When HBO Max first launched in 2020, it had a bit of a rocky start. Despite some initial challenges, though, HBO Max has evolved into something much better than it once was. In fact, it is starting to rival some of the best streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. This HBO Max review will explore everything you need to know before signing up.
Changes Since Launch
At its launch, many cynics were quick to dismiss HBO Max. They had a number of issues going on.
For starters, some of the shows and movies promised within the first few months had to be pushed back. Early adopters hoping to watch The Snyder Cut or the Friends Reunion were left disappointed.
On top of that, HBO Max had very confusing branding. It was released alongside HBO Go, HBO Now, and regular ol' HBO. Plus, HBO Max wasn't available on Roku or Amazon devices. Their price point was higher than the competition, which didn't help either.
For many months, the headlines about HBO Max focused on how badly they were trailing their competitors.
Fast forward to 2021 and much of that has changed. HBO Max has sweetened the pot by releasing the Warner Brother's theatrical slate on HBO Max the same day as in theaters.
Big name films like Wonder Woman 1984, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, In The Heights, and Godzilla Vs. Kong have been released on the streamer. HBO simplified their product offerings to make things more simple. And yes, they finally released the Snyder Cut and the Friends Reunion special. Whatever issues with Amazon and Roku have apparently been ironed out, as the HBO Max app works on their devices now.
On top of that, there is now a cheaper, ad-supported membership for the budget-conscious customers (more on that below).
The Streaming Catalog
Much like Disney Plus relies on its Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney animation properties to attract subscribers, HBO Max has the ability to do the same with their IP's. HBO Max includes content from DC Comics, Turner Classic Movies, Sesame Workshop, Cartoon Network, HBO (duh!), and Studio Ghibli.
They have a very impressive library of movies and TV from Warner Brothers and its affiliates. This includes all seasons of Friends– a show they managed to wrestle away from Netflix.
They have some advantages over Disney Plus, too. HBO Max features the sort of R-rated shows and movies you wouldn't see alongside Mickey Mouse Playhouse. That being said, HBO Max does of course have parental controls so your kids won't come across the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones when they are trying to watch Sesame Street.
Pricing and Memberships
There are currently two tiers of memberships for HBO Max. One with ads and one without.
The ad-supported plan has advertising on most shows, except for those that didn't originally include ad breaks, like much of HBO's back catalog. This plan is the cheapest at $9.99/month but it should be noted that this plan does not include access to the same-day theatrical releases.
The ad-free plan is $14.99/month. This plan adds additional features like the same-day releases for theatrical movies at no extra cost, 4K streaming, and offline play.
Both plans allow the creation of five profiles per account, parental controls, and access to the entire streaming library.
There are many more films that are coming to the ad-free subscribers of HBO Max this year. Those include Dune, The Suicide Squad, and new sequels to Space Jam and The Matrix. However, HBO Max will discontinue the same-day streaming release of their theatrical films in 2022.
By that point, however, we can expect to finally see some of the big releases HBO Max has been planning such as their Game of Thrones spin-offs, Sex and the City reboot, and Green Lantern live-action series. Not to mention the possible addition of content from Discovery. Time will tell if this trade-off is truly worth it.
A Note on the App
The app itself was pretty sluggish when I first signed up last year. I've watched it on my iPhone and the Amazon Firestick, and as time has gone on that experience has seen some improvements. The app still crashes on me sometimes, though, and the pause button works on about a five second delay. Hopefully these issues will be fixed in the near future.
HBO Max Review, Wrap-Up and Final Thoughts
HBO Max has an impressive library of movies and shows, made much better by the same-day streaming releases for theatrical films on the ad-free plan. Streaming has provided an escape for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is nice having the option to watch movies I normally would have seen in theaters in the comfort of my home for a flat monthly fee.
Once this changes next year, however, I'm not sure if the higher price point will be justified any longer. The ad-supported plan just doesn't seem worth it to me, either, if I don't get Dune or In The Heights.
For now, though, HBO Max has the catalog you'd expect from Disney Plus with the edgy content you'd expect from Netflix in one tidy package.
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