It all started in 2018 when AT&T finalized its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which transformed the communications giant into also being a media giant. That deal included CNN and WarnerMedia, which includes HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. And now, AT&T is taking its media conglomerate out for a spin, through the launch of HBO Max — available now.
The timing couldn’t be better. Sheltering at home has created a spike in streaming media.
For the most part, HBO Max is yet another competitor to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+ and Disney+. It offers a library of old shows and movies plus some original content that can be streamed to the web at HBOMax.com or to smartphones via the HBO Max app. It’s also available on the Apple TV device, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and 2016 and newer Samsung TVs. However, it will not currently run on either Roku or Amazon Fire TV, which are two of the most popular streaming devices. You can stream it to a TV from a phone or computer if your TV or set-top box supports Google Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. If you have a laptop with an HDMI port, you can connect it to the TV.
Availability and price
If you’re currently an HBO subscriber you may — or may not — automatically be upgraded to HBO Max. HBO Max has deals with a long list of cable and satellite providers, but whether they will include it at the current price, depends on your provider. Most cable and satellite subscribers pay $15 a month for HBO, which is the same price as HBO Plus. So even if they don’t offer it or you don’t have a TV provider, you could subscribe directly from HBO.
Some people may get HBO Max for free, including subscribers to some higher-end AT&T wireless and internet plans. If your phone company or TV provider gives you free HBO, they probably also give you free HBO Max.
The value of any streaming service is based on its content. HBO Max has all the shows and movies that you would normally get on HBO plus a lot more content. This includes popular series like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Westworld, Silicon Valley, and Big Little Lies. There are also iconic older shows like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos.
HBO Max also has all 10 seasons of Friends as well as the Big Bang Theory and a lot more
There are also original shows like the Sesame Street spinoff, The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo, new Looney Tunes cartoons, and the documentary, On the Record, the story of former A&R executive Drew Dixon. There is a Wikipedia page with the list of original HBO Max programs.
The catalog of WarnerMedia-owned shows and movies is what makes HBO Max worth it for a lot of people. I’m a classic movie buff, so I’m thrilled that they are offering Turner Classic Movies — a channel that I was paying $10 a month to watch. They also have movies from DC, including Batman and Wonder Woman and a lot of animated content from Cartoon Network, Studio Ghibli and Crunchyroll. There are also multiple titles from Sesame Street Workshop including Sesame Street episodes from HBO.
As someone who subscribes to several streaming channels, my biggest challenge is finding what I want to watch. Of course, I rely on recommendations and reviews, but a lot of it is just browsing to see if I can find a program that looks interesting. Sometimes I’m delighted by what I discover and sometimes I find myself “changing the channel” after a couple of minutes.
HBO Max’s home page starts with a slider of featured content. That’s followed by a “continue watching” section, similar to what you’ll find on Netflix and other streaming services. I find that very useful because I often forget the title of a movie I started watching or a series I’ve enjoyed. Next comes “my list,” which displays shows that you’ve added. This is a great way to maximize your browsing time by bookmarking shows you might want to watch later.
Next comes their “featured series,” followed by Max Originals. Then comes Featured Movies (including my all-time favorite, Casa Blanca).
Harry Potter fans will appreciate the next section that lists all 8 films and that’s followed by “editor’s picks” from HBO’s most popular series.
Then there’s the “HBO Max Hubs,” which are the WarnerMedia companies I mentioned earlier like DC, TCM and CN. There are more genres listed including “edgy animation,” true crime, romance, and “blockbuster franchises,” including Lord of the Rings, Alien, Die Hard, Jaws, and Police Academy.
How it compares
Netflix, which has been around the longest of the major streaming services, is still the king when it comes to the quantity of content, including some great originals. Hulu remains a good place to catch up on shows from a variety of networks and Amazon Prime Video has great original content. HBO Max has pieces of all of that but doesn’t do anything to diminish the comparative value of its competitors. To me, the backlog of WarnerMedia movies and the specialized content hubs like DC and TCM are the service’s strong points. But, as I pointed out before, it’s weak points are its lack of support for Roku and Amazon Fire. It’s almost unheard of for a streaming service not to at least support Roku — an omission I hope to see rectified.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Thu, 28 May 2020 13:16:20 +0000