When HBO Max launched at the end of May, the conversation was largely dominated by whether people who already subscribed to HBO had access to it. Now, in efforts to make the question of “HBO Max vs. HBO Go vs. HBO Now” easier to answer, WarnerMedia—aka HBO’s parent company—is consolidating.
On Friday, WarnerMedia announced that it would be retiring the HBO Go app on July 31 while the HBO Now app would be rebranded as simply “HBO.” The logic, per WarnerMedia, is that most people now have access to HBO Max, so the HBO Go app is redundant while HBO Now’s rebranding is to differentiate Now from Max.
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 play.hbo.com. 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.
If you’re confused by that word soup, you’re not alone. It’s WarnerMedia having to deal with the fact that the issue it’s currently facing—the confusion over three apps with the name “HBO” in it—is one of its own creation, and it's attempting to fix it. It’s also an effort to get everybody on the same page.
HBO Go, which has been around since 2010, gave cable subscribers the ability to stream HBO content online. HBO Now, which launched in 2015, allowed viewers to subscribe to HBO without a cable subscription. Meanwhile, HBO Max, aka WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, includes HBO shows and movies along with a mix of original programming and licensing deals that bring in stuff like Friends, South Park, Doctor Who, and Studio Ghibli’s library. WarnerMedia likely wanted to use HBO’s clout to reel people in, but it also set itself up for a lot of confusion; more often than not, people associate a show with the network it’s on, not the studio or production company who made it.
For the most part, WarnerMedia’s consolidation is at least somewhat easier than its statement seems. Dozens of cable providers are already supporting HBO Max, giving you access to a lot more for the same price, so it’s just a matter of downloading the HBO Max app and signing in. (For the full list, check out HBO Max’s help page.) For HBO Now subscribers who haven’t immediately received access to HBO Max, you might notice some logo changes on your app.
But if you access HBO through Roku or Amazon Fire Stick? Well, it’s complicated.
WarnerMedia has yet to come to an agreement with Roku and Amazon to feature the HBO Max app on their respective devices, leaving those who already have HBO (and even access to HBO Max) without the ability to download HBO Max. It’s not really an issue for current HBO Now subscribers since it’s just rebranding, but if you use HBO Go and either Roku or Amazon’s devices to watch HBO? If WarnerMedia can’t come to an agreement with Roku and Amazon by July 31, those cable subscribers are out of luck.