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How the New Streamer Max (Formerly HBO Max) Will Change What You Watch

What the heck is Max, and is it a good deal for you?


spinner image The Max logo is shown on a smartphone with the HBO Max logo and Discovery Plus logo displayed behind it
Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Starting May 23, the streaming service HBO Max will change its name to simply Max. It’s a big deal, since HBO Max is the most prestigious of all streamers, with the most Emmys and the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Its classic-movie selection beats Netflix, which leans more to original shows and films, and dedicated TV fans often subscribe to both services.

The new Max is essentially the old, rather highbrow HBO Max plus scads of shows from the company’s recent acquisition, Discovery+, home of mass-market-friendly programming. Max will give you not only increasingly hot hits (Succession and Barry), old obsessions (The Sopranos, Sex and the City) and Warner movies (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, 2001: A Space Odyssey), but also new options: Discovery+’s Discovery, TLC, HGTV and Food Network; Shark Week, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, the lively Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, along with shows such as Dr. Pimple Popper: This Is Zit.

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The service is trying to grow its audience by capturing not only HBO Max's viewers on the coasts but everybody in America. Here’s how the company explained the differences between HBO Max and Discovery+ (which annoyed some viewers, especially women): HBO Max skews to male audiences, favors scripted shows and “appointment viewing,” and shows that make you “lean in” (i.e., pay close attention). Discovery+ shows skew female and unscripted, and they make you “lean back” for “comfort viewing.”

What does this all mean for you, the viewer?

Here are some answers to questions many of the 96.1 million customers of HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+ will be asking:

What’s Max going to cost me?

The Max With Ads plan is $9.99 a month, Max Ad-Free is $15.99, and Max Ultimate Ad-Free is $19.99. One change: You used to be able to get some 4K Ultra HD content on an ad-free plan, but now it’s only available on the priciest, $19.99 plan.

What if I already have an HBO Max subscription?

You won’t pay a dime extra for all those new shows, and you’ll get everything you have with your subscription until at least November 2023. Your settings and watch history stay the same, and you can continue watching any show you were in the middle of.

What if I only have an HBO subscription?

If you get HBO with a cable or satellite TV package, you won’t pay extra if you use AT&T, DirecTV, Dish, Hulu, Prime Video Channels, Charter’s Spectrum, Verizon, Comcast’s Xfinity or certain other distribution partners — click here for a list.

What do I have to do to get Max if I already subscribe to HBO Max?

Not a thing. If you subscribe through Amazon, Cox, Roku, Vizio TV or Xfinity, HBO Max will automatically update to Max. If you have Android, Apple, DirecTV, LG TV, PlayStation, Samsung TV or Xbox, when you open HBO Max, it will ask you to download the Max app. Either way, your HBO Max will become Max.

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If I have a Discovery+ subscription, does it vanish?

No. Lots of Discovery+ shows will be on Max, but Discovery+ will remain as a stand-alone option.

I’m a snob, not a populist! Can I get just Max, not Discovery+?

No.

Will the color of the logo change?

Yes. HBO Max is purple, Max is blue.

How does HBO Max compare with other big streamers such as Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Paramount+, PBS Passport, Peacock, Showtime, Starz, BET+ and ESPN?

Max hopes you will be so bowled over by its viewing options that you won't even consider the alternatives. But you should! Most services let you cancel or resubscribe from month to month, so you only pay for what you want to actually watch. Many have free trial subscriptions (they hope you'll forget to cancel, or won’t want to). Find out about your options by reading AARP’s What You Need to Know About TV Streaming Services.

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