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HBO Max is live: Price, shows and everything you need to know

HBO Max
(Image credit: Warner Bros.; HBO)

HBO Max just leaped into the fray — like Arya Stark herself, jumping into a chaotic battle — of competition in the increasingly crowded streaming service landscape. HBO Max offers a mix of old TV shows, previously released movies and some original programming. 

While HBO Max isn't on every device app store yet, parent company WarnerMedia spent the weeks and months prior unveiling more partner providers, as well as premiere dates for summer originals. Oh and there's the big news that the Justice League Snyder Cut is coming to HBO Max.

Several new original shows were available on day one, including new takes on classic franchises like Looney Tunes and Sesame Street. They join a vast library of 10,000 hours of programming from the Warner Bros. and HBO archives, including exclusive access to the entirety of Friends. 

As a measure of goodwill — and to remind people who started the golden age of TV — the company made available some free HBO shows and movies as a "goodwill gesture" during the quarantine. Now, they're just offering pilot episodes and select documentaries.

So how does HBO Max make a play for all those eyeballs that might otherwise be fixed on rival streaming services? An extensive library of WarnerMedia-owned programming figures heavily into HBO Max's game plan, as does a slate of exclusive original HBO Max shows from heavy-hitters like George R. R. Martin, J. J. Abrams, Ridley Scott, Ellen DeGeneres, Greg Berlanti, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong'o and more. There will also be original movie exclusives, like the recently announced An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen in dual roles.

HBO dropped a short sizzle reel for the platform, which emphasizes their tag line "Where HBO Meets So Much More." This phrase raises an interesting question about how HBO Max will change or affect the HBO brand identity, and may be confusing enough to make people ask if they need HBO Max.

Here's what to expect from HBO Max if you're still debating signing up, now that WarnerMedia flipped the switch on its new streaming service.

HBO Max launch date

HBO Max launched on May 27, 2020. 

In an announcement on April 21, WarnerMedia revealed the date as well as the original shows that will debut on day one. They also released teasers for those shows (more on that below).

HBO Max price

HBO Max costs $14.99 per month, a little more than the standard Netflix package, and much more expensive than Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus. There is a 7-day free trial. $14.99 is the same price HBO Now currently is, but with a whole lot more content to watch. 

HBO Max price

(Image credit: HBO Warner)

But with everything HBO Max is expected to deliver, $15 a month might not be too much to ask. Will people subscribe solely to get their Friends fix? Maybe not. But with exclusive content and Warner Bros. movies combined with all of the prestige series that make HBO great, HBO Max could woo subscribers away from Netflix.

Again, HBO Max is pretty pricey compared to its rivals. Hulu plans start at $6 a month. Even a $119-a-year Amazon Prime membership breaks down to $13 a month, and you get benefits like free shipping and access to special Amazon deals on top of access to Prime Video and its slate of TV shows and movies.

HBO Max vs. HBO GO

If you're confused about the differences between HBO Max vs HBO GO vs HBO NOW, you are not alone. Here's a handy guide to which HBO is which.

HBO Max: The new standalone streaming service featuring content from HBO and WarnerMedia and accessed via website or app. It will cost $14.99 per month.

HBO GO: An on-demand streaming service for people who subscribe to HBO through their cable or satellite package.

HBO NOW: A standalone streaming service for people who want HBO but don't have cable or satellite. It currently costs $14.99 per month, the same as HBO Max. These customers will get HBO Max for free. It seems likely that eventually, HBO NOW will fold into Max.

HBO Max free offers, discounts and deals

Many current HBO subscribers get HBO Max for free. People who subscribe to HBO through Charter or an AT&T package (DirecTV, IPTV, AT&T TV) automatically receive HBO Max. This is the case for one of our editors, who signed into HBO Max using his Charter/Spectrum login.

Anyone who subscribes to HBO Now or HBO as a Hulu add-on will get HBO Max for free.

HBO Max also announced other new partners, so their customers who subscribe to HBO will get HBO Max for free, too. They include Altice (Optimum, Suddenlink), Verizon (Fios), Cox Communications, NCTC (RCN, Atlantic Broadband, WOW), Playstation 4 and XBox.

HBO Max finally inked a deal with one of its biggest providers: Comcast. In an email to the press, WarnerMedia announced "existing Xfinity HBO customers will have access to HBO Max beginning today at no additional cost via the HBO Max app," and that "new customers will be able to purchase HBO Max directly through Xfinity in the coming days."

One thing HBO Max is doing to entice new customers is pushing discounts and deals for its launch. The streaming service will be included with AT&T Unlimited Elite smartphone plans. 

HBO Max interface

(Image credit: Warner/HBO)

HBO Max shows

Well, obviously, HBO Max content starts with HBO's shows and movies. It's right there in the name. That includes popular titles like Game of Thrones, Westworld, Succession, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Barry, Veep, etc.

As for the upcoming Game of Thrones Prequel: House of The Dragon? That’s going to be on regular HBO, but HBO Max users will get it, too. Plus expect TV shows from the libraries of CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Looney Tunes.

Friends HBO Max

(Image credit: NBC)

One of the marquee HBO Max shows is Friends, which has the first carousel box when you sign up. WarnerMedia says HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home for all 236 episodes of the long-running TV series. Classic and recent shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars  live at HBO Max, too.

In August, news broke that the BBC Studios sci-fi drama Doctor Who is landing its Tardis exclusively on HBO Max. All 11 seasons, including the Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) debut of the 11th season. Other BBC shows headed to HBO Max include the original The Office, Top Gear, Luther and The Honorable Woman.

The new service will also be where you can stream Warner Bros.-produced dramas airing on The CW, such as The Flash, Batwoman and Riverdale.  South Park's existing library of 23 seasons will be on HBO Max, and the next three seasons will land on the service exclusively after airing on Cartoon Network.

HBO Max will also house content from Crunchyroll, the popular anime producer. On launch day, the service will stream 17 titles including Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World - (Director’s Cut), and Keep Your Hands off Eizouken alongside the Crunchyroll Original series In/Spectre.

HBO Max movies

HBO Max's library include 10,000 hours of movies and TV series from Warner Bros.’ 100-year content collection, New Line, library titles from DC, classic films curated in partnership with TCM and more. 

More than 1,800 HBO Max movies are available in the launch lineup, including the latest box office hits and all of DC Comics' live-action movies from the last decade (and every DC Batman and Superman film from the last 40 years).

HBO Max DC MOVIES

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Some of the most anticipated licensed films coming to HBO Max are the wonderful Studio Ghibli library — featuring huge titles such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away — will be a part of the HBO Max library. While John Oliver joked that HBO Max feels more like TV than HBO, this high-art library helps give HBO Max some gravitas.

HBO Max will also debut original movies. The streamer announced that it will premiere An American Pickle, starring Seth Rogen in dual leading roles — and it's landing on August 6, 2020. The service acquired the film, based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker novella, from Sony Pictures so that it would not be delayed due to Covid-19 theater closures. Rogen will play a struggling immigrant in the 1920s who is miraculously preserved in a vat of pickles for 100 years. When he emerges, he meets his great-grandson, a computer programmer (also played by Rogen).

HBO Max originals

Much like its competitors Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus, HBO Max offers original programming in the form of movies, shows and documentaries. The platform doesn't have the hugest selection for new shows (then again, Disney Plus had only a handful as well), but it just released a schedule for when to expect the next shows. 

There will also be several dozen original HBO Max shows, alongside HBO's existing originals, including:

  • Love Life — romantic comedy starring Anna Kendrick (available at launch)
  • On the Record —Sundance 2020 Official Selection (available at launch)

Other HBO Max day 1 originals include the following:

  • Legendary — underground ballroom dance competition series (watch teaser)
  • Craftopia — hosted by YouTube sensation LaurDIY (watch teaser)
  • Looney Tunes Cartoons — all new episodes (watch teaser)
  • Sesame Workshop’s The Not Too Late Show with Elmo (watch teaser)

HBO Max original series will continue to roll out after launch day. They include the the highly anticipated Friends unscripted cast reunion special, as well as a mix of dramas, comedies and reality shows. Here's a look at their upcoming lineup:

  • Doom Patrol — critically acclaimed DC fan favorite gets season 2 (June 25)
  • Search Party — the return of the critically beloved mystery comedy with a brand new season (June 25)
  • Adventure Time: Distant Lands- BMO — the first of four breakout specials resurrecting Cartoon Network’s award-winning franchise (June 25)
  • Expecting Amy, a three-part documentary series about comedian Amy Schumer’s life on tour during her difficult pregnancy (July 9)
  • Close Enough— adult animated comedy about the surreal life of a millennial family living with roommates (July 9)
  • The Flight Attendant — starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco, based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian
  • Raised by Wolves — a sci-fi series from director and executive producer Ridley Scott

And even more originals are in the works. HBO Max has inked deals with J.J. Abrams and Greg Berlanti (mega-producer of shows like Arrow, The Flash and others), whose first project is The Flight Attendant. Berlanti is also set to make a series based on the DC Comics superhero Green Lantern.

As for Abrams, his Bad Robot production company already has orders for three new series: Duster, a 1970s-set drama about a gutsy getaway driver for a growing crime syndicate; Overlook, a spinoff of sorts based on the iconic hotel from The Shining; and an  untitled drama based on characters in the so-called Justice League Dark universe.

Here's what else is in the HBO Max pipeline:

  • Gossip Girl — a reboot/sequel of the teen drama
  • Dune: The Sisterhood — Director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) adapts the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson based on Frank Herber's sci-fi classic.
  • Tokyo Vice — Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction work on the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department gets turned into a series.
  • Gremlins — The 1980s movie becomes an animated series.
  • Station Eleven —  Emily St. John Mandel's novel will be turned into a limited-run series.
  • Made for Love — A 10-episode adaptation of Alissa Nutting's novel.
  • Rap Sh*t — a series from Issa Rae focusing on the Miami music scene. 

Check out our HBO Max June 2020 schedule for more details.

HBO Max 4K

If you're wondering if you can watch Game of Thrones on HBO Max in 4K ... you'll keep wondering for a little longer. HBO Max has not officially announced whether it will stream 4K content.

HBO Max devices

The HBO Max app is here for some, but not all. Yes, while it's available on Mac and PC web browsers, streaming device support is extremely limited out of the gate.

  • iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
  • Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K
  • Android phones
  • Android TV
  • Chromecast
  • Playstation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Samsung TVs (2016 models and later)

WarnerMedia and Roku were reportedly in deal talks during the week before the launch, and the two failed to reach an agreement in time. HBO Max is also not on Amazon Fire TV, which HBO execs were more pessimistic about.