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HBO Max vs. Disney Plus: Compare and Decide Which Service Is Better for You

This side-by-side breakdown may help you choose one service over the other.

7.9

HBO Max

Like

  • Large, varied content catalog that includes all of HBO
  • New theatrical releases from Warner Bros. Studios
  • Simple, easy-to-navigate interface
  • Lots of children's shows and customizable rating settings

Don't Like

  • High price, even with ads
  • Few original series beyond standard HBO
  • Can't import watch history or personalized recommendations
  • $10 tier lacks first-run theatrical movies, offline downloads
$15 at HBO Max
8.8

Disney Plus

Like

  • Wide catalog of popular TV and movies from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic
  • Low monthly price without ads
  • New theatrical releases available during pandemic
  • Easy-to-navigate interface, with 4K HDR available for some titles

Don't Like

  • Little customization of kids' profiles
  • Unlike HBO Max, the biggest theatrical movies cost extra at first
$8 at Disney Plus

More than two years after its launch in 2020, HBO Max is now available in more than 60 countries and territories around the world. A major contender in the streaming wars, the platform launched roughly six months after Disney Plus, and shortly after NBC Universal's Peacock.

While streaming titan Netflix may be HBO Max's biggest rival, Disney Plus is a close second: Both are major streaming services with extremely popular TV series and films in their catalog, and both carry numerous titles aimed at kids. 

With millions of people struggling with financial difficulties due to inflation and other economic factors, paying for both HBO Max and Disney Plus may be too much. But how do you choose? 

Here's how the two streaming services stack up, based on content, pricing and user interface.

Read more: HBO Max vs. Netflix: The Pros, Cons and How to Pick One

James Martin/CNET

HBO Max is one of Netflix's biggest competitors and rivals Disney Plus in library size as the home of House of the Dragon, The Sopranos, DC titles, Cartoon Network and content from other Warner brands. The streaming service includes everything on HBO (like Succession), Max Originals, a big back catalog that includes fan-favorite shows Friends and The Big Bang Theory, animated hits Rick and Morty and South Park and numerous Warner movies including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogies. You'll also find family-friendly content from Lego, DC movies and shows and even beloved anime titles from Studio Ghibli. The downside? It's expensive. 

Read our HBO Max review.

 

$15 at HBO Max
You're receiving price alerts for HBO Max
Sarah Tew/CNET

Disney Plus launched in November 2019, and has more than 120 million subscribers. Disney's service is the exclusive streaming home of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and other Disney properties, along with exclusives like Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation. It's found success with releases like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Moon Knight and Encanto, along with its throwback vault of movie and animated classics. Slowly and steadily, its catalog of original content continues to grow, and it is a cost-effective choice -- especially if you have kids. 

Read our Disney + review.

 

$8 at Disney Plus
You're receiving price alerts for Disney +

Quick comparison


Disney Plus HBO Max
Monthly price $8 $10 for basic with ads, $15 for ad-free
Ads No Yes
Top titles Obi-Wan Kenobi, Loki, Encanto, The Simpsons Game of Thrones, Euphoria, House of the Dragon, Harley Quinn, Friends
Mobile downloads Yes Yes (on ad-free plan only)
4K HDR available Yes No (only limited titles)
Number of streams: 4 3

Disney Plus wins on price

There are a lot of differences in content, which we'll cover below, but the biggest difference up front is the price. HBO Max's ad-supported plan costs $10, but its ad-free version is $15, nearly twice that of Disney Plus.

Disney Plus is much cheaper at $8 a month or $80 a year -- and free for six months or longer with select Verizon mobile phone or internet plans. There are also options to bundle Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN Plus. Come Dec. 8, Disney Plus' stand-alone price plans will change, as the streamer will begin offering an ad-supported tier at $8 a month while it will cost $11 per month to watch without ads. Prices for the Disney Bundle will also increase, bringing the cost of all subscriptions closer to HBO Max's.

HBO Max wins for variety (especially for grown-ups)

Disney Plus has a large slate of popular films and TV shows thanks to its ownership of Star Wars, Marvel, and The Simpsons -- and the entire library of Pixar, Disney Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. In 2022, the platform added its first set of mature-rated content with Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher, Jessica Jones, The Defender and Iron Fist -- which were all previously on Netflix. Additionally, Disney Plus streams titles from 20th Century Studios, such as Ron's Gone Wrong.

HBO Max offers more variety, especially content for adults as well as children. More than 13,000 hours of content lives on the service, including all the shows and movies on HBO, plus a selection of high-profile licensed content, like The Big Bang Theory and Rick and Morty. It also has the franchises for The Lord of the Rings, Conjuring and The Matrix, DC movies like Joker and The Batman, classic films like The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, and newer releases like Dune, The Bob's Burgers Movie and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore -- not to mention almost the entire catalog of Studio Ghibli films that were not previously released for streaming in the US. And with the merger of the HBO Max and Discovery Plus apps set for summer 2023, expect to see more unscripted content arriving on the streaming platform, including shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines.

hbo-max-all-the-shows-coming.png

HBO Max Originals' lineup includes James Gunn's Peacemaker.

Screenshot by CNET

At first, Disney Plus struggled to have breakouts when it came to its original content, but Star Wars and Marvel have changed that. The Mandalorian, Loki and Obi-Wan Kenobi are examples of its massive TV hits, and exclusive theatrical films like Turning Red and Encanto proved to be extremely popular among adult and kid fans alike. But Disney Plus does not churn out its originals on a predictable schedule, so there are times when viewers may have to wait a while for something new to arrive. 

HBO Max may be better suited to original content: It's already streaming more than 50 Max Originals, including documentaries, animated shows, dramas, reality series and comedies. Max scored a few hits with its Originals slate, including Emmy-winning Hacks, Our Flag Means Death, The Flight Attendant, Harley Quinn, Peacemaker and The White Lotus. 

Plenty for kids on HBO Max and Disney Plus

When it comes to content for kids, you would guess that family-friendly Disney Plus might have the edge over HBO, which made its name on more adult content like The Sopranos and Sex and the City. But HBO Max bet big on families with kids subscribing, too. The service offers kid-friendly originals like new Looney Tunes cartoons and the Cartoon Network catalog. While its Sesame Street catalog recently shrunk, you'll find seasons 39-52 and three earlier seasons. Max is also home to Doctor Who, the Lego movies, and selection of animated DC titles that are age appropriate, including Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited.

While Disney Plus is more focused on shows and movies for kids in general, there is some more intense PG and PG-13 content that might not be appropriate for the youngest viewers. Parents can create a profile for their child, and toggle the Kids Profile setting to On, which prevents PG and PG-13 content from appearing on the profile. But it's not perfect for every age group -- you can't enable PG content and disable PG-13 content. However, Disney Plus updated its parental controls in March so you can change ratings to TV-MA on adult profiles and add a four-digit PIN to prevent kids from watching mature content on someone else's profile.

bmo in adventure time looks worried

HBO Max is home to Cartoon Network favorites like Adventure Time.

Warner Bros. Discovery

HBO Max's profiles for kids are more customizable. Parents can decide which rating levels kids can access, down to G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 for movies and TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14 and TV-MA for television shows. You can also enable a four-digit passcode that a child would need to enter to get out of their profile and into their parent's. Of course, your kid might be savvy enough to figure out your passcode, but it's something. 

When it comes to pure content for kids, Disney Plus probably wins out. But for more customizable kids' profiles and some great non-Disney movies, HBO Max has the edge. 

Read more: Best Streaming Services for Kids

Both designs take a page from Netflix 

In terms of usability, Disney Plus has a user-friendly design with row after row of tiles, sorted by Recommended for you, New to Disney Plus, Continue watching, etc. -- similar to Netflix and many other popular streaming services. There's even a row called Marvel Cinematic Universe in Timeline Order. HBO Max also follows the same general design, although HBO seems to have put some thought into making the platform more visually appealing, with fewer tiles on a screen and more breaks to let your eye rest. 

Disney Plus has a hub for each of its properties at the top of the home page, where you'll find Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. HBO Max has a similar hub at the bottom of your profile page or in the sidebar (depending on your device), but it looks slightly busier and with fewer recognizable names, like Studio Ghibli and TCM. 

HBO Max does curate collections of movies around a theme, like blockbuster franchises, from directors like Martine Scorsese. or time travel. Disney Plus has a version of this as well, with collections like Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, The Simpsons and the High School Musical Collection. 

disney-plus-home-page

On Disney Plus, easily click on a brand's tile to see specific titles in its lineup.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

HBO Max: Little 4K support

Disney Plus offered support for both 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos surround sound at launch (depending on the content), along with up to four simultaneous streams. It currently has more than 100 titles available to stream in 4K. Meanwhile, HBO Max offers three simultaneous streams, but its 4K roster is very limited. Though Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon are currently streaming in that format, viewers have to periodically check the service's help page to see which 4K content is available.

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13:05

The happiest streaming service on Earth

If you're looking purely for children's content that includes every Disney classic and the Star Wars and Marvel franchises for older kids, you can't go wrong with Disney Plus -- especially for the price. But HBO Max has a massive catalog of shows and movies you won't find streaming anywhere else, as well as more customizable parental controls. If you've already exhausted the Disney catalog, it's worth keeping HBO Max in your rotation.