HBO Max Launch: What Is It and Who Has Access

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After months of anticipation, WarnerMedia has at last released its entrant to the streaming wars. This Wednesday, HBO Max debuted to the delight of many TV fans who are still stuck at home due to coronavirus restrictions.

HBO Max offers everything that a regular HBO subscription offers and much more. In addition to the entire HBO catalog, the new streaming service flaunts a host of Warner Brothers content, ranging from studio classics like Streetcar Named Desire and The Wizard of Oz, to the entire Harry Potter series and even DC movies. At launch, HBO’s full library of critically-acclaimed original series and some 600 movies are available.

A Slight Change of Plans

The launch wasn’t without hitches. WarnerMedia had long anticipated that Netflix, which has twice as many subscribers as HBO, would outshine its new platform, so it sought to entice sign-ups by securing exclusive titles and specials.

Warner spent billions of dollars to nab exclusive rights to Friends, the hit sitcom that was available on Netflix until January of this year. Just a few months ago, all six original cast members from the series had agreed to a reunion special that HBO Max intended to use as a lure. But the coronavirus pandemic put production of the reunion special on indefinite hold, drowning one of HBO Max’s strongest marketing plays.

Another quandary for WarnerMedia was whether to march forward with the launch while distribution deals with some cable providers were still up-in-the-air. Postponing the debut, however, would have meant missing-out on all of the potential viewers who are currently stuck at home. In the end, Warner decided to roll out the platform as planned.

How to Access HBO Max

There’s good news and bad news if you’re looking to take advantage of HBO Max.

The good news is, many HBO fans will automatically gain access. If you subscribe to HBO Now, the streaming-only version of HBO that does not require a cable subscription, you will be automatically upgraded to the new service at no additional cost.

Additionally, if you get HBO from a premium cable subscription, you’ll be directed to upgrade for free when you open the app on your TV. Cable providers that are already optimized for HBO Max include AT&T TV, DIRECTV, AT&T U-Verse, Hulu, Spectrum, Altice, Suddenlink, Optimum, Cox Contour, and Verizon Fios TV.

The bad news is, HBO Max is not yet available on Roku or Amazon Fire TV, as Warner has not yet secured deals with these television streamers. Dish and Sling TV customers are similarly out of luck. Warner has announced that it is close to securing a deal with Comcast, so subscribers of Comcast Xfinity cable may soon gain access.

Pricing

An HBO Max subscription costs $14.99 per month, which is more expensive than other streaming platforms, but is the same price as a typical HBO subscription. This means that when you upgrade from an older HBO service to HBO Max, you’ll gain over 600 additional titles for free. If you already have HBO, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade. If you don’t, it’s still a good price for such a huge selection, especially for content that you can’t stream on Netflix or any other competing platform.