If you’re cutting the cord and hoping to keep some premium content in your life, HBO Max could be a great addition to your streaming TV subscriptions in 2022.
Not to be confused with regular HBO, this subscription service features a combination of the hit series that made HBO a must-have for TV junkies along with exclusive streaming rights to popular TV shows such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory and South Park — all for a premium price of $14.99 per month for ad-free streaming.
But is it worth adding to your television portfolio in an increasingly crowded streaming marketplace? That’s a question Team Clark set out to answer upon the release of this streaming service. I downloaded HBO Max to my devices and put it to the test.
In this article, I’ll help you understand what the HBO Max platform looks like, outline some of the content that is included with a subscription, explain how it is positioned among other popular HBO products and let you know what happened when I took a trial run with the service.
What Is HBO Max?
HBO Max is a subscription streaming service from Warner Bros. Discovery that went live on May 27, 2020.
It is positioned to compete with non-live video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ in the ever-growing and ultra-competitive cord cutting market.
HBO Max includes 45 years’ worth of HBO content as well as options from popular Warner Bros. Discovery entities including TBS, TNT, CNN and Warner Brothers. It also carries titles the company has acquired or reacquired licensing rights to in recent years, such as the libraries of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Sesame Street and South Park. And, yes, there is plenty of new content that is exclusive to the platform as well.
In total, HBO Max features more than 10,000 hours of content.
Is HBO Max good?
HBO Max is classic HBO with a boatload of extra content for the same $14.99 a month price (or $9.99 with ads). If you’re already an HBO fan, it doesn’t get any more “good” than that.
The “more shows/same cost” factor isn’t all HBO Max has up its sleeve. It’s also now the exclusive streaming home to non-HBO sitcom favorites The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And if you absolutely have to relive The Bachelor, it’s there too.
What’s more, HBO Max’s original shows and movies are starting to blossom. By bringing over fan favorites like Doom Patrol and Search Party from other platforms and networks and dropping buzzy series like The Flight Attendant, Made for Love, and Hacks, HBO Max Originals have improved significantly since the streaming service launched in May 2020.
The biggest selling point of HBO Max could be its ongoing slate of major movies being streamed the same day as their theatrical releases: Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, Matrix 4, and more premiered on HBO Max in 2021 at no extra cost, and more are coming in 2022.
HBO Max pros and cons
- Every HBO series on demand
- HBO Max Originals
- Large TV and movie library
- Higher price
- No free trial
- Spotty performance on older devices
HBO Max promotions and deals
HBO Max doesn’t offer a free trial, but you can try it out for seven days by adding it through your Hulu account. When the week’s up, you’ll be billed $14.99 a month unless you cancel the HBO Max add-on.
You can find more discounts in our HBO Max Deals guide.
How Much Does HBO Max Cost?
HBO Max has two different tiers of subscription: ad-supported and ad-free.
After debuting with a $14.99 monthly subscription price, it was announced in June 2021 that HBO Max would offer a reduced rate for customers who are willing to watch advertisements.
Those streamers can get HBO Max for just $9.99 per month. And ad-supported streamers can save even more if they’re willing to pay in advance for an annual subscription.
Here’s a quick look at the 2022 pricing breakdown for HBO Max:
The benefits of the more expensive ad-free subscription don’t stop with the absence of commercials, though.
Ad-free subscribers received access to select Warner Bros. movie premieres on the same day as theatrical releases in 2021. The ad-supported subscribers missed out on this perk. Warner Bros. 2022 movies will be streaming on HBO Max 45 days after their theatrical release dates.
Ad-free subscribers can also download shows and movies to watch offline. This can be handy on road trips.
The streaming quality is also better for ad-free subscribers. You can see the full breakdown of the subscription differences below.
Many HBO Customers Get HBO Max for Free
If you’re already an HBO customer, you may be in luck. You may be able to get HBO Max at no additional cost.
HBO Max is being offered to HBO customers who are either billed directly through a WarnerMedia entity or some of the more popular pay-TV providers.
HBO Now direct-billed customers, as well as those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum, Verizon Fios Internet, Consolidated Communications, and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, have access to HBO Max right now, at no extra cost.
According to the HBO Max website, if you’re paying for HBO through one of the following services you get HBO Max at no additional charge.
- Apple TV Channels
- DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV)
- Verizon Fios
- YouTube TV
Here are the supported devices for streaming HBO Max:
- Android TV
- Apple TV
- Play Station 4
- Xbox One
- Samsung TV (models made in 2016 or later)
- Google Chromecast
- iOS devices (ex. Apple iPhone or iPad)
- Android devices (ex. Samsung Galaxy)
- Roku devices
- Amazon Fire devices
- LG Smart TVs
- Vizio Smart TVs (2018 and later)
- Xfinity Flex and X1
If you had the HBO Now app on one of these supported devices, you may have noticed that your existing app “became” HBO Max. That was an intentional update upon the launch of the new service.
You also can stream the service via a web-enabled device. So your home computer, laptop or Chromebook also will work.
What Is Included With HBO Max?
HBO Max includes the entire HBO library, content from some of WarnerMedia’s other brands, licensed television series and movies, as well as original content.
TV Series Included With HBO Max
Complete catalogs of generational television hits like Friends and The Big Bang Theory are available. Some of the titles that are sure to pique the interest of potential subscribers include:
- The Big Bang Theory
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- The West Wing
- South Park
- Rick and Morty
- Ellen’s Game of Games
- Mike & Molly
- One Tree Hill
While not traditionally known for entertaining children, HBO also provides some popular kid-centric programming, including:
- Sesame Street
- Looney Tunes
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Happy Feet
Remember, you’re also getting access to the vast library of HBO’s original content. The network’s hit shows include:
- The Sopranos
- Boardwalk Empire
- Game of Thrones
- The Wire
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Sex and the City
Movies Included With HBO Max
With DC Comics in play, there is plenty of superhero content available. The DC universe includes popular characters such as Batman and Superman. Both have a long history of box office successes, so a robust collection of those films likely will attract a following.
HBO Max also features the complete series of Harry Potter movies and has a whole section dedicated to Academy Award-winning films. There also is a classics collection curated by TCM, which features films like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.
HBO built its reputation by having access to some of the best movies on the market, and it seems that will continue to be a theme with the streaming service.
Here’s a sampling of some titles you’ll find on the service:
- The Lord of the Rings
- Harry Potter (all 8 films)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Matrix
- Wonder Woman
As mentioned previously, ad-free subscribers also will have exclusive access to new release films from Warner Bros.
Though there were same-day release viewings available in 2021, Warner Bros. 2022 movies will be streaming on HBO Max 45 days after their theatrical release.
Original Content on HBO Max
Stars including Meryl Streep, Kaley Cuoco and Anna Kendrick have already debuted in original series for HBO Max.
Within the HBO Max app, there is a labeled section where you can find content that is produced exclusively for this platform.
This includes new takes on old classics like Bugs Bunny and the gang on Looney Tunes as well as a Jimmy Fallon-like talk show starring Sesame Street’s Elmo.
Here is a look at some of the titles available to stream as original content on HBO Max:
HBO Max Originals
Adventure Time: “Go back to the Land of Ooo to join Finn and his best buddy Jake (a wise-cracking dog with magical powers) on a series of surreal adventures.”
The Flight Attendant: “Based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, a flight attendant wakes up next to a dead man with no idea what happened. Kaley Cuoco stars and executive produces.”
Gossip Girl: “Eight years after the original website went dark, a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl.”
Legendary: “Meet the divas behind celebrated voguing teams who are battling in the ballroom for a chance to achieve ‘legendary’ status.”
Let Them All Talk: “Meryl Streep plays a celebrated author who goes on a journey to have fun and heal old wounds.”
Love Life: “It’s a bumpy — but funny — ride from first love to last in this romantic comedy anthology series. Anna Kendrick stars and executive produces with Paul Feig.”
Made For Love: “Alissa Nutting’s tragicomic novel about love, divorce, and revenge comes to life in this 10-episode adaptation.”
Raised by Wolves: “Two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious planet learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.”
Tokyo Vice: “An American journalist embeds himself in the Tokyo Vice police squad to sniff out corruption. Based on the memoir by Jake Adelstein.”
My Experience With HBO Max
With a seven-day trial available for new customers, I decided to give HBO Max a test run for this review.
What I Liked
- Good app: I found the HBO Max app to be pretty user-friendly on my Apple iPad. I was able to move seamlessly through different areas of content via the menu in the top left corner of the screen. Within those different areas, you can sort content by genre to find something to fit your mood. And the search button is never too far away.
- Great content: I think Warner Bros. Discovery does a nice job with the content selection for this one. It feels like a truly premium service. You get the entire HBO library of shows, which includes some of the best content ever made for television. You also get exclusive new shows that you can’t find anywhere else. Oh, and it’s now the only place to stream Friends. It’s an expensive product, but they don’t short you on quality content.
HBO vs. HBO Max: Understanding the Difference
With names like HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max all floating out there as recently as last year, WarnerMedia took necessary steps to simplify the menu for potential subscribers.
HBO Go and HBO Now have been retired, leaving you with just HBO and HBO Max to consider.
Let’s try to clear up some of the potential confusion when picking between the two:
HBO is the traditional cable subscription channel that remains a stand-alone brand available for purchase through a television provider. Pricing varies by provider, but you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $10-20 per month for HBO and its family of channels.
HBO also can be purchased as a web-only subscription for $14.99 per month. It is a popular way for cord-cutters to gain access to all of HBO’s original programming, including live streaming HBO channels, archived shows and a menu of movies. This used to be called HBO Now, but that branding no longer exists.
HBO Max is a stand-alone streaming subscription that includes all of the on-demand content you’d expect to receive from HBO, plus additional content from Warner Bros. and other popular TV shows and movies. This is the product that we’re reviewing in this article.
You don’t need an HBO subscription to get HBO Max, but many HBO subscribers do get access to HBO Max for free.
Final Thoughts on HBO Max
The subscription streaming market is quickly becoming very crowded. Warner Bros. Discovery has joined major companies like Disney, Amazon, Paramount and Apple in a race to capitalize on revenue opportunities provided by consumers who are eager to ditch traditional cable television.
Is the original content from HBO Max enough to differentiate itself from the other services? And is it enough to justify charging upwards of $14.99 per month when competitors like Disney and Apple are asking for less than half of that with new streaming services?
For now, I feel comfortable recommending HBO Max as a premium streaming experience. Especially as a means of accessing timeless HBO hits, such as The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Game of Thrones.
The re-acquisition of streaming rights for an iconic show like Friends is a huge win for HBO Max. There is a loyal following for the popular franchise that is likely to seek out the ability to stream it on demand. DC Comics is another content brand with a dedicated following.
HBO Max FAQ
Can I subscribe to HBO Max through a provider?
HBO Max is available through over 70 cable, satellite, live TV streaming, and mobile providers, including Cox, Xfinity, Hulu, YouTube TV, and DIRECTV. This just applies to billing, however; unless you’re online at HBOMax.com, you’ll still need the HBO Max app to actually watch the content.
HBO Max is not available through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels.
Are there kids’ shows on HBO Max?
Despite HBO’s perception as an “adult” premium channel, HBO Max has quite a bit of children’s programming from Sesame Street, Cartoon Network, and Looney Tunes. Some of HBO Max’s kids’ shows include these:
- Sesame Street (from HBO)
- The Not-So-Late Show with Elmo
- Looney Tunes
- Adventure Time: Distant Lands
- Esme & Roy
- Summer Camp Island
- The Fungies
- Little Ellen
Did HBO Max replace HBO NOW and HBO GO?
HBO has discontinued HBO GO, which was a free streaming service for HBO cable and satellite subscribers. HBO NOW, a separate streaming service from cable/satellite HBO or HBO GO, is now HBO Max.
Some HBO NOW subscribers were automatically switched to HBO Max upon its launch. HBO Max is now the only HBO streaming service.