figure out which you should stream on your TV next. 

Peacock vs HBO Max: At a glance

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Peacock FreePeacock PremiumHBO Max
Monthly PriceFree$4.99 ($9.99 without ads)$14.99
Ads5 minutes per hour5 minutes per hourNo ads
Hours of ContentMore than 13,000 hoursMore than 20,000 hoursAround 10,000 hours
ShowsSelect active NBCU seasons, some Peacock original episodesFull seasons of Peacock originals and current season showsCurrent HBO shows, HBO's library, HBO Max originals, licensed series from TurnerMedia
Other contentMovies, classic shows, newsMovies, classic shows, news + earlier windowed content, "premium movies" and early access to late night TVStudio Ghibli and TCM movies
DevicesAndroid, Android TV, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, Chromecast, Comcast Xfinity X1, Comcast Xfinity Flex, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, LG Smart TVs, PlayStation 4, Xbox One S and Xbox One X and Vizio SmartCast TVsAndroid, Android TV, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, Chromecast, Comcast Xfinity X1, Comcast Xfinity Flex, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, LG Smart TVs, PlayStation 4, Xbox One S and Xbox One X and Vizio SmartCast TVsAndroid, Android TV, Apple TV 4K, Apple TV HD, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Samsung TVs (2016 models and later)

Peacock vs HBO Max: Price and value

Peacock looks a lot like Spotify, ready to win over America with the one four-letter-word that is totally safe to say on TV: Free. With our ever-tightening budgets and the constant influx of streaming services, the Peacock Free plan is taking what we love about Pluto, but backing it with a serious on demand library. 

HBO Max, just like Apple Music, has no free tier. It also costs much more than either Peacock Premium plan, at $14.99 per month.

Peacock vs HBO Max - pricing

(Image credit: Peacock NBCU)

Then, there's Peacock Premium, which is either $4.99 per month for an ad-supported experience or $9.99 for an ad-free experience. Peacock Premium, as I'll explain below, offers complete runs of shows from NBC's back catalog, sports events and early access to late night talk shows. You also get around 7,000 hours of additional content by spending money on Peacock Premium (though it's free for Comcast Xfinity subscribers).

Price does not equal more hours of content when compared to HBO Max, which gets you 10,000 hours of programming. That's about half of the 20,000+ hours of Peacock Premium.

Winner: Peacock 

Peacock vs HBO Max: Devices and apps

Right now, this feels like a tie for last place between both services. Neither Peacock nor HBO Max has Amazon Fire TV or Roku apps at the time of publishing. Both Peacock and HBO Max are on Android and Android TV, Apple TV (both HD and 4K), the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

Peacock vs HBO Max - Peacock

(Image credit: Comcast/NBC)

Additionally, Peacock's on Comcast's Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex, as well as LG and Vizio smart TVs. HBO Max is also available on Samsung smart TVs.

Winner: Tie

Peacock vs HBO Max: Shows and movies 

This is a category where your mileage may vary based on preferences, and where you're going to get a different selection based on whether or not you're going to pay. Peacock Premium has the most programming available to stream, with more than 20,000 hours of movies and TV shows. That's primarily comprised of the back catalog, with about 10 original shows available on day 1. HBO Max on the other hand has about half as much, with around 10,000 hours. 

Peacock vs HBO Max - shows and movies

Aldrich Eidenreich in Peacock's Brave New World (Image credit: NBCU Peacock)

Peacock Free will include movies from Universal's library and seasons of classic older shows, such as Cheers and the Law & Order library. It will also offer more recent hits like, The Office and Parks and Recreation. Peacock also has current reality TV programming such as Chrisley Knows Best, so it's not all critically acclaimed content. 

If you want every episode of those shows, you'll need to pay for Peacock Premium, which also includes full access to Peacock's Originals such as the Brave New World adaptation, Intelligence starring David Schwimmer, and the upcoming Battlestar Galactica reboot.

Peacock also offers movies, such as The Matrix, Bourne and Fast and Furious series, as well as films such as Gosford Park, Do The Right Thing, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and The Last House On The Left. 

Peacock vs HBO Max - HBO Max Series

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Peacock also stands out with NBC's late night TV shows. And if you don't like to stay up late, you can get Peacock Premium to watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, 3.5 hours before they air. NBC also offers news programming, with "daily trending highlights" from programming including The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Noticias Telemundo, MSNBC and CNBC.

HBO Max is pitching users on quality over quantity, but there are some loopholes in that argument. HBO Max has all of the classic HBO shows you know and love like The Sopranos, Veep, The Wire, Watchmen and Six Feet Under, and the Max in HBO Max stands for non-HBO programming. Then there's also Doctor Who, Friends and animated fare including Cartoon Network's Adventure Time (which never had a true streaming home until now).

Peacock vs HBO Max - Justice League Snyder Cut HBO Max

(Image credit: HBO Max)

But once the next big HBO show comes around (just as it was with each new Game of Thrones season), the channel will have a major reason to drive subscriptions. NBC hasn't proven itself in the Originals category yet, and while its sitcoms are beloved, the platform doesn't have the reputation of HBO. If you already get your news and sports elsewhere, HBO's legacy of top tier content will give you enough reason to stay subscribed.

HBO Max also has its own originals, but they don't have a big hit on their hands yet. We didn't swoon over Love Life, though we did think the The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo was surprisingly good. HBO Max's licensed movie catalogue may be its strongest suit. There's a lot of arthouse representation from The Criterion Collection, and classic films from TCM. We at Tom's Guide are especially happy that HBO Max makes it easy to watch Studio Ghibli films online.  

HBO Max will also get the Justice League Zack Snyder cut in 2021.

Winner: Tie

Peacock vs HBO Max: Sports

This one's almost a shutout — with one service actually offering live sports and the other not coming close. HBO Max offers documentaries about athletes (24/7: Kelly Slater) and films (Any Given Sunday, Hoop Dreams) and HBO shows (Ballers, Arli$$) — and Peacock matches that with its own docuseries and films.

Those who buy Peacock Premium will get the English Premier League games. And while you'll typically need to pay for those, the service is streaming 4 free games on July 15. More than 175 Premier League 2020-21 season games will be Peacock exclusives in the U.S.. 

Peacock vs HBO Max - HBO Max's paltry sports content

(Image credit: HBO Max)

PGA golf's Ryder Cup will also be on Peacock. And in 2021, the Tokyo Olympics will be on Peacock, as will the build to the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. 

Additionally, Peacock will have the U.S. Open Championship and Women’s Open Championships plus an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game. 

Heck, if you're like me and like your sports to be predetermined sports entertainment, Peacock's getting more than 100 hours of WWE content in August. That will be comprised of compilations such as John Cena’s Best WrestleMania Matches and shows such as WWE Untold and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions.

Winner: Peacock

Peacock vs HBO Max outlook

While Peacock's double-launch may have confused some, it's arriving as arguably the more complete option. HBO Max may have Friends and all the classic HBO shows, plus a lot of kids-friendly content, but Peacock offers live sports, talk shows and news content on top of its popular shows and big-name movies.

Peacock also has one big feature HBO Max doesn't have: A free tier. At the end of the day, this could be the deciding factor for those trying to decide between Peacock vs HBO Max who don't have more room in their budget, as services such as YouTube TV keep raising their prices.

For now, before Peacock launches, we're going to hold the ruling over which is best until we get to test both Peacock Free and Peacock Premium. But it's not hard to see how HBO Max has a strong challenge on its hands. 

A free or cheaper alternative could push people to cancel their HBO Max subscription if Peacock offers enough for streamers to not use HBO Max as much. That being said, subscribers are the true winners right now, as you can have both services if your budget is big enough for both streaming titans. 

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.