New HBO streaming video service launches

(LR) TNT, TBS, truTV, HBO & HBO Max Content Acquisition EVP Michael Quigley, HBO Max CCO and TNT, TBS, & truTV President Kevin Reilly and HBO Max Head of Original Content Sarah Aubrey appear on stage during the session segment HBO Max executive of the Winter Television Critics Association 2020 press tour at Langham Huntington, Pasadena, January 15, 2020 in Pasadena, California.

Emma McIntyre

WarnerMedia’s new online video service, HBO Max, launched in the United States on Wednesday. The new video service supports Netflix, Disney +, Disney’s Hulu, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and other apps that let you stream TV shows and movies.

Unlike other HBO apps, Max includes TV shows originally broadcast on other networks that are not available on competing services, such as the hit TV show “Friends”.

It is available on Android phones and tablets, Apple iPhone and iPad, and on a variety of Smart TV platforms.

CNBC had a chance to check it out on an iPad to see what it looks like. Here’s what you need to know.

How HBO Max fits into existing HBO offerings

There are several HBO branded apps out there, and it’s confusing. Here’s how HBO Max will integrate.

HBO TV and HBO Go: People who subscribe to HBO TV via their cable operator can already access all HBO shows, as well as a selection of movies broadcast on the cable channel, via the HBO Go app. It’s free for all HBO TV subscribers.

Some HBO TV subscribers will now have free access to HBO Max, as per WarnerMedia’s agreement with the user’s cable operator. These people will have no reason to keep the HBO Go app, which has fewer videos in its library.

HBO now: Launched in 2015, HBO Now costs $ 14.99 per month. It offers the same TV shows, movies and videos as HBO Go, but it is for cable cutters without a cable subscription.

For the most part, HBO Max will replace it. HBO Now subscribers who pay HBO directly or subscribe via Apple or Google will be converted to HBO Max at no additional cost. The HBO Now app on Android and iOS will be renamed HBO Max via an update on Wednesday, the company said.

However, some platforms have not agreed to transport HBO Max. HBO Now will remain on sale on these platforms.

HBO Max: The new service is more extensive than HBO Go and HBO Now. He will have additional non-HBO TV shows and movies in his catalog, including “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Lord of the Rings”.

Like HBO Now, it costs $ 14.99 a month.

It’s a little more expensive than the $ 6.99 offer from Disney + and the basic plan of $ 8.99 from Netflix. NBCUniversal’s competitor Peacock will be free, although there are premium levels with more content that start at $ 4.99 per month.

However, there is a lot of material on HBO Max. The company claims to have over 10,000 hours of video, including everything on HBO like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld”, as well as non-HBO TV shows like “Friends” and “South Park”. It also has a sturdy children’s section with parental controls and equipment for a wide range of ages, including 572 episodes of “Sesame Street”.

There are no ads – unlike the free version of NBCUniversal’s competitor Peacock. Several members of the same family can broadcast at the same time.

There is no 4K content available at launch, but a representative says it will be added in the future.

What HBO Max looks like

The HBO Max home screen is similar to what you might find on Disney +. Highlighted content is shown at the top and there are additional options below to keep watching where you left off.

You can download movies and shows to your phone or tablet for later viewing without an Internet connection, such as on a bus or plane. It’s not huge at the moment, since most of us are at home, but it can also help maintain an Internet connection if several people in the same family want to watch HBO Max at the same time.

HBO has a team of curators who write copies and choose certain shows or films to highlight, such as “Le prince frais de Bel-Air” or “The Wire”. The modules help remind users of classic shows that they wanted to watch but were unable to do so.

HBO has also created “hubs” or landing pages for popular franchises like “Looney Toons” or “DC Comics”. Again, this makes it a little easier to find content that you may know you will like. Instead of just browsing the pages and pages of TV shows, you can just dive straight into Cartoon Network or DC shows.

Here’s what the DC hub looks like:

HBO Max supports several users and offers a large amount of content intended for young viewers, divided into four age groups: 2-5, 6-9, 10-12 and 13 and over. It also has parental controls to make sure they respect age-appropriate items. Other services, like Netflix, have also started to make it easier to control what your kids can watch.

In a crowded market

HBO Max is entering a crowded market where people are already paying for many subscription services, like Netflix, Disney +, Hulu and more. It’s also more expensive than these services, at $ 14.99 per month.

For some people who already pay HBO over cable, or who already have HBO Now, it’s just more content for the same price as you already pay. It’s good news.

If you weren’t already on HBO shows, and you hadn’t already paid for HBO, then this is a more difficult choice. The main draw for most people will be programs like “Game of Thrones” or children’s content like “Sesame Street”.

Otherwise, unless you are a big fan of “Friends”, it may be worth the wait to see what the additional exclusives and old HBO content add. The company says it plans to add more shows and movies, some of which will be exclusive to the service. For example, HBO says that a long-awaited director’s cut from the 2017 film “Justice League” will be added to HBO Max in 2020.

Disclaimer: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Peacock and CNBC.

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