HBO Max is the premium network’s streaming service featuring all the channel’s regular programming plus an amped-up library of extra shows, movies and originals. In an unprecedented move, HBO Max will stream all of Warner Bros.’ new, theatrically released movies at no extra charge the same day each film hits US cinemas. But they’ll stay on Max for one month only: The first one, Wonder Woman 1984, hit the service on Dec. 25, making this the last weekend to stream it before it’s gone — it will come off HBO Max Sunday at 11:59 p.m. PT. (The next film queued up is psychological thriller The Little Things starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto, arriving Jan. 29.)
And HBO Max has killed its weeklong free trial. That means if you want to stream Wonder Woman 1984 or any other Warner Bros. movies on its 2021 slate, like Matrix 4 and Dune, you either need to either pay $15 a month or figure out if your regular HBO subscription includes a free upgrade to a Max account. (Or activate a deal that gives you a Max subscription at no extra cost, see below).
Making Wonder Woman 1984 and other brand-new Warner Bros. flicks available on HBO Max is sure to be a boon for the service. Since its launch in late May, HBO Max has been grappling with a bumpy rollout: Even though millions of people can upgrade to Max at no extra cost because they already subscribe to regular HBO, only a fraction of those people have bothered downloading and signing up for the app. In HBO Max’s first five months, it ramped up to 8.6 million accounts. Disney Plus, for comparison, hit 50 million subscribers in the same amount of time.
Why has Max struggled? For one thing, HBO Max initially failed to get its app on the most popular streaming devices, but that problem is a thing of the past. HBO Max launched without support to stream it on Roku nor Amazon Fire TV devices. Together, Amazon and Roku represent more than 70% of streaming devices in the US, according to Parks Associates. But after months of absence, HBO Max finally reached deals to bring its app to Roku gadgets and to Amazon devices like Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire tablets.
Also crimping HBO Max’s traction: It’s pricey. HBO Max is one of the most expensive compared with its rivals, at $15 a month. That’s similar in price to Netflix‘s most popular plan — but Max has a smaller catalog, fewer features and less name recognition. Max also competes with new rivals like Disney Plus, Peacock and Apple TV Plus, but all three are much less expensive. Still, many — but not all — current HBO customers can get HBO Max at no added cost.
To entice you, HBO Max has padded itself with more content than you’ll find on the regular HBO channel. For the same price, HBO Max roughly doubles the amount of programming. AT&T, which owns HBO as part of its WarnerMedia TV and film division, has been pouring billions of dollars into its budgets for original programming and into expensive deals to stream blockbuster movies from DC, Studio Ghibli and the Criterion Collection, as well as popular shows like Friends, South Park, The Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty, Doctor Who and new episodes of Adventure Time. (There’s a deep dive into the shows and movies on Max near the end of this article.)
The most interesting addition to HBO Max’s catalog are the new Warner Bros. movies, like Wonder Woman 1984, streaming the same day as they hit theaters for one month at no added cost to Max subscribers. (See below for a list of all the titles and their planned release dates.)
Even before Warner Bros.’ HBO Max decision, other studios had been bringing new movies online earlier than normal, too. Universal released its DreamWorks Animation sequel Trolls World Tour as an online rental in April the same day as theaters, and Disney put out its live-action remake of Mulan on Disney Plus in September. But both those movies came with an extra cost to watch them online, a model known as premium video on demand that requires customers to pay a high price to unlock the title for home viewing.
Meanwhile, some studios have switched what was supposed to be a big-screen movie into a streaming exclusive instead. Disney has done this with a clutch of movies on Disney Plus, most notably Hamilton in July and its Pixar movie Soul, which like WW1984 was available to stream Dec. 25. But none of those films comes close to the $200 million budget for Wonder Woman 1984. Up until now, studios have mostly been delaying their biggest, most expensive franchise films until this year or beyond, hoping for a future when cinemas reopen widely and audiences feel comfortable returning to theaters in droves.
Wonder Woman 1984 is the biggest movie yet in the pandemic to be released straight to streaming without an extra rental fee, by any studio. By promising to treat its entire 2021 slate that way, Warner Bros. has surpassed every other studio in its commitment to same-day theatrical and streaming releases.
Beyond big-screen surprises hitting HBO Max, the service’s Max Originals also offer new, exclusive shows and movies. Some of the latest: November brought The Flight Attendant, a comedic thriller series starring Kaley Cuoco, and January brought pandemic-timely film Locked Down, in which Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor play an unhappy couple stuck in quarantine who decide to pull off a jewel heist. In the pipeline is the four-hour (!) so-called Snyder cut of the 2017’s Justice League, expected in March, as well as Peacemaker, a DC spinoff series is designed to be linked to next year’s theatrical movie The Suicide Squad. Peacemaker will star John Cena reprising his role, with James Gunn writing and directing before he begins work on the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Other originals that have already been released include Raised by Wolves, which appears to be the most popular Max original so far; an Adventure Time animated hour-long special, the first of four; and indie film Class Action Park, a documentary about the world’s most dangerous amusement park.
One highly anticipated original remains missing. A Friends reunion special was expected to function as the service’s marquee exclusive on day one. But HBO Max’s original productions have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic too. The company had said it was aiming to film the Friends reunion by the end of the summer, but it was postponed again in August. (The latest reports are that it is set to be filmed in March.)
HBO Max also has podcasts in its library linked to its programming, along the lines of last year’s podcast companion to the miniseries Chernobyl. Raised by Wolves, an original sci-fi drama directed by Ridley Scott, has a podcast available now on Max, for example.
Below are the finer details about HBO Max’s cost, discounts, app and its shows and movies.
What Warner Bros. first-run movies are coming to HBO Max, and what are their release dates?
Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate of new movies is set for release in theaters and on HBO Max on the following dates:
- Jan. 29: The Little Things
- Feb 12: Judas and The Black Messiah
- Feb 26: Tom & Jerry
- Mar 26: Godzilla vs. Kong
- Apr 16: Mortal Kombat
- Date TBD: Those Who Wish Me Dead
- Jun 04: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
- Jun 18: In The Heights
- Jul 16: Space Jam: A New Legacy
- Aug 06: The Suicide Squad
- Date TBD: Reminiscence
- Date TBD: Malignant
- Sept 24: The Many Saints Of Newark
- Oct 01: Dune
- Nov 19: King Richard
- Date TBD: Cry Macho
- Dec 22: Matrix
Titles listed with a “TBD” don’t have confirmed release dates yet, but they’re placed in the list in loose chronological order when they are expected to come out. All these titles will be available on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters in the US.
Titles are generally expected to become available to stream on Max at 12:01 a.m. PT/3:01 a.m. ET the day of their release. But the timing may vary, depending on when the first cinematic screenings take place at brick-and-mortar theaters. Wonder Woman 1984, for example, became available at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET because that was the earliest theaters were open that day.
The movies will be available to stream on HBO Max for 31 days. They’re generally expected to be removed from the service at 11:59 p.m. PT on that 31st day.
How much will it cost to watch these first-run movies on Max?
Everything on Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate of new movies will available on HBO Max at no added cost to subscribers — in other words, feels like free. But HBO Max doesn’t have a free trial, so you’ll either need to sign up with a paying membership or upgrade an existing HBO subscription to include Max.
HBO Max itself is $15 a month for new or standalone subscribers. If you already have HBO from a TV provider, a tech company or through HBO Now, you may be able to upgrade to Max at no added cost — it depends whether HBO Max has struck a deal with your specific provider. And some AT&T customers have deals to get Max included in their service plans. See the section on “How do I get HBO Max if I already pay for HBO?” for more details.
How much does HBO Max cost?
HBO Max is $15 a month. It doesn’t have a free trial, but the company occasionally offers discounts if you prepay for an extended period of time. For example, before launch, people who preordered the service at HBOMax.com unlocked a discount deal that lowered the price to $13 a month for the first year.
Right now, HBO Max is offering a deal for a six-month subscription for $70. That works out to about $11.67 a month, a 22% discount off the regular price.
And a cheaper tier with advertising is on the way. AT&T CEO John Stankey has said HBO Max will launch a lower-priced, ad-supported version early this year, reportedly in the second quarter (that is, in time for The Suicide Squad, Dune and Matrix but not Godzilla vs. Kong).
Compared with rival streaming services that launched before HBO Max, that pricing may feel steep. Disney Plus is $7 a month, and Apple TV Plus is $5. Both are offering deals that can cut the price further or offering extended free periods to some customers. Apple, for example, is giving away a year’s subscription to anyone who’s purchased an Apple device. And Disney set up a deal with Verizon so many of the carrier’s mobile subscribers get a year free.
How do I get HBO Max if I already pay for HBO? What will it cost me?
Things get more complicated if you already have HBO and want to know what the launch of HBO Max means for you. Some people who already have an existing subscription to HBO are able to unlock HBO Max at no extra cost, but not everyone.
Some HBO Max distributors unlock an HBO Max upgrade at no extra cost for any current HBO and legacy HBO Now customers, thanks to deals HBO Max has struck with them. You qualify for the HBO Max upgrade at no extra cost if you already pay for HBO through:
- AT&T (HBO’s parent company) and DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T TV Now, AT&T TV and AT&T wireless users who can add HBO with certain unlimited plans.
- Charter and its Spectrum services.
- YouTube TV or Google.
- Altice USA and its Optimum and Suddenlink services.
- Verizon and its Fios services.
- Cox Communications.
- The NCTC group of independent cable and broadband companies — that includes WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, RCN, Grande Communications & Wave, MCTV and others. (Check if your pay-TV provider is an NCTC member.)
- Comcast X1 and Flex customers.
- Amazon Prime Video Channels.
However, it’s unclear if HBO Max will strike more deals with other pay-TV providers, whether that’s traditional providers like Dish or internet-based ones like The Roku Channel.
AT&T is also offering a complicated matrix of promos for HBO Max. Some customers get Max at no extra cost, while others qualify for a one-month, three-month or one-year free trial. Your best shot at figuring out whether you qualify is to check your account or the myAT&T app, but CNET also lists AT&T’s qualification terms for its HBO Max promos.
What devices support HBO Max?
HBO Max is available on a variety of devices.
- Most Apple devices that can stream video support HBO Max — iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD. However, customers with second- and third-generation Apple TV models will need to stream HBO Max content from their iPhone or iPad to their TV with AirPlay.
- Google’s Android operating system for phones and tablets have an app for Android TV devices, Chromebooks, Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices will support HBO Max too.
- Sony’s PlayStation 4 systems can download the HBO Max app via the PlayStation Store.
- Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming consoles have the HBO Max app via the Microsoft Store.
- Select Samsung internet-connected smart TVs — models from 2016 through 2020 — can download and purchase HBO Max directly.
- Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire tablets have support for HBO Max’s app
- Roku devices support HBO Max for streaming and for signing up to the service as a new user.
When will HBO Max launch elsewhere?
HBO Max launched May 27 in the US.
After that, HBO Max’s first international expansions will prioritize Latin America and Europe. Latin America will get HBO Max in 2021, the company has said.
HBO Max’s US timing will put it near the end of a parade of streaming service launches. Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus launched in November 2019. April brought Quibi, a mobile-only streaming service that features short, episodic originals (which flamed out and completely shut down by December). Also in April, NBCUniversal’s Peacock launched a “sneak peek” at its service on Comcast before launching nationally July 15.
What product features does HBO Max have?
In a long-anticipated feature for anyone who previously used HBO Go, HBO Max has downloads for its mobile apps.
HBO Max allows you to stream to three different devices simultaneously. By comparison, Disney Plus allows four simultaneous streams, and Netflix allows between one and four depending on how much you pay each month.
You can also create up to five profiles to keep recommendations separate for different members of the household, and it also has kid accounts that are unlocked by entering a PIN. These parental controls allow moms and dads to set the maturity levels of the programming each kids’ profile can access, based on ratings like PG and TV-14.
Another missing element: HBO Max doesn’t offer 4K resolution nor high dynamic range image quality for most of its catalog. The exception is all the theatrical movies that Warner Bros. is releasing on HBO Max the same day as cinemas; all those films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.
Where can I sign up for HBO Max?
The simplest way to get HBO Max is to sign up for it directly at hbomax.com.
Through Apple, HBO Max will be an iOS app for iPhone and iPad, which will allow you to sign up and pay through an in-app purchase. Apple will also integrate HBO Max into its own TV app, which allows you to congregate certain streaming channels to watch them in one place.
Through Google, HBO Max will have an app for Android phones and tablets in the Google Play store, and you’ll be able to sign up inside the app with an in-app purchase. You’ll also be able to stream HBO Max on Android TV, Chromebook and Google Chromecast. If you already subscribe to HBO Now through Google Play, you’ll automatically be able to log in to HBO Max at launch at no additional charge, and you’ll continue to be billed through Google. And YouTube TV, the streaming pay-TV service operated by Google’s YouTube, will also carry HBO Max.
People with Samsung Smart TVs that support the HBO Max app will also be able to sign up directly there.
Roku also allows people to sign up for HBO Max directly on its devices using is payment system Roku Pay.
Shows and movies: What can I watch?
Generally, HBO Max includes all the shows and movies on HBO, plus a selection of high-profile licensed content, like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Rick & Morty and South Park. It’ll layer exclusive original programming on top of that. HBO Max said it will have 30 originals in year one and 60 in year two. And all of Warner Bros. 2021 theatrical movies will be released on Max the same day, where they’ll be available to stream for 31 days. They’re be included in HBO Max’s catalog at no extra cost.
Now that the service is live, an easy way to see what’s available without signing up are third-party catalog search services like Reelgood.
The following section summarizes what HBO Max has and what’s coming.
The simplest part of the catalog to understand is HBO itself. HBO Max includes everything on regular HBO, so that means all the theatrical movies that come and go from the channel; new episodes from all HBO series, like Euphoria and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver; and the past seasons of those programs as well as the full HBO back catalog, like Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and The Wire; plus all of HBO’s original films, documentaries and specials.
Movies are a crucial part of the catalog. And any movie that’s available to watch on the traditional HBO network will also be available to stream on HBO Max.
Highlights of the HBO Max film catalog will include the following (but films may come and go as licensing changes):
- The so-called Snyder cut of Justice League, slated to arrive on HBO Max in 2021.
- DC films like Joker, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Shazam and tons of older Batman and Superman movies
- Studio Ghibli anime films that have never been released for streaming in the US before.
- Anime selections like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and other top titles from anime-focused streaming service Crunchyroll, which is also owned by AT&T.
- Classic movies like The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, 2001: A Space Odyssey and others.
- Newer hits like The Invisible Man, Jojo Rabbit and Ford v Ferrari.
On top of that, AT&T has been licensing outside hit shows to beef up HBO Max’s catalog. The most eye-popping deals have been:
- A reported $425 million deal for all episodes of ’90s hit Friends, which exited Netflix to start streaming on HBO Max at launch.
- A reported $500 million deal to stream The Big Bang Theory.
It’s also secured deals for past seasons of Rick and Morty; 11 of the most recent seasons of Doctor Who, plus another three to come; CW dramas like Pretty Little Liars, Batwoman, and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene as well as more upcoming CW series; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; The West Wing; and British series like Luther and Ricky Gervais’ original The Office, among many others.
Animated satire South Park will not only contribute its full back catalog to HBO Max but also stream new episodes. The latest episodes of South Park will stream on HBO Max 24 hours after they air on Comedy Central for the next three seasons.
And HBO Max will have exclusive new shows and movies called Max Originals. For the most part, original series on HBO Max will drop new episodes on a weekly basis. Some of the originals have included:
- Love Life, a romantic comedy starring Anna Kendrick and produced by Kendrick and Paul Feig, who is known for blockbuster comedies like Bridesmaids.
- Doom Patrol, the second season of the DC Universe series.
- Adventure Time: Distant Lands-BMO, which is the first of four specials resurrecting Cartoon Network’s franchise Adventure Time.
- Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries about comedian Amy Schumer’s life on tour during her pregnancy.
- American Pickle, the Seth Rogen comedy that is HBO Max’s first original film, about a 1920s immigrant who gets preserved in pickle brine for 100 years and meets his great-grandson (both characters portrayed by Rogen) in modern-day Brooklyn.
- Class Action Park, the indie doc about the world’s most dangerous theme park.
- Raised by Wolves, the sci-fi epic from director and executive producer Ridley Scott; the 10-episode series focuses on two androids raising human children on a mysterious planet.
- The Witches, the new movie based on the classic book starring Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway.
- The Flight Attendant, starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special, getting the series’ remaining cast members together for a family reunion on set in the Banks’ home.
- Superintelligence, a movie starring Melissa McCarthy about an all-power artificial intelligence that chooses to study the most average person on Earth.
HBO Max is adding other originals coming up, including:
- The Friends unscripted cast reunion special.
- A reboot of Pretty Little Liars.
Of HBO Max’s originals, about half are targeted at young adults aged 16 to 34, and the rest will be divided between more adult fare and kids and family content outside the HBO brand.
Some of the other highlights of the originals in the pipeline for HBO Max include:
- New DC titles. A Green Lantern series that producer Greg Berlanti (a young-adult TV guru behind Riverdale and Arrow) says will travel to space and “promises to be our biggest DC show ever made.” Strange Adventures, a one-hour drama anthology series also produced by Berlanti that explores the intersecting lives of mortals and superhumans. DC Super Hero High will be a half-hour comedy from Elizabeth Banks, the producer and actress known for the Hunger Games films and 30 Rock, that’ll focus on a group of adolescent students at a boarding school for “gifted” kids.
- Projects by J.J. Abrams. Abrams, known for a parade of television and box office hits, signed a megadeal with AT&T and WarnerMedia to make projects for the company. On HBO Max, he’ll help produce a show set in the Justice League Dark universe; Overlook, a thriller based on Stephen King’s The Shining and set in the Overlook Hotel; and a 1970s crime show called Duster.
- A half-hour comedy from actress-producer Issa Rae. Rae’s Rap Sh*t explores the music business in Miami through the eyes of three women: an upstart hip-hop duo and their hustling manager.
- A half-hour comedy from actress/producer Mindy Kaling. College Girls (a working title) tracks three 18-year-old freshman roommates at Evermore College in Vermont.
- The Boondocks animated series is getting “two reimagined seasons” along with a 50-minute special originally planned for fall 2020.
- A new Jellystone animated series with the classic Hanna-Barbera characters from Warner Bros. Animation.
- Comedy specials produced by Conan O’Brien featuring up-and-coming comics
The service will have a smaller slate of original films, between five and 10 per year, according to the original plan. Early highlights on the original movie slate include:
- A two-picture deal with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.
- A documentary about Anthony Bourdain.
- A four-picture deal with Berlanti, including Unpregnant, a September release about two teenage girls who go on a road trip to New Mexico after one finds out she’s pregnant, based on the young adult novel by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan.
- Bobbie Sue, a comedy feature starring Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez as an up-and-coming young lawyer who joins a stuffy Boston law firm.