HBO Max is a streaming service run by WarnerMedia, owned by AT&T. Named after the premium HBO channel, content on the service encompasses numerous studios and media libraries under the WarnerMedia brand.
Announced in the wake of AT&T's successful buyout of Time Warner, HBO Max is their official answer to Netflix, Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+/Hulu, Apple TV+ and Peacock. In the lead-up to this service, some previously existing streaming services owned by WarnerMedia, such as FilmStruck and Drama Fever, were shut down, with their content to be absorbed into HBO Max. Others, such as DC Universe, will continue to operate independently while having their programming also available on HBO Max from the start, though WarnerMedia does plan to consolidate all existing services within HBO Max at some point. Additionally, some series that are owned by WarnerMedia, most notably Friends, were migrated from existing streamers to the new platform.
In addition to carrying all content from the HBO network (including content from Disney's 20th Century Studios and Universal Pictures/Focus Features, both of whom have first-run output agreements through 2022 and 2023, respectively), third-party content providers include J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions (who inked a $500 million exclusivity deal), John Wells Productions (who have been with Warner for decades), Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine, Sony Pictures Animation, MGM and Sesame Workshop. Additionally, HBO Max secured the streaming rights to South Park, Doctor Who and several other BBC original series, and much of Studio Ghibli's anime film catalog.
For select pay-TV providers (including AT&T's own DirecTV and AT&T TV services), subscribers to the linear HBO channel will automatically gain access to Max content at no additional cost, and the standalone HBO Now streaming service will slowly transition to Max for direct and participating third-party subscribers. Third-party providers who signed on to provide Max alongside their HBO add-ons for new and existing subscribers include Apple TV, Google Play, Sony (for PlayStation 4 consoles), Microsoft (for Xbox One consoles) and Hulu, with YouTube TV also confirming that it would carry the linear HBO and Cinemax channels with HBO Max included, a first for that service which had not carried the channels beforehand. Services who haven't signed on for HBO Max such as Amazon Prime and Roku will continue to carry HBO, but will not feature any Max content. In any event, however, Max content can only be accessed through the HBO Max app, with the aforementioned eligible HBO subscribers being required to sign in through their participating TV provider or service for authentication (Apple, Google Play, Sony, Samsung and Microsoft all replaced the HBO Now app with HBO Max on their storefronts for eligible subscribers).
The beta launched in late 2019, while the full service, complete with original content, launched on May 27th, 2020. The teaser trailer for the new service can be seen here.
In Asia, the service is instead launched as HBO Go, and was initially only available with a subscription from select pay TV providers. The requirement was dropped in early May 2020 and can now be subscribed independently using an Apple Pay or Google Pay account, although complementary access is still available by signing up with select pay TV providers.
Content providers include:
- HBO (includes all films and shows carried by the linear channel)
- Warner Bros.
- Otter Media
- Great Big Story
- WarnerMedia Entertainment
- BBC (for Doctor Who, Top Gear, The Office (UK), new series such as Trigonometry and other series)
- The Criterion Collection
- Disney (for first-run/catalog 20th Century Studios movies until 2022 and select catalog Disney/Touchstone Pictures/Hollywood Pictures movies)+
- 20th Century Fox Television (for The Prince)
- Sesame Workshop
- Sony Pictures
- Studio Ghibli (via its North American distributor GKIDS)
- Universal Pictures (for first-run/catalog Universal and Focus Features movies until 2023; movies declined by HBO are streamed on Netflix; first-run movies from DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment are not included)+
Max Originals include:
- An American Pickle
- Expecting Amy
- Let Them All Talk
- Brad & Gary to Go...
- Crime Farm
- Doom Patrolnote
- Drama Queen
- Dune: The Sisterhood
- Ellen's Home Design Challenge
- Extreme Camp
- Finding Einstein
- First Dates Hotel
- Flight Attendant
- Green Lantern
- Gossip Girl sequel series
- Untitled Justice League Dark series
- Love Life
- Made for Love
- The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo
- Rydell High
- Search Partynote
- Sesame Streetnote
- Station Eleven
- Strange Adventures
- Tokyo Vice
- Tooned Out
Tropes associated with HBO Max:
- Banned Episode:
- As with all current releases and airings of the series, Dexter's Laboratory is missing the infamous "Barbequor" segment, once again replacing it with "Dexter's Lab: A Story".
- Double Subverted with The Boondocks. Two previously banned episodes (the final episodes of season 2) are finally available to stream in the United States. The season 3 episode Pause also returns after being missing from the series' page on Hulu. The Story of Jimmy Rebel, however is nowhere to be seen on the service, due to the episode's harsh race humor, even for this show's standards.
- Enemy Mine:
- Similar to its parent channel, HBO Max will be available as an add-on to select third-party streaming services that are also indirect competitors, such as Apple TV+ (but not including Amazon Prime, oddly), replacing the standalone HBO Now service. However, one partner service that stands out the most is Hulu (majority-owned and operated by WarnerMedia competitor Disney, who also operates Disney+ and ESPN+ alongside Hulu), which will be a direct competitor to HBO Max due to both primarily relying on their parent studios for original content (as opposed to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+, which rely on smaller third-party studios for content). The announcement that Hulu would become a launch partner for HBO Max five weeks before its official launch date came as a genuine surprise by some because of this, as Hulu subscribers now have access to content that will directly clash with Hulu's own stockpile of Disney-produced and/or owned programming.note .
- Also, another launch partner is AT&T's biggest rival, Comcast, who had already soft-launched it's own competing streamer, Peacock by the time of HBO Max's launch. Sky, which is owned by Comcast, is also the exclusive partner for its original programming across various European countries.
- Executive Veto: WarnerMedia had considered branding the service under Warner Bros., but internal brand testing results found that the name had little to no consumer draw or value, or to quote CCO Kevin Reilly, "You dont go to Warners Land for vacation." As HBO doesn't have a fixed target audience, the brand was easier to market to the wide general public.
- Market-Based Title: The service is called HBO Go in Asia.
- Network to the Rescue: For Zack Snyder's Justice League. AT&T and HBO Max executives took interest in the long-famed and fan-clamored Zack Snyder director's cut of Justice League, where executives of Warner Bros. and DC Films had remained completely silent about it since the theatrical release ended up a Box Office Bomb. Said theatrical release was a heavily meddled version made after Snyder's departure, while this version will feature all the scrapped footage from Snyder's principal photography, some additional scenes and none of the Joss Whedon-directed scenes. They gave Snyder a significant budget for the finishing touches on it, and it will be released exclusively on HBO Max in 2021. There are also rumors regarding David Ayer's version of Suicide Squad getting the same treatment.
- No Export for You: Zigzagged, as HBO Max will eventually launch in international markets where HBO already operates as a self-owned channel or a VOD service (Latin America, parts of Europe). HBO Max will not launch in markets where HBO already has a licensing partner, instead licensing much of its original slate through those partners, like Bell Media in Canada (primarily for it's streaming service, Crave) or Sky in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
- Self-Deprecation: Shortly after launch, the service put out a series of ads acknowledging the confusion between HBO Go, HBO NOW and HBO Max, presenting characters on Max-hosted shows struggling to explain the difference.