Well hello there, here we are with yet another streaming service. This time from WarnerMedia and AT&T with their latest over the top streaming platform, HBO Max. Now you might ask, there’s already HBO Now and HBO GO so what’s the difference. Well according to the tagline it’s HBO but SOOOOO much more. Now the only reason why this review exists is because there is a 7 day free trial and I decided well if there’s a limited free option why not give it a go and see what I think. I’m going to say right from the get go, i think that this service launch seemed very messy to me personally. There was a huge confusion of how HBO Max differed from other HBO services like HBO GO and HBO Now, and to make things even more complex, AT&T was having issues sealing a deal with Amazon or ROKU to have the HBO Max app offered on their platforms. You think this type of issue would been resolved months before the initial launch but here we are post launch and as I’m writing this, they are still having difficulties negotiating a deal. Regardless, let’s dive into this review of HBO Max, another streaming service that has joined the millions of others in “The Streaming Wars”.
The Overall Interface
The interface of any streaming service I view as important because it can tell how easy the streaming service to navigate is. As a graphic designer, I also take this detail into a consideration probably more, I just like an easy to follow and solid design when scrolling a streaming service. The interface for HBO Max is pretty solid, it’s easy to navigate and various types of genre of content are highlighted or grouped together. There’s one highlight that’s dedicated to family friendly content, HBO specific original content, blockbuster content, and other highly profiled movies and TV shows. There’s also a hub section where you can find HBO, Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes, Crunchy Role, Studio Ghibli, Adult Swim, DC, TCM, and Sesame Street. Overall, the interface is good enough for me, but I think this was already the interface HBO had before Max came out so it they had a model to go with at launch. While it could maybe highlight more of their large library of content, I think it’s a really good interface overall. Another really nice feature is access to a kids account which allows you to limit what your kid is allowed to watch and also allows you to lock your account with a pin password. Overall, it’s pretty nice.
Overall Interface Grade: A
The Overall Content
One of the most important elements when launching a streaming service is the initial content and HBO Max has enough content to fit that criteria. There is a bunch of content on this platform like there is ALOT of content to choose from. Some of the movies & TV shows on here, I didn’t know HBO/AT&T even had the rights to. HBO Max has Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Pretty Little Liars, Nancy Drew, Doctor Who, and honestly so much more. There’s a good amount of DC content on there as well but I will add that their selection seemed pretty low. There are several DCEU movies on there like the “beloved” Batman V Superman, Justice League, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Shazam. However there are a few titles that are apparently leaving the streaming service in July and I’m confused because doesn’t HBO Max have the rights? I don’t know, it was weird. I was surprised that neither Man Of Steel or Birds Of Prey were on there but they probably have licensing issues. The Nolan Dark Knight trilogy is also not on there but I assume they will add it at some point because those movies are a huge draw. I assume that as time goes on, the network will add more or movies will rotate on and off the streaming service. All 8 Harry Potter movies are also on the platform although I don’t know how long they will be on there due to licensing agreements with Universal. I was surprised the franchise was even on there at launch. As for Max Originals, there was a small range available at launch. There was Looney Tunes, Craftopia staring YouTuber LauraDIY, and a few others. I know that COVID probably messed with their original plans so I firmly believe they will expand in content within the future. The only originals I watched was the Looney Tunes cartoons and Craftopia. Both I was impressed by and it seems that this service has a large range of content for kids. One thing that I did find weird was there were a few times before a show or a movie that a commercial played. I think this is an HBO thing but I found it kind of weird so they should maybe considering getting rid of that feature. This only happened a few times, I will add. Overall, they get an “A” in content because there’s a wide range of content that can appeal to both kids and adults.
Overall Content Grade: A+
The Overall Price
Moving onto the overall price of the network which is not as affordable as Disney+. HBO Max costs $14.99 on a monthly basis which is way above Hulu, Disney+, and even some of Netflix’s plans. It’s pricey and considering many wanting to be cautious with their money right now, I’m not sure if people want to pay that high of a price. I got the free trial which is 7 days and while I did really like the service itself, I just don’t have that type of money in my budget to spend on this. I kind of get why it costs this much and since HBO is such a “prestige” brand it makes sense why they would charge the $14.99 but I don’t know it’s still awfully high. I do know that for some AT&T plans, you might get the service free but that’s something I would have to look into. I think if they lowered the price a little, it would be more reasonable. If you really like the content and you find yourself watching it often, then it’s probably worth the money. Overall, this price to me is a bit much but considering how much content you get, it’s not a ridiculous price. If you already subscribe to HBO then the price probably won’t effect you as much.
Overall Price Grade: B
Is It Worth It?
So we have officially reached the conclusion to this overall analysis on HBO Max and overall it’s a pretty solid streaming service. The interface was easy to follow, there was a wide range of content that will continue to impress provided they add more highly profiled originals. I believe there is a Green Lantern series on it’s way, plus there’s Zach Synder’s Justice League, and several other high profiled “Max Originals” that are in the works. The service itself is solid and there is a wide range of content for both kids and adults. Do I think this could challenge Netflix? Possibly although with the price being higher than Netflix and with HBO Max not being available worldwide, I don’t think this will honestly do much to be honest. I think there’s still some tweaks that AT&T needs to add to make the service a bit better. Some of the hubs need more content added to them, the Crunchy Roll and DC hubs seemed decent enough but I think they could add a bit more. Another issue is that currently HBO Max is not on Amazon Firestick or Roku which is a problem. When Disney+ originally launched, it was available on those platforms and considering people use those to access streaming apps, AT&T not being able to reach a deal with other companies is a problem. They need to get this worked out soon and come up with some type of deal because it’s essential that people have that type of access to the app on those platforms.
Another issue I had with the HBO Max launch was it felt…..sloppy. Rather than highlighting their well known IPs on the service like HBO, DC, TCM, Crunchy Roll, Friends, and so forth they opted to just slop together trailers of all of their content. It felt just really messy and felt like they were just flashing all the content they had. Disney+ highlighted all their content like Marvel + Star Wars + Pixar + National Geographic and that really was a huge selling point. AT&T should’ve done something similar and in my opinion going with the HBO name in the service might not of been the best way to go. Honestly, coming up with a new streaming service alone wasn’t a great idea. They could’ve just announced that they were rebranding HBO Now into “HBO Max” and just marketed it like an upgrade. There was so much confusion with HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max. Such a hot mess. They might’ve been better off renaming it something like WarnerMax or something but HBO is their most well known brand so it makes sense why they went for the HBO Max name. Regardless, they better be cautious with how much they group HBO with their marketing because people associate HBO with high quality so it’s kind of weird seeing Elmo on a HBO marketing poster. Overall, the service is nice but at the end of the day I still love Netflix and while I did enjoy the free trial, I just don’t think I would be willing to spend the price on a monthly range. Just my opinion.