Max, the successor to HBO Max, might be getting a little more serious about 4K content. At an event today, Warner Bros. Discovery detailed its plans for the new app, including how the migration of accounts will work and what kind of new content will be appearing on the service. The company also announced an additional paid tier for $19.99 that will allow for more concurrent streams and 4K. It better not mess this up.
The first two tiers will keep their current prices. For $9.99, you’ll get two concurrent ad-supported streams at HD quality. For $15.99, you’ll lose the ads and be allowed to download up to 30 pieces of content at a time, but you’ll no longer get access to 4K. Finally, for $19.99, you’ll get 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos, four concurrent streams, and up to 100 downloads.
If you’re paying for the $15.99 version, this new set of tiers is definitely a kick in the pants. Limiting downloads and gatekeeping high-quality streams to the priciest tier is deeply annoying, particularly given how many extremely dark and hard to watch shows the service current streams. Can you imagine trying to watch that super dark episode of House of the Dragon on a crummy HD-quality stream in the middle of the day? You will not be seeing a lot of those dragon fights.
But the bigger issue is that it’s not clear what will actually be available in 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos. HBO Max has been terrifically inconsistent with what content gets proper high-quality streams and what gets mud. Notably, when it moved all of the content from the now-defunct DC Universe platform to HBO Max, it actually downgraded the quality, failing to release 4K versions of films and television shows that had existed just fine on DC Universe.
Things have slowly improved over the years since HBO Max launched, but it has remained inconsistent. Game of Thrones only got the 4K treatment in 2022. Newer films tend to get released at 4K HDR quality, while older content continues to stream in HD on HBO Max even if it’s available in 4K elsewhere.
So far, details are scarce on what content will be getting the 4K treatment, so if you’re a lover of the whole Turner Classic Movies catalog available on the platform, you might want to hold off paying extra for 4K. But if you’re just there for the latest stuff from HBO and DC, you’ll probably be fine.