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What’s the difference between HBO and HBO Max?

What's the difference between HBO's two streaming services? Let us explain.

Jul 8, 2020, 8:19 pm*


John-Michael Bond 

John-Michael Bond

Cord-cutting seems to be the wave of the future, empowering viewers to watch their favorite programming how they want to without a massive cable package. No cable channel has anticipated the future of cord-cutters like HBO, first with its password-sharing friendly HBO GO, and then with the first standalone streaming option from a premium cable channel, HBO NOW. With the brand’s latest expansion HBO Max, things are changing yet again. Thankfully, these latest changes simplify things dramatically.



HBO GO and HBO NOW are gone; say hello to HBO and HBO Max:

Previously HBO GO and HBO NOW was essentially the same service, you just paid for them different ways. If you paid for HBO through your cable company you used HBO GO for streaming HBO. Users who paid HBO directly used HBO NOW. It was a simple system.

Then HBO launched HBO Max, its long-gestating Netflix killer. HBO Max offers the same content as HBO, with the bonus content from the Warner Media library, like TMC movies, Friends, Big Bang Theory, Studio Ghibli films, and the Looney Tunes. While this has been a boon for fans of streaming content, it yet again means HBO’s apps are changing.

HBO NOW and HBO GO will soon be retired, leaving only HBO and HBO Max in their wake. The company released the following statement announcing the changes in June of 2020.

Now that HBO Max has launched and is widely distributed, we can implement some significant changes to our app offering in the U.S. As part of that plan, we will be sunsetting our HBO GO service in the U.S. We intend to remove the HBO GO app from primary platforms as of July 31, 2020. Most customers who have traditionally used HBO GO to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max, which offers access to all of HBO together with so much more.

Additionally, the HBO NOW app and desktop experience will be rebranded to HBO. Existing HBO NOW subscribers will have access to HBO through the rebranded HBO app on platforms where it remains available and through HBO Max provides not only the robust offering of HBO but also a vast WarnerMedia library and acquired content and originals through a modern product.


HBO vs HBO Max: Cost

Whether you buy directly through HBO, through a 3rd party like Hulu, or via your cable company HBO and HBO Max cost $15. Users who buy HBO directly through HBO or through a supported 3rd party automatically get access to HBO Max and it’s extra content. Users with an unsupported device or who buy through a cable company that doesn’t offer HBO Max support will still be able to access HBO content through the new HBO app on July 31st.

HBO vs HBO Max: What devices does it support?

Here’s where it gets complicated. HBO Max supports these devices: iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Chromecast. You’ll notice two glaring omissions; Amazon Fire TV and Roku. Currently, HBO Max doesn’t support two of the biggest platforms in streaming.

That means when you go to access your HBO NOW app on Roku the same old app you always knew will open. However, if you open the HBO Now app using the same account on your Xbox One, it will automatically update to the HBO Max app. Frankly for a company worth as much money as WarnerMedia to not have these ducks in a row at launch is absurd.

We also don’t know what it means for Roku and Amazon Fire TV users after the July 31 change over. Will HBO NOW also become the HBO app like the HBO GO app is supposed to? Like everything with the launch of HBO Max, we don’t have a clear answer yet.

HBO GO, soon to be known as HBO, still works on every major device including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Chromecast. At least in the short term it looks like Roku and Amazon Fire TV users won’t be locked out of HBO content while the HBO Max details are sorted out.


HBO vs HBO Max: Which one is better?

hbo go vs hbo now : game of thrones
Screengrab via GameofThrones/HBO

In a battle between these two services, HBO Max is the clear winner simply because of its existence. By its very nature HBO Max is a better service, offering everything HBO does along with thousands of extra titles from the WarnerMedia library. When you consider the services cost exactly the same, its impossible to say you shouldn’t do your best to get access to HBO Max if you can. However, if you use one of the two biggest streaming platforms on Earth, Roku or Amazon Fire TV, you don’t currently get a choice. You’re a victim of the whims of corporate America. Burn a share of corporate stock in effigy and pray a peaceful resolution.

How to stream HBO

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Hulu Live TV is one of the most popular ways to stream live TV, perhaps because you gain access to a massive library of on-demand content including classic and current TV shows, movies, not to mention Hulu’s original programming. As far as live-streaming goes, you’ll have a ton of local, entertainment, and sports channels to flip through, including HGTV, a full suite of ESPN channels, Cartoon Network, FX, and even deep cuts like Nat Geographic and Syfy.

at&t TV Now
7-Day Free Trial
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AT&T TV Now Devices

There’s a good chance that you’re already looking to AT&T for your wireless needs. The second you sign up, you’ll gain instant access to 45+ channels, including local channels and even free HBO in the Plus and Max channel suites. Plus, it comes with CloudDVR, which lets you record up to 20 hours of TV per month. One account works on two devices, but you can add more devices for only $5.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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*First Published: Aug 6, 2017, 5:00 am