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Should You Get HBO Max?

How — and why — to take advantage of the new streaming service

spinner image Chief Executive Officer of Otter Media Tony Goncalves speak at the H B O Max Warner Media Investor Day Presentation at Warner Brothers Studios
Presley Ann/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

There could scarcely be a better time for HBO, the pay TV network owned by WarnerMedia, to launch its new streaming video service, HBO Max.

Streaming customers are ready for something new to watch. But just what is HBO Max? How does it differ from the already existing streaming services HBO Go and HBO Now? Here’s what you need to know.

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HBO Max Explained

There are already two HBO streaming options: HBO Go and HBO Now. HBO Now is a standalone streaming service that does NOT require a cable TV package. HBO Go is included with your cable or satellite TV subscription, or a subscription you added onto another service such as Amazon or Hulu.  HBO Go and HBO Now offer only HBO shows. But the new HBO Max gives subscribers all HBO shows, plus 10,000 hours of added series and movies from AT&T–owned properties such as Warner Bros., CNN, TNT, TBS and TCM.

If you already have an HBO subscription through AT&T or Charter Communications, you’ll get HBO Max for free. If you subscribe to HBO Now, it will be included in your $15 monthly fee. And if you want to subscribe only to HBO Max, the cost is the same: $15. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber and have an HBO subscription you can also find HBO Live content (but not HBO Max) through Amazon; the same is true of Hulu.

HBO content isn’t available on Netflix because, particularly with the introduction of HBO Max, the two streaming services are competing for a similar broad audience.

HBO Max puts several of TV’s most classic series all in one place

spinner image Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green David Schwimmer as Ross Geller Courteney Cox as Monica Geller Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay drinking milkshakes in a Friends cast photo
The cast of "Friends."
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Let’s begin with what’s grabbing all the headlines. Starting May 27, you’ll be able to see all 236 episodes of the beloved sitcom Friends, along with other old favorites such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Big Bang Theory. The much-anticipated unscripted reunion the Friends stars, meant to launch the new service, was postponed by the coronavirus, but will ultimately be available on HBO Max.

Beyond those network darlings, you’ll also be able to binge some of HBO’s best-loved series, including The SopranosBig Little LiesSex and the CityGame of Thrones and The Wire.

HBO Max is also streaming original series

First up is Love Life, a rom-com anthology series that stars Up in the Air's Anna Kendrick. Each episode of Season 1 will chronicle one fling in her character's life, leading up to what we hope will be a happily-ever-after ending.

HBO Max has movies, too

Movies will be a big part of HBO Max, from recent hits like Crazy Rich Asians and A Star Is Born to enduring classics like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz. Original films premiering on the service include Steven Soderbergh's Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest and Candice Bergen.

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More good stuff to sweeten the deal

HBO Max initial subscribers also can stream the controversial documentary On the Record, which explores sexual harassment in the music industry, as well as the reality shows Legendary (an underground ballroom-dance competition) and Craftopia, hosted by YouTube star LaurDIY. For younger viewers — or the young at heart — there will be new episodes of Looney Tunes and the Sesame Street spin-off The Not Too Late Show With Elmo.

What's coming soon

Like what you see? There's more to come. Big Bang Theory alum Kaley Cuoco will headline one of HBO Max's highest-profile original offerings (to premiere at some point after the launch), The Flight Attendant, a drama series in which she portrays an airline employee who wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead body — awkward. The Shining will get its own spin-off series, Overlook, telling the stories of guests at the haunted hotel, from producer J.J. Abrams (LostStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker).

The takeaway

Given this wealth of new options, HBO Max hopes that you simply won't be able to curb your enthusiasm (yes, Larry David's show is available, too).

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