HBO Max launches with an edge for success: "Friends"
My teenage daughter Sydney put it all in perspective for me. “When are you going to get HBO Max so that I can watch "Friends” again?”
To which I’ll say if the popular 1994-2004 NBC sitcom is all it takes to hook Syd and teens like her, AT&T’s new streaming service stands a real chance at success.
HBO Max went live on Wednesday. Subscribers pay $14.99 a month following a one-week trial, a pricey rate compared to the streaming rivals it is inevitably compared to: Netflix, Hulu, Disney + and Apple TV+. A cheaper option with commercials comes later.
But if you're already part of AT&T's growing portfolio or can take advantage of other promotions, you may not have to pay anything, at least for a while.
If you pay for HBO Now, for instance, you can now get HBO Max for no extra charge. Same for DirecTV Premier customers, and folks on AT&T’s “best” wireless, video and internet plans.
You may also get HBO Max if you subscribe to HBO through your cable, satellite or other TV provider. I get it, for example, through Verizon FIOS.
HBO subscribers on Cox, Comcast, Optimum and Spectrum are also among those with access. Double-check with these and other providers to see if it's available on your plan and under what conditions.
What to watch
HBO Max does boast an enviable content catalog, and for sure it goes well beyond “Friends,” which Syd used to binge on at its former streaming home Netflix.
It goes without saying that HBO’s own past and present prized series are front and center, a strong lineup of gems that includes “Game of Thrones,” “Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Veep” “The Wire” and “Succession.”
You’ll also find some 10,000 hours of curated premium content, from Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, DC, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more.
HBO is serving up original fare too, including a new limited series with Anna Kendrick called “Love Life” about a millennial New Yorker on that elusive quest for love, and a fresh Sesame Street series called “The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo.”
All the “Harry Potter” movies are here too, as are classic masterpieces such as “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” "Gone With The Wind," and "Singing' in the Rain."
Where's Roku and Fire TV?
It can’t hurt AT&T either that HBO Max is launching during a pandemic that has kept people at home and (for better or worse) in front of their televisions.
Even so, it will hardly be smooth sailing for AT&T out of the gate.
Let me tick off a couple of the issues.
People on the Roku or Amazon Fire TV streaming platforms are bleep out of luck. Regrettably HBO Max is missing from these popular devices for now, with AT&T unable to strike the proper deals with Roku and Amazon. I have zero inside knowledge on this, but will wager that this will all get worked out eventually, the question being how long before that may be?
HBO Max is available on iOS and Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Xbox One and PlayStation consoles.
Another bummer is that you won't be able to stream HBO Max in 4K resolution or HDR.
There may also be confusing questions around just who it is that will be billing you?
I also fret more generally about chronic subscription fatigue, what with all the cord-cutting, entertainment and services we all pay for on a recurring basis.
None of that has stopped Syd. Rachel and Ross have been waiting.
Are you willing to subscribe to HBO Max and if so what programming will draw you there?