HBO Max Arrives to Further Complicate the Streaming Wars

Friends, Looney Tunes, and the Snyder Cut

Another day, another streaming service debut. HBO Max launches today with hundreds of titles and thousands of hours of content available right now. It costs $14.99 a month.

If you are already an HBO NOW or HBO GO subscriber, you won’t have to change over your subscription. HBO will grandfather you in. Your app should update to the latest HBO Max logo at some point today. If you only get HBO on cable, you also have access to HBO Max right now.

While HBO has streamed its shows online immediately after they air and have shared its vast library of movies on its online services, this is the first time the premium cable company has ventured into the streaming waters.

Here’s what you’ll get right now if you subscribe, plus what to expect in the future.

The Snyder Cut

Yes, it’s real, and yes, it’s coming to HBO Max in 2021. News broke last week that Justice League director Zack Snyder came to an agreement with Warner Bros. to make the fabled “Snyder Cut” of the film. To be clear, Snyder hadn’t finished the Cut, awaiting the bat signal to distribute it. He and HBO reached a $20 million deal for him to edit together the footage that was already shot to make the new version of the film. It’s unclear if that will be in a four-hour director’s cut of in six “episodes,” but it’s the biggest and newsiest title the streamer has going for it right now.

Friends

Friends

TimeWarner got the licensing rights back from Netflix for everyone’s favorite show about six friends in a New York coffee shop and is hoping owning the show will make viewers pivot to their service. Every episode is available for you to watch right now. A Friends reunion special is also in the works, but has been delayed because of COVID-19.

All of Studio Ghibli’s filmography

Since 1996, Disney handled the American distribution of the Japanese animation studio’s films, but the movies (like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service) were notoriously hard to find on any streaming platform. When Disney+ launched last November, many noted the conspicuous absence of Ghibli’s films. A few months later, we learned that the entire Ghibli catalogue would be streaming exclusively on HBO Max.

Criterion Collection

If you’re not a Criterion Collection subscriber, you’re in luck. You can get much of that canon with HBO Max, including multiple Akira Kurosawa films, French New Wave titles like The 400 Blows and Breathless, a ton of Godzilla movies, and more.

Warner Bros. classics

HBO Max covers everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Giant to The Wizard of Oz, as it tries to corner the market on older films that streamers like Netflix and Hulu have largely ignored. This section also includes old Warners cartoons like the original Looney Tunes, and almost every DC animated cartoon.

Other TV shows

In addition to Friends and all of the rest of HBO’s robust TV catalogue, HBO Max will also include all episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Doctor Who, The Boondocks, Rick and Morty, The Bachelor, and Top Gear, among others. Oh, and if you want to binge-watch The Big Bang Theory, you can knock yourself out.

Originals

Because all streaming platforms must now come with original content, HBO Max is debuting with at least six original series, including the Anna Kendrick romcom anthology Love Life, an Elmo talk show, and new Looney Tunes cartoons.

It’s fascinating that HBO is marketing its established titles instead of its new material. The company probably could have gotten by on just adding titles to its arsenal while pumping out the same shows it already airs.

That it’s choosing to develop shows for streaming at all is indicative of the distribution landscape today. Everyone’s got a streaming service, and we’re fully in the streaming wars now.

Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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