On Tuesday, a press conference was held announcing details of HBO Max, AT&T/WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. Below are the highlights, plus my own thoughts.
Launch date and cost
HBO Max will launch in May 2020, and cost $15 a month. While that’s about what HBO costs, it also makes HBO Max one of the most expensive streaming services available. At that price point, Max is competing with Netflix (at $13/month for the standard HD tier, or $16 for the 4K tier), Amazon Prime ($13/month for the monthly rate), and the combined Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu package (at $13/month).
Existing HBO customers
AT&T customers who use HBO will receive Max for free. Ditto anyone subscribed to the streaming-only HBO Now.
HBO Max’s FAQ states that it sounds like existing HBO subscribers through cable will also get HBO Max for free. Which is good news for me, if so; my cheap(ish) bare-bones over-the-air-channels/broadband package I get from Comcast also offers HBO. (Presumably it was a way to appeal to cord-cutters/”Game of Thrones” fans.)
What’s on HBO Max?
- A “Game of Thrones” prequel.
- “South Park” will stream exclusively on HBO Max. This seems odd, given CBS and Viacom’s upcoming merger should mean they’d want to focus on saving their best material for CBS All Access. But I guess they’re OK with not locking down everything to their own services? Also, this means “South Park” will be leaving Hulu, its current home, next year.
- Several new DC Comics based TV shows, including “DC Super Hero High,” a “Green Lantern” series, and a “Strange Adventures” anthology. No further information was given about the latter two series, including which Green Lantern will be used (I’d vote for John Stewart). “Super Hero High” is a comedy about teens at a boarding school adjusting to having superpowers.
- “Rick and Morty,” though it’ll still be on Hulu as well.
- All new episodes of “Sesame Street” will debut on HBO Max first, before going to PBS (eventually).
- Several Conan O’Brien specials.
- The recently announced “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” a new series of shorts, will debut on HBO Max.
- “Jellystone,” a new series starring an all-star gathering of Hanna-Barbera characters. (Basically everyone that isn’t the Flintstones, Jetsons, or Scooby-Doo.) The premise is the daily antics of Yogi, Boo-Boo, and company in a town called Jellystone. Characters announced range from Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound to Touché Turtle and Atom Ant (misspelled “Adam Ant,” like the singer, in their main press release). On one hand, “characters in a suburban setting” makes me think of the ill-fated early 90s series “Yo Yogi,” plus “The Looney Tunes Show.” On the other hand, the series has strong talent announced, including a veteran of 2000s Cartoon Network series “Chowder.” Plus, they probably had me at “Jabberjaw” and “Captain Caveman.”
- The press release also states that the full runs of “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Yogi Bear,” “Popeye,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” and over 250 classic Looney Tunes shorts will be on HBO Max. Other than “Tom and Jerry” (oddly missing, given its popularity), that covers much of the popular classic comedic cartoon material WarnerMedia owns, making Boomerang a bit redundant for HBO Max subscribers.
Pros and cons of HBO Max
On the plus side, HBO Max seems to live up to its name, by including a large portion of the WarnerMedia library. From Looney Tunes to the DC superhero movies to HBO’s programming, fans of Warner Bros.’ content might appreciate having all their favorites in one service. Offering Max for free to existing HBO subscribers is also a positive aspect.
On the down side, there’s some concerns I have. As I said earlier, HBO Max will be one of the most expensive streaming services. While there’s plenty of material, it’s still competing with both pricier services (Amazon Prime, Netflix) and cheaper ones (the stand-alone Disney+ service at $7/month stands out).
There’s also the future of WarnerMedia’s other streaming services. Will there be as much attention given to Boomerang, DC Universe, and Crunchyroll going forward? And similar to Disney, WarnerMedia now owns multiple streaming services, some of which might appear overlapping or redundant.
As I said earlier, if I get HBO Max for free with the cable version of HBO, I’ll see what this service is like for myself. (Barring any major changes to my Comcast package before next May.) But while the material on HBO Max sounds enjoyable, $15 a month would otherwise be too steep for me to casually add—at least not without cancelling another service. We’ll see whether the same will be true for the non-HBO subscribers AT&T hopes to attract.