Is HBO Max Worth It? We Review the Streaming Service's Pricing, Movies - Rolling Stone
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Is HBO Max Worth It? Here’s What to Know About HBO’s Streaming Service

A subscription costs more than Netflix but promises well-known exclusives and new original programming


Mario Perez/HBO

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Nearly two year after it was first announced, HBO Max — the streaming service from HBO and WarnerMedia — is running at full steam these days, with hit shows like White Lotus and Mare of Easttown, and first-run films from Warner Bros. slate of new premieres (think Dune and Zack Snyder’s Justice League).

But is HBO Max worth the price of admission? This streaming service is different from other streaming services in a couple of ways, so we’ve broken down all the details for you below.

HBO Max Pricing, Plans, Subscription

An ad-free subscription to HBO Max costs $14.99 per month for new subscribers, but is free for current HBO or HBO NOW customers. That’s around the same price as Netflix ($14) but more than Hulu ($5.99), or a Disney+ bundle that includes Disney+, EPSN+ and Hulu for just $13.99 total.

Buy: HBO Max Ad-Free Plan at $14.99

The company recently announced a new $9.99 tier that includes advertisements, which makes it more competitive with those services. Get the $9.99 ad-free HBO Max plan here.

Buy: HBO Max Ad-Supported Plan at $9.99

If you don’t want to sign up for an account on your computer, there are a couple of other ways to subscribe:

How to Get HBO Max Through Cable Company

HBO Max comes with a traditional subscription to HBO, which you can add to a cable package through the following providers: AT&T TV, DIRECTV, U-Verse TV, Cox, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon Fios TV, and others. Call up your cable provider for more information on how to sign up.

How to Watch HBO Max On a Smartphone Or Tablet

If you want to watch HBO Max shows on your phone or tablet, simply download the HBO Max app on your iOS or Android device, and you’ll be prompted to log into your account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up from inside the app itself.

Can You Watch HBO Max on Media Streamers, Game Consoles, and Smart TVs?

The HBO Max app is available on Apple TV, Samsung TVs released after 2016, the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Roku and Fire TV devices. Once downloaded, open the app and you’ll be prompted to log into your account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up from inside the app itself.

What Can You Watch on HBO Max? Friends, Sex and the City, Game Of Thrones

All streaming services work the same way: pick what you want to watch, and start streaming. What differentiates HBO Max is its library of exclusive catalogue titles and upcoming original shows. HBO says there are already 10,000 hours of “curated” content available to stream, and we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting titles below.

WarnerMedia owns the rights to movies and TV shows going back 100 years, so this is the only place you’ll be able to stream classic shows like FriendsRick and Morty, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and Doctor Who. The media company also owns the rights to several blockbuster films, like 2001: A Space Oddysey, Friday The 13th, A Hard Days Night, Casablanca, The Lord of the Rings, Citizen Kane, North By Northwest, Gone With The Wind, and Braveheart.

An HBO Max subscription naturally includes access to the entire HBO catalog, which includes The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Westworld. Finally, HBO Max is the only service that allows you to stream anime films from the legendary Japanese film studio Studio Ghibli. This marks the first time these films have been available to stream on any platform. See more of what to stream on HBO Max here.

HBO Max New TV Shows and Movies

Beyond catalog titles, HBO Max has an entire list of high profile original TV shows and movies called “HBO Originals,” which have begun rolling out. The service has launched with On The Record (pictured above), a documentary chronicling the life of famous music executive Drew Dixon, Love Life, a “romantic comedy anthology” series whose first season stars Anna Kendrick, Zoë Chao, Peter Vack, and Sasha Compère, and The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo. 

HBO Max’s latest originals include the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the Friends and West Wing reunions; the back catalogue for those shows are available on the service as well.

HBO Original TV shows have launched with a handful of episodes, and new ones will be released on a weekly basis. The number of episodes per season will vary based on the show. HBO Max’s library isn’t as deep as the ones you’ll find on Netflix or Hulu, but its slate of exclusives and originals help keep it competitive.

HBO Max Same-Day Movie Releases

WarnerMedia announced that its entire slate of 2021 movies, which includes big titles like The Matrix 4, Dune, Space Jam: A New Legacy, King Richard, Mortal Kombat, and Tom & Jerry among others, will be released on HBO Max on the same day they hit theaters.

The movies will be available to stream for 31 days, so you can enjoy blockbusters in your own home at your own pace. No other streaming service has come close to a deal like this, which gives HBO Max a huge leg up over its competition. Though this is a first, it’s easy to imagine more studios following suit over the next few months.

Buy: HBO Max Ad-Free Plan at $14.99

HBO Max vs. Netflix

One big difference between HBO Max and streaming services like Netflix is that HBO and WarnerMedia own the rights to the content they’re streaming. That means movies and TV shows won’t be taken down because licensing agreements have run out.

But: WarnerMedia’s archives are huge, so it may cycle some shows and movies on and off HBO Max as it sees fit. This is never going to be a service that allows you to see every single thing in the WarnerMedia vault, at least not for now.

More and more traditional media companies have created their own streaming services (Think: NBC’s Peacock and CBS’s Paramount Plus) to maintain exclusive streaming rights on their content, and avoid splitting revenue with a third party.

HBO and WarnerMedia can acquire the rights to more shows and movies, so the HBO Max library has the opportunity grow over time, but that’s not guaranteed.

The Bottom Line: Is HBO Max Worth It?

If you’re already an HBO subscriber, the choice of whether or not to get HBO Max has been decided for you; start streaming. As we said earlier, HBO Max doesn’t have the same number of TV shows and movies as its competitors, but its deep back catalogue and upcoming exclusives won’t be available to stream anywhere else.

In our mind, that makes an HBO Max subscription more than worth it. Even at the higher $14.99 tier, the monthly price is cheaper than a movie ticket to see the new releases in theaters. And unlike a theater, where you have to deal with lineups and Covid fears, an HBO Max subscription lets you watch all the new shows and films from the comfort and safety of home.

The best part: your HBO Max subscription gets you unlimited viewing too — so you can watch your favorite programming on-demand and as many times as you want.

Buy: HBO Max Ad-Free Plan at $14.99


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