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HBO Max, Comcast deal unlocks Max for X1, Flex customers

HBO Max launched Wednesday without Comcast, the biggest US cable provider. But a better-late-than-never deal means X1 and Flex customers get Max with their existing HBO subscription.

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HBO Max launched Wednesday. 

WarnerMedia

HBO Max, the HBO-anchored streaming service from AT&T's WarnerMedialaunched Wednesday without a confirmed deal with Comcast to give a free upgrade to the new service -- packed with extra movies and shows -- to HBO subscribers on the nation's biggest cable service. 

But Comcast's Xfinity Twitter account spill the news of a better-late-than-never deal Wednesday, telling the company's high-tech X1 and Flex customers who subscribe to HBO that they get the new HBO Max service included at no extra cost.

Comcast let it be known, via tweet, that its Xfinity X1 and Flex customers who have HBO are getting HBO Max included.

Twitter/Screenshot by CNET

"HBO Max is included with HBO for Xfinity X1 and Flex customers!" the accounted tweeted at a customer who asked why she was able to log into HBO Max with her Comcast Xfinity cable-service credentials. 

Comcast and AT&T confirmed their agreement later Wednesday. Though HBO customers on X1 and Flex plans can watch HBO Max on the web and on any devices that already support the service, it still isn't available to watch on their TVs with Comcast's boxes. The companies are still working to bring an HBO Max app to Comcast's X1 and Flex cable platforms, they said. 

"We're thrilled to cap off the excitement of today's launch by adding Comcast's Xfinity to our roster of distributors who are now offering HBO Max to their customers," Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a release. "This deal marks another important step in the distribution of HBO Max and provides millions of Xfinity customers with access to the product."

Because of the complications of legacy pay-TV, HBO Max launched without a simple message to tell people curious if the money they already pay for HBO means they upgrade to HBO Max free of charge. Some people who already have a regular HBO subscription or HBO Now will get Max for no extra cost -- but not everyone.

Comcast, the biggest cable company in the US by customers, was one of the big gaps at launch. Comcast and HBO Max didn't have a deal to give Xfinity cable customers that no-cost upgrade to Max even as recently as Tuesday, the day before launch. 

For new customers, HBO Max costs $15 a month after a seven-day free trial. 

HBO Max is one of the final entrants in the streaming wars, a seven-month window when media giants and tech titans are releasing a raft of new streaming services to take on Netflix. These battles -- pitting rookies like HBO Max, Disney Plus and NBCUniversal's Peacock against heavyweights like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video -- have spurred huge corporations to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the hope of shaping the future of television. 

The rivalries also affect you: They'll influence how many services you'll need to pay for, and how much you'll have to fork over to stream your favorite shows and movies, especially as more of that programming gets locked up by different players. 

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