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HBO Max: Launch dates, prices, movies and shows to expect

Get ready: HBO Max will launch in May with a dizzying catalog.


Game of Thrones is done, but the television future of George R.R. Martin's fictional world is expected to include HBO Max. 


Note: AT&T's WarnerMedia unleashed a tidal wave of details about HBO Max, the new HBO-anchored streaming service, Tuesday night. Soon, this explainer will reflect the breadth of new information about HBO Max. In the meantime, you can read about the service's most important details, pore over all its shows and movies, and get more details about whether your current HBO subscription will include Max free

AT&T has a head-spinning list of streaming-video services already in operation: HBO Go, HBO Now, AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now and AT&T Watch TV. So why not add another? Next year, AT&T will launch HBO Max, its streaming option designed to take on Netflix

Tuesday, AT&T's WarnerMedia unit presented a flood of information about HBO Max to investors and analysts. It will cost $15 a month and launch in May in the US. 

HBO Max will be the vanguard of AT&T's front in the so-called streaming wars. With Netflix (and its more than 150 million subscribers worldwide) dominating the transition to streaming TV, a slew of major media and tech companies are launching their own streaming options in the next six months to compete. Apple kicks off its streaming venture, Apple TV Plus, with nine titles on Nov. 1, followed quickly by Disney's high-profile offering, Disney Plus, on Nov. 12 with a huge catalog of shows, movies and originals. NBCUniversal's Peacock will go head to head with HBO Max early next year, and they'll all face down established competition from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and others.  

How much will HBO Max cost?

HBO Max will be $15 a month. Some people who already have a subscription to HBO will be able to unlock HBO Max at no extra cost -- but not everyone. 

The streaming service HBO Now costs $15 a month. A report in June said the company was considering $16 to $17 per month for HBO Max, but an analyst more recently speculated the price could be $12 a month without advertising and $8 a month with ads. 

Rival streaming services that are launching before HBO Max are pricing their offerings aggressively. Disney Plus will be $7 a month, and Apple TV Plus will be $5 monthly -- and both are offering up deals that can cut the price further or providing opportunities for extended free periods lasting up to a year. 

AT&T said  include HBO Max for free to its AT&T unlimited data subscribers who also pay for HBO, which the company pegs at 10 million subscribers. 

When will HBO Max launch?

HBO Max will launch in May in the US. AT&T will prioritize Latin American and Europe for its first international expansions. Latin America will get HBO Max in 2021, the company said. 

HBO Max's US timing will put it in of streaming-service launches then. Comcast's NBCUniversal will launch its streaming service, Peacock, in April, which is the same month as the debut of Quibi, a mobile streaming service from Hollywood giant Jeffrey Katzenberg, which will focus on bite-size films. 

Shows and movies: What will I be able to watch on HBO Max?

HBO Max is expected to include all the shows and movies HBO has, plus some additional exclusive programming

Table stakes for HBO Max are that it includes the breadth of HBO's programming. So that includes its library of movies and documentaries; new episodes from series like Watchmen, Westworld, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and the rest; and the past seasons of Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, Silicon Valley, Veep, etc. 

AT&T has been sealing deals for other titles to fill out HBO Max's catalog. Most notably, WarnerMedia reportedly spent $425 million to win the rights to all episodes of '90s hit Friends, which will be coming off Netflix to stream on HBO Max in 2020. Then WarnerMedia struck a reported $500 million deal to secure streaming rights to reruns of The Big Bang Theory. It's also secured deals for Doctor Who; CW dramas like Pretty Little Liars, Batwoman and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene; and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. 

And it will have exclusive original shows and movies. HBO Max will have 31 originals in its first year and amp that up to 50 originals in the second. 

Now playing: Watch this: Game of Thrones season 8 VFX breakdown

How is HBO Max different than all the rest of AT&T's streaming services?

HBO Max is will be similar to HBO Go and HBO Now but with additional programming that you wouldn't get solely from HBO. 

Generally speaking, HBO Now and HBO Go are nearly the same product. The main difference is who uses them: Anyone can sign up for HBO Now for $15 a month, while HBO Go is the app for people who already have an HBO subscription through a live-TV provider like cable or satellite. Both HBO Now and HBO Go stream all the programming available on WarnerMedia's traditional HBO network. HBO Now and HBO Go don't have live feeds of HBO's linear networks, but they offer all the same shows and movies for on-demand viewing as soon as they're available for traditional TV subscribers. 

People who already have HBO Now can switch over to HBO Max for no additional cost. For HBO Go subscribers, it's more complicated

And the rest?

Yep, there are even more. 

AT&T TV is similar to one of those cable or satellite services, except it's delivered over the internet. AT&T TV includes live channels, DVR and video on demand that cable subscribers are familiar with, plus the ability to stream from apps like Netflix and Pandora. To watch on TVs, AT&T TV has its own proprietary streaming box that AT&T requires you use, and subscribers can watch everything on mobile devices with an app too. It starts at $59.99 a month. 

AT&T TV Now, on the other hand, is a live-TV streaming service along the lines of Sling TV or YouTube TV.  If you were familiar with DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now is just the renamed version of that service. Rather than requiring a specific box, it lets subscribers stream live channels to Rokus, Apple TVs, Fire TVs and more, and the channels are available on a mobile app as well. It also has a cloud DVR. Services like this are sometimes called skinny-bundle streaming services, but AT&T TV Now's cheapest package isn't particularly skinny -- $65 a month after its latest price hike, with more than 45 live channels including HBO. Still, it isn't quite as robust as AT&T TV, which is meant to replicate the giant cable packages of traditional TV. 

Finally, AT&T Watch TV is closer to a traditional skinny bundle. It offers more than 35 live channels, including AT&T-owned TBS, TNT and CNN. AT&T Watch TV is a free perk included with certain unlimited AT&T wireless data plans, but anyone can sign up for it for $15 a month. It was designed as a mobile-first service, but you can stream AT&T Watch TV to televisions with a few boxes, including Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, but others aren't supported, like Roku boxes.

Simple, right?

Originally published Oct. 28.
Update, Oct. 29: Adds new details from AT&T.