MLB Opening Day WWDC 2023 Dates Meta Quest Pro Hands-On Amazon Pharmacy Coupons iOS 16.4 Trick for Better Sound Narcan Nasal Spray 7 Foods for Better Sleep VR Is Revolutionizing Therapy
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Here's how HBO Max will work for HBO and HBO Now subscribers next year

In May 2020, millions of existing HBO subscribers will get Max for free. Millions more will have to wait and see.

HBO Max will launch with a lot of shows in May.
HBO/Screenshot by Caitlin Petrakovitz/CNET

HBO Max, the latest Netflix rival that will cost $14.99 a month and launch in May 2020, will have pantsloads of TV shows and movies. Ten thousand hours worth, parent company AT&T said Tuesday, including exclusive new shows like the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, new episodes from HBO shows such as Westworld and Succession, and old favorites that don't register as HBO properties at all, such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory.

So what about existing HBO subscribers? Here's what we know so far.

HBO Now subscribers get upgraded to Max for free

HBO Now is HBO's standalone streaming service, which currently costs the same as HBO Max: $14.99 a month. In May, people who currently subscribe to HBO Now can switch to HBO Max to unlock Max's much bigger catalog for the same price. Nine million people currently pay for HBO Now.

According to HBO Max's FAQ, however, there's a catch. Only new and existing HBO Now subscribers who subscribe through and are billed by HBO are eligible for the free upgrade. The offer is "not currently available to HBO subscribers that obtain their subscriptions through third-party providers that are authorized to distribute the HBO Now service," for example Roku or Apple. The FAQ says users subscribed to those third-party providers should "stay tuned for more details" as the launch date approaches.

HBO subscribers via AT&T get Max for free

If you pay for the traditional HBO premium network via a pay TV package through AT&T, then HBO Max will be free. AT&T owns satellite broadcaster DirecTV, IPTV service U-verse, live TV streaming service AT&T TV Now and AT&T TV, and says 10 million current TV HBO subscribers will get Max for free. That also includes AT&T wireless users who can add HBO with certain unlimited plans.

Other HBO subscribers and HBO Go? We'll see

If you don't subscribe to HBO Now or an AT&T-owned provider, the situation is less clear. 

AT&T is still in talks with other pay TV providers about offering HBO Max to their traditional HBO subscribers. That means subscribers who get HBO from linear providers such as Comcast, Spectrum, Dish Network, as well as streamers like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels and The Roku Channel, will have to wait to see whether they too can get Max for free.

AT&T did say that during the transition to HBO Max, existing HBO-branded services will continue to be offered via cable and other traditional outlets. Those services include HBO Go, the app that currently allows existing HBO subscribers to stream HBO programming. In other words, AT&T isn't forcing customers to migrate to HBO Max, although eventually it expects them to do so naturally.