HBO Max logo

HBO Max Becomes Max, Limits 4K Streams to Highest Tier

HBO Max isn’t yet available in Canada, though most content that’s on the streaming service in the U.S. is available to stream on Bell Media’s Crave north of the border. And now, Warner Bros. Discovery is distancing the streaming service from the HBO name. In fact, it’s being removed altogether: HBO Max will soon become, simply, Max.

The re-brand will become official in the U.S. on May 23, 2023 after which the newly named Max service will undergo some additional changes. While you will still be able to access series like Game of Thrones, The White Lotus, and The Last Of Us as well as upcoming content like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones prequel A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, you’ll be paying a bit more – at least if you want top quality.

4K Only With an Ultimate Plan

Warner re-launches HBO Max as Max
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 12: (L-R) Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO, HBO & Max Content, Kathleen Finch, Chairman and Chief Content Officer, US Networks Group, David Zaslav, President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, and JB Perrette, President & CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Global Streaming and Games, onstage during a Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming Press Event at Warner Bros. Studios on April 12, 2023 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for HBO)

Currently, HBO Max is US$10/mo. for the ad-supported version or US$100 a year, or US$16/mo. (US$150 annually) for the ad-free plan. The US$10/mo. plan will now be called Max Ad-Lite and will allow for up to two concurrent streams and 5.1 surround sound quality, but you won’t be able to download content for offline viewing. The next tier, the Max Ad Free plan, will remain at US$16/mo. and will also include two concurrent streams, 5.1 surround sound, and up to 30 offline downloads. Where the change will reside, however, is in the new Max Ultimate Ad Free plan, which will be US$20/mo. or US$200/yr. and include up to four concurrent streams, Dolby Atmos sound, and up to 100 offline downloads. The clincher is in the resolution: if you want to enjoy content in full 4K UHD (where available and with compatible equipment), you’ll need to fork over for the highest tier plans. The Max Ad-Lite and Max Ad Free plans will only offer content in 1,080p resolution.

It’s a bold move considering that nowadays, 1,080p resolution is effectively considered the most basic offering. Does anyone even have a standard-def TV anymore? This means to fully enjoy the glorious picture quality of some of the top shows today, in all their 4K glory, like House of the Dragon, Barry, and Succession, you have no choice but to pay US$4 more per month to get it, or an extra US$50 per year.

The good news for existing HBO Max subscribers in the U.S. is that they will still be able to access the current plan features for a minimum of six months following the May launch date. All personal profiles, settings, watch history, “continue watching,” and “my list” items will also migrate over to Max, so there won’t be any visible disruptions to service, other than the clear name change and some UI upgrades.

Additional UI And Quality Upgrades

The Last of Us still featuring Joel and Ellie.

Warner is also making user interface and picture quality updates. The company promises a new video playback experience that will deliver “smooth and cinematic video.” The 4K tier will have an “expanded catalog” of content in 4K UHD, including Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight trilogy, and more. All Warner Bros. movies released this year and going forward will also be available in 4K UHD when they arrive on Max following their theatrical windows. If you buy the top tier option, of course.

Machine learning, meanwhile, will help with greater personalization beyond the home page that the company says will “help surface the best content for our users.” A more simplified navigation experience, meanwhile, will include streamlined categories, improved content details pages, shortcuts, dedicated brand hubs and thematic content rails.

The service is also being enhanced for younger viewers with a new default kids’ profile for new subscribers that includes parental controls. Parents can choose to customize settings and select to limit content for the kids’ profile by ratings: little kids (tv-y), big kids (tv-y7, tvy7-fv), big kids plus (tv-g, g), preteens (tv-pg/pg), or teens (tv-14, pg-13). Parents can also set individual profile PINs to lock access to their adult profiles and a parent code from within the kids’ profile.  

The Content Selection

The Penguin series coming to Max.

In addition to HBO Originals, Max will serve as home to Max originals (formerly HBO Max Originals), Warner Bros. movies, content from the DC universe, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Other content is available in a variety of genres, including kids, food, home, reality, lifestyle, and documentaries from brands like HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, ID, and more.

Max will offer an average of more than 40 new titles every month, including new seasons of popular shows. Along with the two aforementioned new shows, the line-up will also soon include The Penguin starring Colin Farrell; HBO Original drama series The Sympathizer, an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name; HBO Original limited series True Detective: Night Country starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis; HBO Original limited series The Regime starring Kate Winslet; Max Original six-part docuseries SmartLess: On The Road, following Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes as they take viewers on an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the sold-out live tour of their podcast; and Max Original kids series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai. Also in development is a Max Original comedy series derived from The Big Bang Theory and a Max Original drama series based on The Conjuring films.

Additional content that will be available to subscribers includes Magnolia Network’s Fixer Upper: The Hotel; Discovery Channel’s Survive the Raft; Max Original Peter & the Wolf from Bono; Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty: The Anime; Investigation Discovery’s Lost Women of Highway 20; Cartoon Network’s Tiny Toons Looniversity; and TLC’s Love & Translation.

Change Has Arrived, But What About Canada?

JB Perrette, Warner Bros.
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 12: JB Perrette, President & CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Global Streaming and Games, speaks onstage during a Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming Press Event at Warner Bros. Studios on April 12, 2023 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for HBO)

JB Perrette, President & CEO, Global Streaming & Games at Warner Bros. Discovery says the new brand “signals an important change from two narrower products, HBO Max and discovery+, to our broader content offering and consumer proposition. While each product offered something for some people, Max will have a broad array of quality choices for everybody.

“Our incredible team,” he continued, “has been hard at work taking the best of both legacy technology platforms to deliver a product that works much better. We’re confident that all these enhancements will deliver a stronger experience for our customers, which will drive more engagement, help enhance retention, and improve customer satisfaction, which in turn will help us continue to scale.”

It’s unclear what, if any, impact these changes will have to HBO content and its availability in Canada. Bell is partnered with Warner Bros. for access to HBO, HBO Max, and Discovery content as well as Warner Bros. films. Currently, Canadians pay $20/mo. or $200/yr. for access to Crave Total, which includes HBO content. Crave does not offer tiered subscriptions.

With the exchange rate, Canadians have already been paying a premium anyway (Crave does also offer content from other networks, including select Showtime series as well as Comedy Central and MTV content. There is also a Starz add-on for an additional $6/mo. Nonetheless, most people who subscribe are arguably doing so for HBO. So, it will be interesting to see if Bell ups the pricing of Crave in line with Max, or if Max ever makes its way to Canada as a standalone option.