While I was dubious that HBO would provide enough content to warrant another subscription, the service has really paid off.
I won’t bury the lede here: HBO Max is a damn good value. Instead of just a “Binge Game of Thrones and then unsubscribe” service, I’ve found Max to consistently provide content that gets me signing in. Warner Bros. taking the risky gamble to release their newest movies day-and-date on the streaming service is a huge part of the value bet that HBO keeps winning.
HBO Max works a little differently than the last iteration of the premium cable channel’s attempt at a streaming platform: HBO Now. You can still get access if you have (certain) cable packages, otherwise you pay a monthly fee (or 6 moth pre-paid deal) for a standalone service.
This version of HBO no longer bundles in the channel’s live sports (a real dagger to the heart of our resident boxing aficionado, Nate) but it does bundle together a bunch of other channels. In addition to original content, you get Turner Classic Movies, (most) of Warner Bros.’ library, Cartoon Network and more. You also get the aforementioned new releases, at least in 2021.
If you don’t already pay for HBO through a qualifying cable bundle, Max is going to run you 14.99 a month. Earlier in the year the service also offered a package of six months, pre-paid, at a lower price point but that deal seems to be gone at the moment. There is also a section during sign-up that asks you to input a promo code, but again I don’t see any active promos at this time.
If you are currently part of a subscription bundle (again, qualified) you can use Max using your HBO Now account…though the help section is a bit light on information, and we no longer have an active HBO Now account to test it with.
HBO Max boasts a pretty deep roster. First, you get all of HBO’s original films and series (yes, including Game of Thrones!) Next, you get exclusive access to Warner’s slate of new and classic films, with caveats. The current deal that Warner has to stream new movies for 30 days on the service, starting on the theatrical release dat of the film, may not be with us past the pandemic, and some of Warner’s classic films are still under exclusivity contracts with other streaming providers.
In addition, you have a surprisingly broad family of subchannels. There’s the DC Universe, another would-be streaming service that’s gotten folded into HBO. There’s niche channels like Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Studio Ghibli, Looney Tunes, and Crunchy Roll. My favorite is Turner Classic Movies. TCM has a smorgasbord of classics that you can’t find anywhere else…and TCM is a pricey pain in the ass to get on its own. Really makes hunting down old flicks for our Retro Reviews a ton easier.
I haven’t been so taken by a streaming service, well, in ever. I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into the horror pond on Shudder, or grabbing foreign classics from Mubi…but I rarely stay for much longer than a one month binge. I’ve been with HBO Max since their launch and I consistently find myself firing up the service once a week. The library is big enough that I can always find something to scratch my itch. The fact that I get one or two brand new theatrical releases every month is tremendous (I will probably re-review Max if Warner pulls the plug on that bonus.)
For my needs, HBO Max covers all of the bases at a reasonable price. It has the new movies and original series I’m looking for to make timely reviews. I can’t remember the last time I had 50% of the top ten films in theaters already reviewed, at least since Movie Pass went tits up. The quality of the originals give Disney + a run for the money, and the quantity beats the pants of Amazon Prime, Disney, and even Hulu. Add on that the treasure trove of classic films and niche channels, and you have a complete package.