HBO is one of the biggest cable networks: it breaks viewer records, and receives critical acclaim and awards. Because its ability to create buzz and gain viewers built a TV empire that won’t be crumbling any time soon, the initials HBO strike fear in networks across the world. Now HBO wants to dominate the streaming service market with HBO Max. Prior to HBO Max, it had stakes in the streaming world with HBO Now and HBO Go. The differences between the HBO services are small but distinctive.
HBO Go and HBO Now were more like an extension of the HBO channel, but HBO Max aims to take on streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, and recently launched Disney+. Despite all having HBO in the title, HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max serve different purposes for fans of the premium cable network.
HBO Now launched in 2015 as an alternative streaming route for TV fans who want HBO, but don't want to pay for a cable service to get it. Customers can purchase HBO Now for $14.99 a month. The service is available to purchase directly through HBO.com or as an add-on channel on various streaming apps, like AppleTV, Roku, Hulu, and Prime Video.
HBO Now offers everything available on the HBO channel: its hit series, licensed and original movies, and specials. The main appeal of HBO Now is that it solves the problem of viewing HBO shows without having a cable subscription. HBO is one of the most valuable networks for critical acclaimed original series, but HBO Now is one of the more expensive streaming services, especially with a limited catalog of film and television series. Additionally, with the upcoming launch of HBO Max, HBO Now seems like the inferior route to go for all your HBO needs.
Basically, HBO Go is the mobile add-on for HBO cable subscribers. If you have HBO as part of your cable subscription, then you also have access to HBO Go. HBO subscribers can access HBO Go by downloading the HBO Go app and then using their cable account login to view HBO programming. Some subscribers can also access HBO Go directly through the streaming app that comes with your cable subscription. For example, Xfinity cable subscribers who pay for HBO can access HBO Go either directly through the HBO Go app or the Xfinity stream app.
Essentially, HBO Go is free through your HBO cable subscription, but the price of the subscription ranges from $5 to $20 a month, depending on promotions and cable package. HBO Go is for anyone who doesn't want to cut the cord and likes viewing live television. The HBO Go app makes it easier to view your favorite HBO programming on the go, and it could be a lot cheaper than HBO Now depending on your cable package. However, overall cable packages, especially with premium channels like HBO, tend to be far more expensive than most stand-alone streaming services.
HBO Now and HBO Go both offer the same catalog of HBO programming. They only differ in how you access them: HBO Now is a stand-alone service for those who want HBO programming without cable, and HBO Go is a free add-on for HBO cable subscribers to watch HBO on streaming and mobile devices.
HBO Max launches in May 2020 and it'll be HBO and WarnerMedia's answer to streaming services. It'll include everything that HBO Go and HBO Now have, but with more. Through HBO Max, subscribers have access to all HBO's hit series, like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Watchmen. HBO Max also includes exclusive shows and movies, and WarnerMedia properties such as Warner Bros., The CW, DC, New Line, and Turner Classic Movies.
HBO Max has exclusive rights to Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and the entire Studio Ghibli collection. It'll also have 10,000 hours of content versus HBO Go and HBO Now's over 2,000 hours of programming. All past seasons of The CW shows will be available on HBO Max, and the latest season will be available a month after its season or series finale.
HBO Max also has a ton of exclusive programming. It reportedly plans to release 31 new films in 2020 and 50 in 2021. Arrow-verse creator and Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti signed an exclusive deal with WarnerMedia to create four young adult movies for HBO Max, and Reese Witherspoon's company Hello Sunshine signed on for two exclusive HBO Max movies.
HBO Max plans to keep HBO's usual tradition of releasing one episode a week for its shows, instead of the Netflix tradition of releasing entire seasons in one day. Raised by Wolves, Strange Adventures, Rap Sh*t (working title), and College Girls (working title) are the HBO Max series that caught our attention the most.
Ridley Scott directs and acts as executive producer of Raised by Wolves, a sci-fi series about androids raising human children on a new planet. Insecure star Issa Rae produces Rap Sh*t, a half-hour comedy about a female rap group's adventures and misadventures of trying to succeed in the music industry. The Mindy Project's Mindy Kaling is the creative force behind College Girls. The comedy series follows three college freshman roommates who are described as "lovable" and "infuriating."
In addition to his four movies, Greg Berlanti has a few series planned for HBO Max, including Strange Adventures. Strange Adventures is a DC Superhero anthology series that features human and superhuman characters from DC comics. It's described as an "one-hour drama series that explores close-ended morality tales about the intersecting lives of mortals and superhumans."
HBO Max costs subscribers $14.99 a month, the same as HBO Now. Select HBO Now subscribers receive HBO Max free for a year. HBO Now subscribers can only access HBO Max if they bought the streaming services directly through HBO, and not as part of a third-party subscription (via Amazon Prime for example). AT&T subscribers who have unlimited premium mobile and broadband packages also receive HBO Max for free for a year (which is an estimated 10 million subscribers). AT&T cable subscribers who already have HBO as part of their cable package also receive HBO Max with no additional charge.
HBO Max has intriguing exclusive content, and also with HBO's reputation for quality programming, the exclusive movies and series on HBO Max may end up receiving award season recognition and buzz. The fear of missing out might be too much for some TV lovers. However, the streaming wars are getting overcrowded and paying an additional $14.99 a month, along with any other streaming services fees, might be too much of a budget strain.
HBO Max has exclusive content that seems perfect for a wide range of television viewers, but the $14.99 fee may make stream watchers have to pick between HBO Max and other on-demand services. For AT&T HBO subscribers and current HBO Now subscribers, HBO Max is a pleasant upgrade. For everyone else, getting HBO Max depends on how exciting the exclusive programming seems and your streaming budget.
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Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.