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New AT&T subscribers will no longer get HBO Max (or any other video service)

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Less binge-watching, but maybe it can satisfy the gamers

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

One perk most wireless carriers offer to pull you to their side is a free streaming video-on-demand subscription. But, now, AT&T won’t be giving HBO Max to new customers and hasn’t replaced it with a different service, either. The carrier stealthily discontinued its top-tier Unlimited Elite plan for new subscribers this week and added a new one that doesn’t include HBO Max anymore, as reported by Next TV (via FierceWireless).

The new top plan is called Unlimited Premium, which comes in at the same $85 a month for a single line. Just like with the now-grandfathered Elite plan, Premium subscribers get unlimited talk / text / data, 4K video streaming, and no slowdowns — even if they use a lot of data (a promise AT&T introduced for its priciest tier last July). But there’s no streaming video plan included; instead, you get 50GB of mobile hotspot data rather than 40GB.

“HBO Max is a great service, but we constantly experiment with the features we offer our customers to give them the best value,” reads a statement from AT&T to Next TV.

While AT&T is no longer feeding binge-watcher habits, it does currently bundle some subscription services for gamers instead. AT&T has been offering six months of Google Stadia Pro for more than a year and still does today, and it also started offering subscribers six months of Nvidia’s rival GeForce Now game streaming service in January (though it requires a separate signup).

AT&T wireless customers can also currently play two specific cloud games via a web browser due to a partnership with Google. Batman: Arkham Knight is still available until June 15th, and AT&T also added a streamable version of Control last month. It’s also teased even bigger plans for cloud gaming that might let users try a game before they buy it, carrying their progress over to the full version.

Even with the games, it’s hard to ignore how AT&T plus HBO Max allowed the company to compete against the likes of T-Mobile, which offers Netflix, and Verizon, which offers Disney Plus. But it makes sense that HBO Max is going away, seeing how AT&T doesn’t own HBO anymore. The free HBO Max deal started in 2020, back when the carrier still owned Time Warner and, by association, HBO. But now that the new Warner Bros. Discovery owns HBO instead, AT&T would have to pay someone else for the service. And, one big incentive to offer HBO Max for free is gone: AT&T doesn’t have to worry about increasing HBO Max’s subscriber counts anymore.