The world may still be stuck at home, but the streaming wars continue with no regard for the coronavirus. Tomorrow, on May 27, arguably the biggest Netflix competitor of them all joins the battlefield: AT&T’s HBO Max.
The new souped-up Max service offers every show and movie available on HBO and adds a host of exclusive content from WarnerMedia and DC Comics. It will be home to popular shows such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory and Rick and Morty; classic films like Lord of the Rings, Casablanca and A Star Is Born; DC Comics movies like Joker and Wonder Woman; and kids’ content from Looney Toons and Sesame Street. HBO Max will also stream originals, including a new Justice League Dark series from J.J. Abrams, a Game of Thrones spin-off called House of the Dragon and a new Sesame Street show called The Not Too Late Show with Elmo. The HBO Max catalog is simply massive.
Max is priced at the same $14.99 per month that HBO already charges for a subscription, so current HBO subscribers might expect to be upgraded to it automatically. It’s not that simple. Here’s what we know about how HBO Max will be rolled out.
I’m an HBO Now subscriber. What do I do?
Millions of HBO Now customers will be upgraded to HBO Max automatically. After the service launches, many of those users will get an app update that simply transforms the HBO Now app into the HBO Max app. Many others will have to download the new HBO Max app manually on their device.
Whether you’re among those who get the upgrade depends on who handles your billing. HBO Now subscribers billed through the following providers qualify:
Millions more HBO Now subscribers don’t qualify. If you subscribe to HBO Now through a third-party service that isn’t Apple or Google — such as on a platform like Amazon Prime Video Channels or Roku, or through an internet provider — you won’t be upgraded to HBO Max (see below).
Unsure how you’re getting HBO? You can check by logging in on your phone or computer. Here’s how, according to HBO’s help guide:
1. After logging in, you need to head to the Profile section.
i. On a computer check the upper-right corner and choose the Profile icon.
ii. On a phone or tablet tap the Profile icon, then tap the Settings icon (upper-right corner).
2. Choose Billing Information and look for the following sentence: Your subscription is billed through _________.
A full list of third-party providers can be found here.
What if I get HBO from my cable provider or streaming TV service?
Although the situation is more complex than with HBO Now, the answer again depends on which provider actually delivers HBO to you. All of the following cable, satellite or streaming companies will let HBO subscribers get HBO Max:
- DirecTV/AT&T TV (see the next section)
- YouTube TV
- Altice (Optimum and SuddenLink)
- Cox Communications
- NCTC (WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, RCN, Grande Communications & Wave, and MCTV)
Not every company will handle the upgrade the same way. Charter customers who already subscribe to HBO through the Spectrum cable service will “gain immediate access to HBO Max,” according to an HBO Max spokeswoman, while new Spectrum subscribers will “be able to purchase HBO Max directly through Charter at launch.” AT&T previously announced a deal with YouTube TV in February that “will allow users to subscribe to HBO Max through that service.”
Read more: HBO Max vs. HBO Now vs. HBO Go: What’s the difference, how do you upgrade?
If you currently use the HBO Go app and subscribe to one of the providers listed above, our advice is to simply download the new HBO Max app and try using that same username and password to log in. Otherwise, contact your provider.
If your provider (ahem, Comcast) isn’t listed above, you won’t get HBO Max for free at launch even though you subscribe to regular HBO (most likely at the same $15 monthly price. You will still be able to continue watching HBO and using HBO Go, but you will miss out on all the extra shows and movies being added to HBO Max exclusively.
What if I get HBO from AT&T or DirecTV?
HBO, like the rest of WarnerMedia, is owned by AT&T, so the upgrade process for those living in this world is a bit easier. That said, it’s not completely free of complications. If you have an AT&T service you will likely get some HBO Max free, but whether that is for one month, three months or one year or is a general free upgrade will vary depending on which services you have.
Here’s a chart AT&T put together to show if you will get the free upgrade.
New AT&T TV Choice, Xtra or Ultimate, and Óptimo Más package customers and new DirecTV Choice, Xtra, Ultimate, Más Ultra or Óptimo Más package customers will be eligible to receive HBO Max included for a year.
Current subscribers with most TV packages from AT&T TV or DirecTV will be able to get a three-month free trial of HBO Max, though this excludes those on the cheapest TV packages.
Those with AT&T’s Internet 1000 home broadband or Unlimited Elite wireless plan will similarly have HBO Max included, while those with other home broadband or wireless plans will get a one-month free trial.
What about Comcast, Amazon and Roku?
Unfortunately some HBO customers won’t get HBO Max for free. If you get HBO via your Comcast TV subscription or Amazon Prime Video Channels or the Roku Channel, you won’t get the upgrade to Max for free.
It’s also worth noting that, as of May 26, AT&T has not announced that the HBO Max app will appear on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. If you subscribe to HBO Max via any of the methods above, you’ll have to download and use the HBO Max app on another device.
At launch the HBO Max app will be available on iOS, Android, web browsers, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Samsung smart TVs. Here’s the full list of devices that support the HBO Max app.
So if I don’t get HBO Max for free, what should I do?
Regardless of if you have HBO Now or HBO from a cable provider, the price is generally the same: $14.99 per month. That price is also the same as a new HBO Max subscription, so if you’re paying for HBO and not getting it bundled for free, our advice is to switch to being billed directly by HBO, or just cancel it through your current third-party method and then sign up for HBO Max when it launches.
The cost differences pretty much cancel out and HBO Max gives more for your money, particularly if you have HBO Now and are not being billed directly by HBO. The experience for watching could be as simple as just swapping the Now app for the Max app, which makes the switch a no-brainer.
Those looking to save can cancel their existing HBO or HBO Now subscriptions and sign up for the HBO Max preorder (update: today is the last day). Under the preorder you’ll be able to get HBO Now for $12 per month for the next year — as opposed to the regular $15 per month rate — including a free upgrade to HBO Max when it launches on May 27. If you have HBO Now or planned on getting HBO Max, this can save you a quick $36.
For cable users, particularly those accustomed to watching TV on channels and not apps, the transition is slightly more complicated and will mean having to use a streaming device as opposed to just changing a channel. While these devices can be found at fairly affordable prices, it does mean having to switch between different inputs when navigating between the HBO and regular TV.
For more on tomorrow’s HBO Max launch check out our big explainer article.