I had budgeted for adding another streaming service to the handful I already paid for this spring. I did not, however, anticipate it would be HBO Max.
That's no knock on HBO Max, which is widely considered the best streaming service (an opinion I'm now in a position to affirm, by the way). It's just that I'm also contemplating the return of Apple TV Plus to my streaming diet and spring is typically when I re-up with Paramount Plus, so adding HBO Max on top of that seemed excessive.
But reflecting on what I expect from streaming services and what they actually deliver, it became clear that HBO Max, not Paramount Plus, was the better pick.
I had subscribed to Paramount last year, primarily to enjoy streaming coverage of the National Women's Soccer League and the occasional Champions League match. And I did — sort of. It turns out an erratic schedule meant I wasn't able to stream as many matches live as I had hoped. A Paramount Plus glitch made it impossible to turn off closed captioning — something I really find distracting when trying to watch live sports. And the rest of Paramount Plus' library is thin, to put it charitably. I just didn't get my money's worth last year.
So that explains how I freed up the money I would have normally spent on Paramount Plus, along with the extra cash I'll have on hand once I let my Amazon Prime subscription expire without renewing at the jacked-up rate Amazon's imposed. Why reallocate those savings to HBO Max?
Because, friends, HBO's streaming offering is just too good for me to ignore. Here's what pushed me and my family into HBO Max's loving embrace.
HBO Max has the best movie library
I like to spend my time on streaming services watching movies, particularly older movies. This is not an offering many streaming services like to provide, with Netflix and its "Technically, the 1990s were part of the last century" ethos the most egregious example.
I've noticed that HBO Max is more inclined to have movies geared toward my particular taste. When I get a hankering to watch an old film, I'll first do a search on Apple TV to see if it's available on any streaming service or whether I have to pay to rent or buy it from Apple. More often than not, HBO Max seems to be the home of movies I like watching.
All the President's Men? HBO Max has got it. Casablanca? That's on HBO Max, too. In fact, there's even a Turner Classic Movies hub which includes titles of both old favorites and things I've been meaning to see. If you like movies — all movies, not just ones from living memory — HBO Max is the service to get.
HBO Max has compelling originals, too
Original shows alone aren't enough to get me to jump to a streaming service. Rather, they're the sorts of things that can keep me from jumping ship once I've subscribed. And HBO Max has some promising things worth watching for those times when I'm all movied-out.
Winning Time, the current series about the Laker team I grew up watching, seems like it was devised with me specifically in mind. I was thinking about checking out Barry long before my colleague Henry Casey raved about the show. And there's enough HBO programming in the archive from the days back when I paid for cable — The Wire, Veep, Silicon Valley — to fill my idle hours.
Oh and unlike Netflix, HBO tends to give shows a chance to find their audience instead of cancelling them, seemingly on a whim. I think I'd rather back that approach.
HBO Max has all the DC Comics content you could want
I'm not the world's biggest fan of comic books, as evidenced by the fact that I still refer to them as "funny books" and I may be the only person on planet Earth who hasn't blocked out time to watch Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game. (I understand it works out well for the Avengers. Good for them.)
But I am not the only person in my household. My wife and daughter also get to decide which streaming services we subscribe to, and they love comic books. Disney Plus already gives them their fill of Marvel, so HBO Max lets them load up on DC to their hearts' content.
And I'm not referring just to the theatrically released DCU movies, which I would need a court order to watch. HBO Max has the animated DC programming, too, which is much more enjoyable, even for a comics-agnostic like me. The other night, my wife streamed Superman: Red Son (her verdict: deviated too much from the source material) and I imagine the Harley Quinn series is going to be worked into our viewing schedule as well — though after my daughter's in bed for that one.
HBO Max has surprisingly good parental controls
Speaking of my daughter, we trust her to have good sense when using streaming services. But we also use parental controls to reinforce that trust. And the ones HBO Max offers are pretty solid.
With HBO Max, we can customize the TV and movie ratings level for our child based on what we think she can handle. We can also require a PIN for switching between user profiles — meaning that children can be locked into only their profiles if that's the way you want it. Parental controls at Disney Plus — ostensibly the more family-friendly option — are rather spare, in contrast.
HBO Max outlook
We've been HBO Max subscribers for less than a week, so this is an incomplete list. And we may run into snags and quirks with the service that we're less than enamored with — that's the nature of these things.
But it's so-far-so-good at the moment with HBO Max. And we're glad it's now a part of our streaming diet.
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