You’re a 21st-century television viewer. You have dispensed with a cable box, and you’re subscribing to HBO for $15 per month, instead (or you’re using your friend’s brother-in-law’s cable login for HBO).
Either way, you have a streaming stick hooked up to the internet, but there are two different channels to possibly log into: HBO Go and HBO Now. While this is already confusing, HBO, and its new parent company AT&T, are launching a third app called HBO Max.
To help understand the madness, we’ve broken down what each of these services are and which ones are worth the money.
Simply put, HBO Go is the streaming companion to your regular old HBO cable subscription package. So, if you’re already paying for HBO through your cable provider, this is the streaming channel you’ll want to download onto your Amazon Fire Stick, Roku or Apple TV. You’ll log in with your cable provider’s credentials to access all of the content you’d ordinarily get on the TV.
HBO Now is the standalone streaming service for those not paying for HBO through a cable provider, and it costs $15 per month. Both options cost money in some way, but HBO Now captures new customers, while HBO Go provides more viewing options to existing ones.
Based on information provided on HBO’s Help website, it looks like both streaming channels offer the same lineup of original content, so no need to envy your dish-wielding neighbors or to get mad at those millennials without satellite: they’re different services, but equal.
While this is confusing, things will likely get less complicated in Spring 2020 when HBO Max arrives on the scene.
When it launches in 2020, HBO Max could very well become the new streaming king. It will take the place of both existing streaming channels—HBO Go and HBO Now—corralling users into one streaming hub for all of HBO’s best content (and then some).
This beast of a streaming service is the byproduct of not only the two existing (and awfully designed) streaming apps, but also the $108.7 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger. The new HBO Max app will feature the same content on the Go and Now apps but will also be rounded out with content newly acquired under the merger, like Friends and South Park.
Diversified content from other production studios could really help boost HBO’s profile in the streaming world, which is becoming increasingly crowded. Expect to see shows and movies from TimeWarner properties like CNN, TNT, TBS, and Cartoon Network as well.
It’s still unclear how much the new service will cost, since HBO hasn’t disclosed a price. Given the similarity between HBO Now and HBO Max—both being standalone services for folks that don’t have cable—we should expect the new service will cost at least $15/month, which would put on the upper end of streaming subscription prices. HBO’s website supports this pricing theory: “HBO NOW subscribers who are billed directly through HBO will also get access to WarnerMedia’s new offering, HBO Max, at launch for no extra cost.”
According to HBO’s official announcement, the new service will be “maximized” with new original content. According to a report in Digital Trends, that could include an unscripted live Friends reunion and new DC Comics stuff, among other new titles. Notably absent will be TimeWarner’s Harry Potter franchise because NBCUniversal bought exclusive rights to those titles through 2025.
It’s unclear what will happen to HBO Now and HBO Go once Max goes live in May 2020, but at the very least, let’s hope things get simpler.