After a long anticipatory wait, HBO has finally joined the ranks of veteran production houses like Disney and entered the streaming warzone. HBO Max went online on May 27 but its real struggle has only just begun.
It seems production giants, when entering the streaming market, are faced with an uphill battle before they are established as a streamer.
The game is new, so are the rules and so are the viewers. What are the attention deficit sparrows using the streaming apps compared to the sitting ducks who go to the movies, if not diagonally opposed?
Anyway, for HBO the difficulty began even before its app HBO Max could go online. For starters, we know how to get a fresh subscription of HBO Max. But for existing customers of the HBO app service, which has at least two other avatars already available, the options are confusing!
In case of an automatic upgrade to Max, HBO needs to strike a deal with the company billing you for HBO, whether a cable-TV company like Charter or a digital provider like Apple.
As fate would have it, not all providers were on the same page as HBO. Comcast, the biggest cable company in the country, signed an eleventh-hour deal with HBO Max for its Xfinity-based HBO customers. The late nature of the deal means that HBO Max won’t be immediately available on the Xfinity X1 platform. Until then, the 21 million Comcast customers will be able to access HBO Max only via the app or website.
On top of that, HBO Max is still missing from some of important devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. That means customers who subscribe to HBO through these do not have access to HBO Max.
This despite the fact that they together represent over 70% of the streaming devices in the country. Now we know that the vast majority of viewing hours are on televisions and absence of big-budget streamers from their TVs is definitely bad news. Remember Quibi? No? Exactly the point.
For the distribution deals WarnerMedia has signed, existing subscribers of HBO on each platform (for the most part) will receive automatic access to HBO Max. Out of the gate, though, to get access to HBO Max, those subscribers will need to download the HBO Max app on one of the supported platforms (i.e., the content won’t be integrated into program guides on pay-tv providers). At that point, they will need to log in using their existing HBO Now/HBO Go credentials.
What’s more? HBO Max doesn’t even offer 4Kresolution nor high dynamic range image quality at launch.
Warner Media has set the target of reaching 50 million subscriber bases by 2025. But clearly, challenges to this target are plenty.
How much does HBO Max cost?
HBO Max is $15 a month at launch with a seven-day free trial.
It may cost the same as the existing HBO Now service, but offers so much more. HBO Max includes everything on HBO and also hundreds of additional titles, including the complete seasons of “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory”; over 2,000 movies; and Max Originals “Love Life,” “On the Record,” “Legendary,” “Craftopia,” “Looney Tunes” and “The Not Too Late Show with Elmo.”
It is said that within the first year, the service will expand to have another tier, which would include advertising. The company is yet to specify the price, launch date or catalog limitations, but it would presumably be cheaper or even free.
Meanwhile, HBO Now is not going away just yet and is still available on Roku and Fire TV, considering WarnerMedia does not have deals with all current distributors. Similarly, the HBO Go streaming service for customers of pay-TV affiliates will remain for Comcast subscribers.