The streaming video environment is getting even more crowded now that AT&T’s WarnerMedia announced plans to launch the newly dubbed HBO Max, its own direct-to-consumer video service featuring many of the assets from its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner in 2018.
With a long list of TV shows and movies at its disposal, including one long-running cult favorite, HBO Max has plenty of potential. But many details regarding the service and its offerings remain a mystery. Here’s everything we know about it so far.
What shows and movies will it include?
A July 2019 report indicated that HBO Max will have 10,000 hours of content at launch, including every episode of Friends (which leaves Netflix in 2020), as well as the entire runs of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Pretty Little Liars. In addition, HBO Max will be the only place where you can stream The Big Bang Theory, an exclusive that reportedly cost WarnerMedia over a billion dollars.
The service will also be the exclusive streaming source for all new Warner Bros. dramas produced for The CW network, beginning with the fall 2019 season that features the premieres of Batwoman and another Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene.
If you’re one of the legions of fans who catches up with Doctor Who via streaming services, HBO Max is going to be a must-have. When HBO Max arrives in spring 2020, it will become the exclusive online home for the puckish Time Lord, with all 11 seasons of the modern Doctor Who series available at launch, Variety reports. Future seasons of the show will also stream exclusively on HBO Max, arriving on the service sometime after they’ve made their debut on BBC America.
Although they haven’t been officially announced as part of the service, the full slate of HBO’s original series — including Veep, The Larry Sanders Show, and upcoming projects from J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, to name a few — are also expected to be available in some form on HBO Max.
Premium cable programming from HBO and even Cinemax is likely in the mix, too, as well as additional content produced by Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, and Looney Tunes, which all fall under AT&T’s WarnerMedia banner now. It’s all up for grabs, theoretically anyway.
It’s worth noting that WarnerMedia encompasses a wide range of Warner Bros.-produced feature films in addition to substantial TV content libraries. That includes the DC Extended Universe superhero movies, Godzilla and King Kong’s shared Monster-verse films, and the Lord of the Rings franchise, among other properties. One major Warner Bros. Pictures property that won’t be included at launch, however, is Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, which NBCUniversal purchased the exclusive streaming rights to in a deal that runs through 2025.
At this point, it’s also unknown whether future DC Extended Universe movies like Wonder Woman 1984 will stream exclusively on the service after their theatrical run.
What about original series and films?
As far as original content goes, the biggest gun in HBO Max’s arsenal is J.J. Abrams, who recently signed a $250 million production deal with WarnerMedia to produce new content for the company. That’s less than the $500 million early rumors said the deal was worth, but the rest of the facts seem to be the same: Mainly, that Abrams signed with WarnerMedia because he was interested in its plans for HBO Max, and that he’ll be creating a number of original series for the platform.
HBO Max will offer four young-adult films produced by Greg Berlanti, the producer behind many of The CW’s popular superhero shows, as well as two (or more) original movies produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. Let Them All Talk, a Steven Soderbergh-directed movie starring Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, and Candice Bergen, will be an HBO Max exclusive.
On the TV side, a Gossip Girl reboot is currently in development for HBO Max, while The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco will produce and star in The Flight Attendant, a murder mystery, for the service. Series based on the novels Station Eleven, Made for Love, and Circe are in pre-production, while Starstruck from comedian Rose Matafeo will be a collaboration between WarnerMedia and BBC Three. Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort will star in Tokyo Vice for the streamer.
Other original series planned for the service include Love Life, a romantic comedy from Paul Feig and Anna Kendrick, an animated Gremlins prequel, and Dune: The Sisterhood, a spinoff series inspired by Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune.
How much will it cost?
WarnerMedia’s plans for its upcoming Netflix competitor, HBO Max, underwent a major overhaul in early June 2019. A report from The Wall Street Journal claims that AT&T’s service will bundle all of its WarnerMedia properties into a single streaming service that’s expected to cost somewhere between $16 and $17 a month.
That’s a big change. Previously, AT&T announced that it would offer a three-tiered streaming service that split content between movies, television shows, and original productions, including programming from HBO and Cinemax, shows from cable networks like TNT and TBS, and Warner Bros.-produced feature films.
Given that HBO costs about $15 on its own through cable providers or HBO’s own streaming package, HBO Now, a $17 plan could be a great value for existing HBO subscribers. However, that would still make AT&T’s service more expensive than its peers. Netflix’s standard package costs $13 for HD, its most popular plan, a Hulu subscription is $6 (or $12, if you want to skip commercials), and Disney’s upcoming service, Disney+, will set you back just $7 (or less if you buy in bulk).
When will it launch?
The HBO Max streaming service is expected to launch in beta later in 2019, with an official release coming in spring 2020. The Wall Street Journal says that AT&T and WarnerMedia might offer a second, cheaper subscription plan that will be subsidized by ads.
Will it support 4K?
Right now, there’s no word on whether HBO Max will offer streaming video in 4K or high-dynamic range (HDR) resolution.
Currently, the HBO Now streaming service — which offers streaming access to HBO programming without a cable subscription — does not offer either of the high-resolution formats for video. However, with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and the upcoming Disney+ service all offering 4K streaming video, there’s reason to believe WarnerMedia will need to do the same to stay competitive.
What about DC Universe?
It’s unknown how the launch of HBO Max will affect WarnerMedia’s existing DC Universe platform that offers all of the DC Entertainment series and films along with some original content. although WarnerMedia has confirmed that Doom Patrol, DC Universe’s most popular show, will stream on both DC Universe and HBO Max. The DC Universe service also includes a vast library of digital comics, as well as original series like Doom Patrol and Titans, and was officially launched in September 2018.
Updated on September 17, 2019: Added The Big Bang Theory and more original projects.