HBO Max reveals price, launch date and Game of Thrones spinoff

Joe Supan
JS
Joe Supan
Oct 29, 2019
  • Launching May 2020 at $14.99/mo.
  • Current HBO subscribers will have access from day one at no extra charge
  • Over 10,000 hours of content at launch
  • New shows will be released weekly instead of Netflix’s “binge” model
  • Existing AT&T wireless and broadband customers will have access

Six months before HBO Max launches for real, we got our most detailed look at the new streaming service today.

The latest HBO Max announcement revealed it will launch in May 2020 at $14.99/mo. — the same price HBO currently charges for its HBO Now streaming service. Episodes of original TV series will premiere on a week-by-week basis, unlike the “binge” model used by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Anyone who currently gets HBO, whether it’s through a TV provider or HBO Now, will automatically get access to HBO Max. The only question is when. John Stankey said, “we’re optimistic and hopeful” that people who subscribe through their TV provider will have access to HBO Max as close to launch as possible, but deals still need to be worked out with each TV provider.

What will be on HBO Max?

There’s been no shortage of confusion around what content will actually be on HBO Max. The bulk of WarnerMedia’s event focused on clearing this up. They unveiled a simple formula for HBO Max’s content: The entire HBO catalog, new original content exclusive to HBO Max and a “choice slate” of licensed content.

Original shows

In addition to HBO’s acclaimed catalog of shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, today’s event unveiled a number of new original TV shows and movies that will premiere on the service in May. There will be 38 new titles on HBO in 2020, plus 31 originals on HBO Max exclusively at launch. Here’s everything we know about so far:

  • Documentaries and non-fiction series from CNN Films, including one on Anthony Bourdain
  • Americanah, starring Lupita Nyong’o and based on the book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Adapted from the best seller by Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic series directed by Hiro Murai
  • The Greatest Space, an interior design competition show from the producers of Queer Eye
  • A home design competition show from Ellen Degeneres called Ellen’s Home Design Challenge
  • Full Bloom, a flower-arrangement competition show
  • First Dates Hotel, a matchmaking show produced by Ellen DeGeneres
  • A crafting show for children hosted by Lauren Riihimaki
  • Run, a comedy executive-produced by Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson
  • Based on the novel You Should Have Known, The Undoing is a mini-series starring Nicole Kidman
  • From executive producers Jordan Peele, Misha Green, J. J. Abrams and Ben Stephenson, Lovecraft Country is an upcoming drama-horror series
  • I Know This Much Is True stars Mark Ruffalo as identical twins
  • David Simon will adapt the Philip Roth novel The Plot Against America
  • Generation Hustle, a docuseries about young people striving for fame and fortune
  • Legendary, a dance competition show from the producers of Queer Eye
  • Standup specials produced by Conan O’Brien and Team Coco
  • Made for Love, a half-hour series based on Alissa Nutting’s novel starring Ray Romano and Cristin Milioti
  • Circe based on the best-selling novel by Madeline Miller
  • Raised by Wolves, a serialized sci-fi series directed by Ridley Scott
  • Love Life, a comedy anthology series starring Anna Kendrick
  • Tokyo Vice, directed by Michael Mann and starring Ansel Elgort

Original movies

HBO doesn’t currently produce much in the way of original movies, but HBO Max will apparently do around “five to ten” each year. Here is what we know about so far:

  • Superintelligence, a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy
  • A comedy from director Steven Soderbergh called Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep
  • Two movies from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company
  • Bobbie Sue is a comedy starring Gina Rodriguez as a young lawyer
  • Movies and shows from producer Greg Berlanti (4:12) including UnPregnant, starring Haley Lu Richardson, an adaptation of the Strange Adventures comic books and a Green Lantern series
  • Expecting Amy follows comedian Amy Schumer as she goes on tour while pregnant

Reboots and spinoffs

In addition to the dozens of brand new titles we learned about, HBO Max will also feature plenty of new content you already know and love.

  • House of the Dragons, a prequel to Game of Thrones that focuses on House Targaryen hundreds of years before the original series
  • Gossip Girl reboot
  • Grease: Rydell High
  • Adventure Time
  • Jellystone
  • Three Sesame Street spinoffs
  • Late-night show with Elmo
  • Perry Mason reboot

Licensed shows

There will also be a number of titles from the libraries of AT&T’s various properties like TBS, CNN and The CW, as well as what WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt called a “choice slate” of licensed TV shows and movies. Here are some of the crown jewels in HBO Max’s lineup.

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • 11 seasons of Doctor Who, plus three new ones
  • Sesame Street
  • South Park
  • Adult Swim shows
  • Curated offering from Crunchyroll, a streaming service focused on anime
  • Looney Tunes shows
  • Hanna-Barbera shows
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • The O.C.
  • Aquateen Hunger Force
  • Robot Chicken
  • The Boondocks
  • Rick and Morty
  • The Closer
  • The West Wing
  • Parts Unknown
  • The Bachelor franchise
  • Impractical Jokers

Licensed movies

With Warner Bros.’ movie library in its bag, HBO Max will come out of the gate with one of the best movie selections of any streaming service. While this list will probably number in the thousands at launch, here are some of the biggest names we learned about today:

  • All DC Comics releases of the last decade “within the first year of launch”
  • Joker available at launch
  • Harry Potter franchise
  • Batman franchise
  • Superman franchise
  • The Matrix franchise
  • Warner Bros. library
  • MGM library
  • Selections from the Criterion Collection library
  • Monthly curation of selections from Turner Classic Movies
  • Studio Ghibli’s library of animated films: Entire catalog of 21 films, first time streaming

HBO Max aims for best-in-class user experience

WarnerMedia aims to improve the streaming experience through personalized content suggestions that HBO Max is calling “recommended by humans.” You can click on profiles from celebrities like Zac Efron and Bill Hader to watch recommendation videos like “My Go-To Scary Movie.”

The interface looks to “move beyond the world of small rectangles,” with a browsing experience that pushes past the standard genre categories. You can explore collections from specific studios like “Max Originals” and “Studio Ghibli” and see unique curations like “The One with Famous Friends,” a collection of Friends episodes with celebrity cameos.

According to WarnerMedia, the average user spends nine minutes looking for something to watch, and 20% of them give up before they find something to watch. This recommendation model looks to cut down on the overwhelming number of options streaming services present.

The features that WarnerMedia showed off did legitimately seem useful, but it’s hard to tell how it will come together from their hand-picked examples. HBO has a notoriously frustrating user experience on it’s HBO Now and HBO Go platforms, so we’ll maintain a “believe it when we see it” stance until we can use it ourselves.

Where can you watch HBO Max?

The one thing that remains a mystery is where you’ll actually be able to watch HBO Max. All we learned today is that it will be available on “a very wide array of devices” at launch. Assuming device compatibility is similar to HBO Now and HBO Go, most streaming devices, smart TVs and game consoles will be included.

The bottom line

At $14.99/mo., HBO Max is still significantly more expensive than other streaming newcomers like Apple TV+ ($4.99/mo.) and Disney Plus ($7/mo.). That said, it did come as a surprise that it’s the same price as HBO Now currently is, as many observers expected WarnerMedia to tack on a few extra dollars.

Unlike those services, however, customers have already shown they’re willing to pay more for HBO’s premium product. Add to that the dozens of original shows and movies announced at today’s event and it’s not hard to see how HBO Max could entice subscribers — even in an already-crowded streaming landscape.

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