HBO Max is no longer the new kid on the block. The streaming service, which launched in the US back in May 2020, is essentially Warner Bros. Discovery’s attempt to take on Netflix and Disney Plus in the on-demand entertainment space, and the platform has come on leaps and bounds during its two-and-a-half-years out in the wild.
Unlike HBO’s previous on-demand services, HBO Now and HBO Go, HBO Max has a broader range of content, which includes the complete roster of classic HBO-produced series (like The Sopranos and The Wire) alongside newer HBO originals (like Succession and Euphoria) and a vast movie library. New HBO shows land on HBO Max at the same time as they air, too – so it really is a far-reaching service. And it should be, too, for the $14.99 per month price.
Below, then, we’ve rounded up everything worth knowing about HBO Max: what it is, what it costs, what’s available on the service and whether you should subscribe in 2023.
Where is HBO Max currently available?
Having originally launched in the US exclusively, HBO Max expanded to the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland) as well as Spain and Andorra in 2021. Then, in March 2022, the streamer began rolling out in 15 more European territories, including Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands and Croatia.
Six further regions, including Greece and Turkey, were set to gain access to the service later that year, but HBO’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), has since decided instead to focus on the launch of an entirely new global streamer in 2023.
UK audiences also don’t have access to HBO Max. HBO signed a four-year contract with UK broadcaster Sky in 2019 allowing the latter to air certain HBO-produced movies and TV shows, so HBO Max isn’t likely to arrive across the pond until that partnership has concluded in 2024.
That being said, the absence of HBO Max in the UK doesn’t altogether deprive British viewers of HBO-produced content. As above, many of the studio’s biggest properties are available to watch through a compatible Sky (or Now) subscription, with only a few movies and TV shows proving exceptions to the rule.
As alluded to, though, the complexion of HBO Max and its availability looks set to shift dramatically in 2023. The platform’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), is planning to combine HBO Max with Discovery Plus to form a new super streamer by early next year, so HBO Max as we know it may only continue to exist for a matter of months.
Explaining how this new streamer will prove greater than the sum of its parts, WBD executive JB Perrette said in August 2022: “HBO Max has a competitive feature set, but has had performance and customer issues. Discovery Plus has best-in-class performance and consumer ratings, but more limited features. Our combined service will focus on delivering the best of both.”
The exact nature of this “combined service” remains to be seen, but it’s safe to assume that all of the content currently available on HBO Max will be shifted onto WBD’s new super streamer when it does eventually launch.
How much does HBO Max cost?
Two HBO Max subscription (opens in new tab) tiers are currently available. The main, ad-free tier costs $14.99 (around £11 / AU$22) per month, while a cheaper, ad-supported tier costs $9.99 (around £8 / AU$14) per month.
The latter offers access to the same library of movies and TV shows, however subscribers aren’t able to download content for offline viewing, and video quality is also capped at 1080p.
HBO Max prices look set to increase in 2023 following the launch of WBD’s new combined streamer, though details are few and far between at this stage.
That main $14.99 price (as things stand) puts HBO Max at the more expensive end of the streaming service spectrum, though it’s also the same price as HBO Now (and the former offers a decidedly better entertainment package for the money).
By comparison, as of December 2022, Disney Plus costs $7.99 / £7.99 / AU$11.99 per month, while Netflix’s standard tier costs $15.49 / £10.99 / AU$16.99 per month. To learn more and compare the service to the competition, check out our dedicated HBO Max price guide.
It’s also worth noting that all existing direct HBO subscribers get HBO Max for free, as well as those subscribed to the channel via the following:
- Altice One
- Atlantic Broadband
- Apple TV
- AT&T TV
- AT&T U-verse
- Verizon FIOS
Incidentally, if you’re also subscribed to HBO Now through a third-party app or service (see the following list), the HBO Max help site says subscribers get HBO Max for nothing: Apple, Google Play, Samsung TV, Hulu, Verizon, Optimum, Consolidated Communications and Liberty.
As above, those subscribed to HBO through AT&T-related services can also watch all the HBO Max content they want for no additional cost. AT&T now has a dedicated page (opens in new tab) on deals that include access to the streamer.
How long this arrangement lasts in 2023, though, is unclear. As alluded to above, WBD executives have said that HBO Max subscription prices will almost certainly head “north” in the coming months following the launch of the company’s new combined streamer, while the ad load on HBO’s cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier could potentially double.
The revelations were made during WBD’s recent Q3 earnings call (opens in new tab) with Wall Street analysts, and came after the company reported lower-than-expectation results. Evidently, WBD is planning to respond to the slowdown by putting a premium price tag on the company’s still-unnamed combined streamer, which is due to launch between March and June next year. We’ll update this page when we know more about how the move will affect HBO Max pricing.
Is there a HBO Max free trial?
Sorry, folks – while you could once have tried HBO Max for seven days before committing, that option is no longer available. Having said that, if you’re accessing the streamer in a country that has only recently gained access to the service, HBO may still be offering a free trial.
Take a read of our HBO Max free trial article for more.
HBO Max movies: what’s worth watching?
Pricey as it is, HBO Max is pretty phenomenal when it comes to movie selection. While Netflix’s movie library always has a bunch of highlights from other studios (check out our pick of the best Netflix movies), the base HBO Max is working from comprises many amazing movies from Warner Bros’ history, meaning you get a massive range of DC Comics movies – from Batman (1989) to Joker, The Dark Knight and Aquaman – straight out of the box.
Genre movies generally are very well-repped on HBO Max, too, with The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogies currently available to stream. Take a look at our dedicated guide to the best HBO Max movies for the latest additions.
One of HBO Max’s bespoke channels is Studio Ghibli movies, which gives subscribers access to every animated film from the legendary studio behind Spirited Away (with the exception of Grave of the Fireflies). Another channel is TCM (Turner Classic Movies) – the latter might not be as specialist as The Criterion Channel, but you won’t be short of classics to enjoy, from Citizen Kane to All The President’s Men.
Basically, you’ll never run out of things to watch on HBO Max. While subscribers in 2023 will no longer get access to day-and-date movie releases (which saw the likes of Dune and The Matrix Resurrections released directly onto the streamer in tandem with their theatrical debuts), HBO Max still gives Netflix and Disney Plus more than a run for their money when it comes to blockbusters. Newer movies like The Batman continue to arrive on the platform around 45 days after their theatrical release, too.
HBO Max shows: what’s streaming?
Check out our best HBO Max shows list for recommendations on the platform’s TV highlights. Obviously, HBO’s original series are at the core of the offering, here. Everything from The Wire to The Sopranos to miniseries like Show Me A Hero and The Night Of are available to stream – but HBO isn’t just known for dramas, of course.
Comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep are here, too, along with documentaries like McMillions and The Case Against Adnan Sayed. HBO’s rich history of stand-up specials is also here to enjoy, with some of the biggest American comedians represented.
What’s more, older shows on the platform from Warner’s archive (and beyond) help supplement HBO’s TV offering. Rick and Morty’s first four seasons can be streamed, for instance, and HBO Max has the exclusive rights to show Friends and South Park in the US. The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, Young Sheldon, The Nanny and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are among the sitcoms you can enjoy on the service.
You’ll find loads of great animated shows in here, too. Batman: The Animated Series is a classic from the ’90s, and it’s joined by the Superman show, as well as the more futuristic Batman Beyond. If you’re craving anime, Crunchyroll has a channel on HBO Max that offers a broad selection to enjoy, while access to Cartoon Network encompasses shows like Steven Universe and Dexter’s Laboratory.
Import shows include the newer seasons of Doctor Who, The Office (UK) and crime drama Gomorrah, though the former is heading to Disney Plus in 2023 following a new agreement.
And finally – and for many, most importantly – HBO Max has a suite of original series that just can’t be rivalled by the likes of Netflix and Prime Video. Game of Thrones, Succession, Euphoria, House of the Dragon, Raised By Wolves, The Flight Attendant and Search Party count among just some of the streamer’s premium TV gems (oh, and The Last of Us TV show is primed to blow the roof off the service in early 2023).
It’s not yet clear how WBD’s upcoming super streamer will manage HBO Max’s stellar TV offering, but we’d wager that the platform’s biggest shows – Succession, Euphoria, The Wire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon et al. – will make the transition to this new on-demand offering.
HBO Max vs HBO: what’s the difference?
HBO has trimmed its streaming options down to just HBO Max and HBO as of 2023 – mostly to avoid confusion. The difference simply comes in the range of programming subscribers have access to. By subscribing to just HBO, you’ll get every original series the premium channel is known for, as well as its movies. But HBO Max gets you more than double the content – including the likes of Friends, Adult Swim, kids’ entertainment and Max’s own range of originals.
Really, there’s no reason to get HBO over HBO Max – they cost the same, and you get more stuff with the latter.
HBO Max devices and apps: how can you stream it?
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Here is the list of officially supported devices you can use with HBO Max. There’s no limit to how many devices you can use with the streaming service, but for security reasons, the number of simultaneous streams permitted is capped at three.
- Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X
- Roku (OS 9.3 and later)
- Cox Contour 2 and Contour Stream Player
- iOS (12.2 or later)
- Android (5.0 or later)/Android TV
- Apple TV
- Chrome/Firefox/Microsoft Edge
- Xfinity X1 and Flex
- Samsung Smart TVs (2016 onwards)
HBO Max app features: downloads and recommendations explained
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HBO Max lets you download content for offline viewing. It also has a PIN system for parental control, personalized profiles and brand-based content hubs similar to how Disney Plus categorizes Star Wars movies and Marvel movies – as mentioned earlier, these include TCM, Studio Ghibli, DC, Crunchyroll, Looney Tunes and Sesame Workshop.
Subscribers also have the option of ‘co-viewing’ homepages that represent the tastes of multiple people in your home. The homepage has themed selections of content to enjoy, too, if you’re a little sick of Netflix’s algorithmic recommendations.
Does HBO Max support 4K streaming?
Yes. HBO Max launched support for 4K streaming on a selection of 4K-compatible devices (see the list below) in December 2020 – though you’ll have to be subscribed to the ad-free tier of the service to benefit.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube
- Android TVs, including: AT&T Streaming Box
- Apple TV 4K
- Xbox Series X
- Sony PS5
- Google Chromecast Ultra and Chromecast with Google TV
- Roku Ultra 4800x, Roku 4k TVs, Roku Premiere, and Roku Streaming Stick+
- Xfinity X1 (Xi6) and Flex
Could HBO Max win the streaming wars?
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HBO is a name synonymous with prestige TV, from shows like Oz and The Sopranos through to Game of Thrones and Chernobyl. With HBO Max, that association is still a massive asset. In the ‘Peak TV’ age, HBO has more than held its own, producing the likes of Succession, Euphoria and Mare of Easttown while remaining at the center of the TV conversation.
That status is what HBO Max is building (or rather, has built) upon: the best TV of the last two decades, coupled with every major brand Warner can throw at it. Not all streaming services will survive this content war, but HBO Max has a lot in its corner, especially with its big investment in blockbuster movies.
It’s already a great streaming service – the question is whether its originals make it stand out in an overpopulated US streaming landscape, especially when the price of entry is still relatively high.
For our money, HBO Max’s TV offering does indeed make the streamer worth the price – but WBD’s ambitious on-demand plans for 2023 have put HBO Max in an uncertain position for the future.
Watch the video here: HBO Max: movies, shows and everything about the streaming service explained