HBO Max Review: Is AT&T’s New Streaming Service Worth It?

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HBO Max Review: Everything to Know About AT&T's New Streaming Service
Image Credit: Dreamstime / HBO

In a move that should have HBO content fans excited, AT&T has launched a new video streaming service titled HBO Max.

Not to be confused with HBO Now or HBO Go, this new subscription service features a combination of the hit series that made HBO subscriptions a must-have for TV junkies alongside 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.

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. We have downloaded HBO Max to our devices and put AT&T’s latest entertainment option to the test.

In this article, we’ll help you understand what the new HBO Max platform looks like, showcase some of the content that is included with a subscription, explain how it is positioned among other popular HBO products and give our initial feedback after a trial run with the service.

Table of Contents

What Is HBO Max?

The HBO Max homes screen on iPad.

HBO Max is a subscription streaming service from AT&T that went live on May 27, 2020.

It is positioned to compete with non-live video streaming services like 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 WarnerMedia entities like TBS, TNT, CNN and Warner Brothers. It also includes titles that WarnerMedia properties have acquired or reacquired licensing rights to in recent years, like the Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Sesame Street and South Park libraries. And, yes, there is plenty of new content that is exclusive to the platform as well.

At launch, AT&T boasted that HBO Max included more than 10,000 hours of content.

How Can I Get HBO Max?

HBO Max debuted at $14.99 per month and is available for download on phones, tablets and select streaming TV devices.

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That price makes HBO Max one of the more expensive non-live streaming options on the market. For reference, Netflix’s standard offering is $12.99 per month, while new streaming services Disney+ and Apple TV+ check in at $6.99 and $4.99 per month, respectively.

HBO Max offers a 7-day free trial, so you can try it out before you decide to make a monetary commitment.

It is worth noting that AT&T offered HBO Max for $11.99 per month for a year as part of a pre-launch promotion, so perhaps we could again see a cheaper price promotion in the coming months.

If you already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T service like DIRECTV, you may be eligible to receive HBO Max for free in 2020. Team Clark sorted through the promotional offers for existing AT&T customers here.

Many HBO Customers Get HBO Max for Free

If you are already an HBO or HBO Now customer, you may be in luck. There’s a good chance you could be receiving HBO Max at no additional cost.

AT&T is offering HBO Max to HBO Now customers who are either billed directly through a WarnerMedia entity or some of the more popular pay-TV providers.

HBO NOW direct-billed customers and 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 are paying for HBO or HBO Now from one of the following services you’re going to receive HBO Max free of additional charge.

  • Apple TV Channels
  • AT&T TV
  • Cox
  • DIRECTV
  • Hulu
  • Optimum
  • Spectrum
  • Verizon Fios
  • Xfinity

Supported Devices

At launch, finding HBO Max on some of the most popular streaming devices was a problem. AT&T did not have an agreement in place for support from Roku or Amazon Fire TV products. As someone who uses both for most of my streaming TV experiences, that made it a little difficult to get started with HBO Max.

Here are the supported devices for streaming HBO Max right now:

  • 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)

If you have the HBO Now app on one of these supported devices, you may have noticed that your existing app may have been rebranded to HBO Max. That was an intentional update by AT&T upon the May 27 launch of the new service.

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AT&T also notes that you 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. Here is a look at some television series and movies already confirmed to be part of the content offering:

TV Series Included With HBO Max

Friends is one of the popular TV series features on HBO Max.

AT&T has invested in licensing some big-name television titles for this streaming service. 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:

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • The West Wing
  • South Park
  • Rick and Morty
  • Ellen’s Game of Games

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 existing library of HBO’s original content. The network has aired hit shows like:

  • The Sopranos
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Wire
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Veep
  • Sex and the City

Movies Included With HBO Max

HBO Max has a menu of movies, such as Wonder Woman.

With DC Comics in play, there is plenty of superhero content available. The DC universe includes popular characters like 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 that 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.

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Here’s a sampling of some titles you’ll find on the service:

  • Joker
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter (all 8 films)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Matrix
  • Wonder Woman
  • Titanic

Original Content on HBO Max

At nearly $15 per month, one would hope that HBO Max is differentiating itself with new and original content beyond the regular HBO subscription. It appears the plans are already in place to make that a reality. Stars like Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Kaley Cuoco and Anna Kendrick are already committed to original series for HBO Max.

Within the HBO Max app there is a labeled section where you can find content that is exclusively produced for this platform.

HBO Max has a separate menu for new original content.

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.

While only a handful of shows were available at launch, here is a look at some of the titles already confirmed to debut as original content on HBO Max:

Confirmed 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.”
  • Ellen’s Home Design Challenge: “Design aficionado Ellen DeGeneres gives eight forward-thinking designers the chance to push their creativity to the limit.”
  • 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 7-day trial available for new customers, I decided to give HBO Max a test run for this review.

What I Liked

Let’s start with the good stuff:

  • Good app: I found the HBO Max app to be pretty user friendly on my Apple iPad. I was able to seamlessly move through different areas of content, such as movies, series, originals new content via the menu in the top left corner of the screen. Within those different areas, you’re able to sort by genre to find something to fit your mood. And the search button is never too far away.
  • Great content: I think AT&T did 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.

What I Didn’t Like

While I think I would recommend HBO Max as a streaming option, there were some drawbacks that I feel I should point out:

  • Streaming it on your TV is harder than it should be: You probably noticed my review is mostly based on my iPad experience. That’s because I was not able to add the HBO Max app to any of my Roku or Amazon streaming devices. It also didn’t have a native app on my LG smart TV. I was able to access it through YouTube TV as an add-on, but should I really need to do that to see the prize product of AT&T and HBO? I’m sure they’re working it, but this needs to get better quickly if this is going to be a serious competitor to Netflix and Hulu.
  • The “Max Original” content library is thin: While HBO Max does have a host of projects being completed exclusively for the platform, you wouldn’t know it at launch. There were just six titles under the original tab upon my review. If I’m paying $15 per month, I’d expect more of that portion of the product to be ready right away. That being said, I did enjoy the revamp of Looney Tunes.

The Looney Tunes return as a new original series on HBO Max.

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HBO Max vs. HBO NOW: Understanding the Difference

With names like HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max all floating out there, some users may struggle with brand differentiation between the products.

Let’s try to clear up some of the potential confusion:

HBO is the traditional cable subscription channel that remains a stand-alone brand available for purchase through a television provider.

HBO Now is a subscription service that provides access to HBO programming to those who do not pay for it through a traditional cable or satellite television provider. At $15 per month, it has been 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 remains live even after the launch of HBO Max.

HBO Max is a new subscription streaming service that creates original content and provides access to popular licensed content. It also has HBO programming and a more extensive library of movies, but the key differentiation from HBO Now apparently is its focus on original streaming content.

Remember, many HBO Now subscribers now receive HBO Max for free.

Neither Max nor Now should be confused with HBO Go, which is the “on the go” version of a traditional HBO cable subscription for your phone, tablet or other portable devices.

Final Thoughts on HBO Max

The subscription streaming market is quickly becoming very crowded. HBO is joining major companies like Disney, Amazon 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 $14.99 per month when competitors like Disney and Apple are asking for less than half of that with new streaming services?

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Answers to these questions are likely to determine the fate of HBO’s latest venture.

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. Likewise, featuring multiple programs from comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is another attempt to lure a large, loyal following to the HBO Max service. DC Comics is another content brand with a dedicated following.

Is HBO likely to talk you into a trial run with one of these content offerings? Let us know if you’re interested in giving it a spin and what content has you the most excited!

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