HBO Max, the new streaming service from AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, finally arrives tomorrow, coming onto the scene as much of the country remains home, watching television far more than usual due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
For the company’s big bet on streaming, executives are hopeful that they can scale up fast by using an existing base of HBO subscribers, which totals around 34 million in the U.S., to bolster early numbers. AT&T is encouraging customers to shift their subscriptions over to HBO Max, which costs the same as a standard HBO plan, at $14.99 per month. But for anyone eager to access the company’s extensive library of content, which will include titles like Friends and The Big Bang Theory along with several original shows, it might require a little legwork to get set up.
Primarily, the ability to get access to HBO Max tomorrow depends on a consumer’s existing relationship with the company and through which providers they want to access the new service. It will be a much more complicated transition if you pay for HBO through a cable provider that does not yet have an HBO Max agreement with AT&T than one that does.
Here’s how new and existing customers alike will be able to get on HBO Max come Wednesday:
If you’re not already an HBO or HBO Now customer…
Entirely new subscribers to the service will be able to sign up for HBO Max directly via HBOMax.com, where the company has been offering a discounted $11.99 per month preorder promotion, which expires early on Wednesday.
New customers who don’t want the direct-to-consumer option can also sign up through several television service providers, including AT&T, Altice, Charter, Cox Contour, DirecTV, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum Suddenlink, Verizon Fios and YouTube TV. HBO Max will appear as add-ons in those providers’ various television and mobile interfaces. (And if you’re an AT&T customer but don’t already have HBO, you may be eligible for a free trial of Max.)
The service will also be available as a downloadable app in Apple’s app store, the Google Play store and the Samsung Galaxy store. Customers will be able to subscribe through these partners and stream directly on their devices or cast to supported connected TVs.
HBO Max is supported on Android phones and tablets, Android TV, Apple TV (fourth generation and later), Chromecast, computer browsers, iOS devices, Xbox One, Sony Playstation 4 and select Samsung smart TVs. But customers who want to watch HBO Max through video game consoles like the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One will not be able to sign up through those platforms; instead, customers should use login credentials they’ve set up elsewhere to be able to watch on those devices.
However, customers looking to get HBO Max through Amazon Fire TV, Comcast TV and Roku are out of luck. Max is not presently supported through those distributors, though that could change at a later date.
Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Comcast and WarnerMedia stuck an agreement to bring HBO Max to Comcast’s Xfinity cable subscribers. New customers will be able to purchase HBO Max directly through Xfinity “in the coming days,” according to a release.
“We are doing everything in our power to make HBO Max available to as many customers as possible, and our distribution team is hard at work trying to complete additional deals before launch,” a spokesperson for HBO Max said.
If you currently subscribe to HBO Now…
Customers with a subscription to HBO Now, HBO’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, will automatically have their HBO Now app updated to HBO Max on most platforms, according to the company. Those customers will be able to log in to HBO Max using their existing login credentials with the company, which will not need to be updated.
“Existing HBO Now direct-billed customers, as well as those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum and Verizon Fios internet will get instant access to HBO Max tomorrow at no extra cost, with the HBO Now app automatically updating to the HBO Max app on supported devices,” according to a spokesperson for HBO Max. “HBO Now will continue to exist on platforms where we don’t yet have distribution deals in place.”
Some customers may not get the automatic app upgrade, so they may need to manually download the app and use their existing HBO Now credentials to gain access.
If subscribers are unsure through which provider they receive HBO Now, they can log in, look at their profile and select “settings.” Under the billing information section will be information about how their HBO subscriptions are billed.
And again, customers through Amazon Fire TV, Comcast TV and Roku will not be able to use HBO Now credentials to gain access to Max at this moment.
If you pay for HBO through your cable provider…
People who already have HBO and HBO Go through a cable provider will be in luck if they subscribe through AT&T TV, AT&T U-Verse, Altice, Cox Contour, DirecTV, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum Suddenlink, Verizon Fios TV or through independent providers like Atlantic Broadband, MCTV, RCN and WOW! Those HBO subscribers will be able to access HBO Max for no extra cost on supported devices or via desktop viewing. They can also download the HBO Max app and use their existing credentials to then watch HBO Max through supported devices.
Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Comcast and WarnerMedia stuck an agreement to bring HBO Max to Comcast’s Xfinity cable subscribers. Under the deal, existing Xfinity customers will have access to HBO Max beginning Wednesday via the HBO Max app and website.
Customers who won’t get the automatic upgrade will need to jump through some hoops to access HBO Max. Those customers can always cancel their HBO accounts through the nonsupported providers and sign up another way, but that may be easier said than done, especially if customers want to use a single device to watch programming.
If that does happen, it’s something AT&T president and COO John Stankey, in line to become AT&T’s next CEO come July, has been saying since October: “Distributors would like to keep customers engaged on their platforms and not others,” he previously said.
Ultimately, accessing HBO Max will be much easier for new customers and those who already have a direct relationship with WarnerMedia through an HBO Now subscription. Other customers who want to watch HBO Max content may be incentivized to cancel their existing HBO subscriptions through providers like Amazon Fire TV or Roku so they can get access to the service right away elsewhere.
Whether customers actually make the switch and AT&T reaches the estimated 36 million HBO Max subscribers it has projected in year one remains to be seen. AT&T anticipates HBO Max will have 50 million U.S. subscribers by 2025, and as many as 90 million subscribers globally in the same timeframe.