HBO Max gets official premiere date

WarnerMedia’s (rather late) entry into the streaming wars, HBO Max, has set May 27, 2020 as its debut date.

Subscribers who pay for the existing HBO Now service directly to HBO will get access to HBO Max automatically, as will subscribers of AT&T’s television services (AT&T owns WarnerMedia). HBO Now does not require a linear HBO TV subscription or any linear TV service at all.

The May debut will put HBO Max before the full launch of NBCUniversal’s Peacock — but that service, which includes a free tier, already debuted to Comcast customers.

It also comes after sister streamer CBS All Access and Hulu, which ABC parent Disney recently acquired full ownership in (both are practically “ancient” in terms of network supported streaming service).

It also joins the fray of competition between Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Crackle, Prime Vide, ESPN+ and YouTube, among other smaller players.

In addition, the streamer has inked a deal with Charter to bring the service for free to its subscribers.

HBO Max is set to offer a vast library of content from Warner Bros., HBO and more as well as original series and specials.

One of those specials, a “Friends” reunion, has been postponed during the coronavirus pandemic forcing the company to shut down production on it before filming could start.

It will also mark the streaming debut for megahit “The Big Bang Theory,” which Warner Bros. produced but HBO Max still had to put up a massive amount of money to secure the rights. “Friends” was also another pricey acquisition for the network, who nabbed it from Netflix.

HBO Max is charging $14.99 a month for people wanting to subscribe to the service and are not included in partner deals.

That’s a dollar under Netflix’s top streaming plan — but Netflix allows for up to four streams at once compared to HBO Max’s reported two stream limit. It’s priced higher than Disney+’s $9.99 price, Apple TV+ and Peacock’s $4.99 price as well as CBS All Access $5.99 tier with ads or $9.99 without ads. Prime is also available at a standalone price of $12.99 per month.

HBO has not announced how it plans to handle existing subscribers beyond just promising more details closer to launch to its linear TV service or its accompanying streaming offering HBO Go, but does note HBO will remain a “separate brand.”

However, it would seem fairly counterintuitive to not offer HBO Max to HBO subscribers at at least discounted rate, if not for no extra fee, since many subscribers could just dump their linear subscriptions in favor of Max.