Just weeks after the launch of HBO Max, which added to the already confusing HBO product lineup of HBO, HBO Go, and HBO Now, WarnerMedia is making some changes in an attempt to reduce some of the confusion about which app is for which purpose.
A short primer on HBO Max, before I go further: HBO Max is AT&T’s new streaming service that lets you access the entire HBO library plus additional content like Cartoon Network shows and the Studio Ghibli movies. You can subscribe to HBO Max directly for a $14.99 monthly fee, but it’s also offered for free from many cable providers if you subscribe to HBO, and it’s free as part of some AT&T wireless, internet, or TV plans. We’ve compiled a guide for which subscriptions give you access here.
A key thing to know is that HBO Max is really an expanded and rebranded version of HBO Now, the company’s previous streaming-only service. On most platforms, like Apple TV, the HBO Now app was directly updated to become HBO Max.
Before HBO Max existed, cable subscribers could stream HBO shows using an app called HBO Go. WarnerMedia will be getting rid of that app (or “sunsetting” it, in WarnerMedia’s language) from “primary platforms” as of July 31st. If you previously relied on HBO Go, many cable providers will already let you log in to HBO Max. You can see that full list here.
That “primary platforms” language is important, because WarnerMedia still hasn’t struck deals to bring HBO Max to Roku or Amazon streaming devices. On those platforms, WarnerMedia is not upgrading the HBO Now app to become HBO Max. Instead, it’s rebranding to simply be “HBO,” where it will still cost $14.99, even though you’ll only be able to watch HBO content on it and not the expanded HBO Max catalog. This branding switch will be happening over the coming months, according to WarnerMedia.
This all is a dramatic acceleration of what HBO Max chief Tony Goncalves told us on The Vergecast just last week, when he said cable subscribers could continue to use HBO Go for a “period of time,” and that things would be clearer in “three to six months.” In reality, it took 10 days. But based on AT&T’s general rollout of HBO Max, the rush is par for the course.
In summary, there will eventually just be two options: Roku and Amazon users get the HBO app, which only lets you watch HBO content, that’s accessible with an existing cable subscription or by paying a $14.99 monthly fee. This is a problem that HBO needs to resolve — Roku controls nearly 45 percent of connected device video streaming minutes. But for now, this is what’s there.
So it’s a little clearer. But it’s all still pretty confusing.