There’s HBO Go, HBO Now, and soon, there will be HBO Max. For WarnerMedia and parent company AT&T, the latter is most important, as it will become the subscription video service that they position against Netflix, Hulu, the upcoming Disney+, and a range of other paid video offerings.
“Anchored with and inspired by the legacy of HBO’s excellence and award-winning storytelling, the new service will be ‘Maximized’ with an extensive collection of exclusive original programming (Max Originals) and the best-of-the-best from WarnerMedia’s enormous portfolio of beloved brands and libraries,” the company wrote in a press release today. (The emphasis there is from WarnerMedia, of course.) So you'll get all the stuff you'd expect from having HBO — TV series, on-demand movies, watching some primetime HBO shows live — plus a huge serving of content from basically every other WarnerMedia property.
More relevant to you is that WarnerMedia also confirmed that HBO Max will have exclusive streaming rights to every episode of Friends when it launches in spring 2020; that’ll be after the hugely popular sitcom departs Netflix. Friends is set to leave in 2019, so there might be a gap where the show disappears from streaming altogether until HBO Max’s debut.
The same exclusivity deal will be true for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Pretty Little Liars, which will stream all episodes on Max. HBO Max also gets dibs on a couple of shows from The CW, including Batwoman and Katy Keene, a Riverdale spinoff. Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon have signed on to produce original films for HBO Max as well.
The service will feature content from “Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, and more.”
HBO Max will continue the trend of content owners pulling their shows from third-party streaming platforms for the benefit of their own services. Disney and NBCUniversal have taken similar steps; late last month, NBC announced that The Office will be removed from Netflix and exclusively streamed on its in-the-works subscription app.
It certainly feels like the golden era of streaming is coming to a close, and in its place we’re about to enter a very fragmented — and expensive — world of entertainment.