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There are now three streaming services with HBO’s name on them. 

Wednesday marked the official launch of HBO Max, a hyped-up new streaming service that is entirely separate from HBO Go and HBO Now. You may or may not already have a functioning HBO Max account without even knowing it. No, seriously!

All of this is a little strange and confusing, but bear with us here. Learning what makes HBO Max different from its predecessors is the key to unlocking tons of great shows and movies that aren’t available anywhere else.

What is HBO Max?

A glimpse of HBO Max's interface.

A glimpse of HBO Max’s interface.

Image: hbo

HBO Max is a new streaming service from WarnerMedia, a media conglomerate that owns way more stuff than you probably realized. This new service is basically a way for them to consolidate all of those TV shows and movies into one app that costs $15 per month. It’s generally available where you would expect to find streaming apps, such as Apple TV and game consoles, but Roku and Amazon Fire devices don’t have it yet

The big selling point of HBO Max is its generous content offering. This is a sample of what you get for $15 per month:

  • All of HBO’s catalog, including Game of Thrones, Deadwood, and Arli$$

  • Friends, a popular old sitcom about the most spacious coffee shop in New York City.

  • Studio Ghibli classics like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, which have been notoriously difficult to legally stream in the U.S. until now.

You’ll have to consult Mashable’s unparalleled entertainment team if you want to learn more. They will let you know what you should (and shouldn’t) watch on day one, and what you can expect going forward. They are experts and you should trust them.

How is it different from HBO Go and Now?

You can't watch 'Spirited Away' on HBO Go.

You can’t watch ‘Spirited Away’ on HBO Go.

Image: studio ghibli

This is where things get slightly weird. As you may or may not know, HBO Go and Now are existing streaming platforms that only host content like original shows and licensed movies that HBO shows on its premium cable channels. Go is the version for people who get HBO through their TV provider. Now is the version for cord-cutters who want to pay $15 per month to just get HBO content. Both of them are available on Roku and Amazon devices that do not currently have HBO Max.

You read that right: HBO Max and HBO Now have the exact same price, but Max has significantly more content. Naturally, you should cancel your HBO Now subscription and replace it with Max, right? Actually, hold off on that. You should be able to just log into the Max website or app with your existing Now account and get instant access to its content selection.

HBO Max more or less makes HBO Go and Now obsolete.

HBO Go users should be able to log in using their TV provider. There are also a bunch of other ways to access Max, including adding it as a channel on YouTube TV or Hulu for some extra cash. If you get TV through AT&T, you may already have the ability to watch HBO Max, too. AT&T previously announced it would be included with some of its TV plans, which are listed here

In summary: HBO Max more or less makes HBO Go and Now obsolete. You can still use those apps if you want, but you’d be missing out on a lot of shows and movies. HBO Max doesn’t support 4K and HDR, but neither do Go or Now. 

Roku and Amazon streamers can’t access HBO Max right now, but they can watch in a web browser or game console. If you already use either of the older HBO apps, go ahead and see if your username and password work on Max. Space Ghost Coast to Coast is waiting for you.