Is HBO Max Worth the Money?

It's been almost a month since the launch of HBO Max, one of the newest to enter the streaming service landscape. The platform has been a topic of conversation in the entertainment world long before it actually released, with the promise of marrying all of HBO's catalog with a slew of movies, TV shows, and upcoming original programming from WarnerMedia. With an ever-growing number of platforms for viewers to subscribe to, the release of HBO Max probably brought some consumers a combination of excitement and existential dread, with the question of whether or not the service is actually worth its $14.99 per month price tag. While HBO Max might still be in its infancy, it arguably offers a high-quality, premium streaming experience that more than justifies a monthly subscription.

One of the biggest praises of HBO Max - and a feature that has essentially been at the forefront of the service's marketing campaign - has been its expansive array of iconic content. As the service's array of delightful billboards and social media ads have proclaimed, there's something oddly fitting about joining the existing HBO catalog with everything from '90s sitcoms, classic movies, a rotating array of content from DC Comics, Cartoon Network, and Crunchyroll, and the entire franchises of Harry Potter, Studio Ghibli, and Lord of the Rings. Streaming services banking on its preexisting franchises is certainly nothing new (it certainly has been a huge boost for Disney+ since its launch last fall), but the sheer variety of what's on HBO Max arguably sets it apart from similar streaming services. HBO Max almost openly acknowledges that you're probably familiar with some of its content -- while also offering a well-rounded repertoire of new things to explore.

That variety also brings an interesting freedom along with it, in that the HBO Max experience doesn't feel tailored to one particular kind of consumer. Are you one of the millions of people who bemoaned Friends leaving Netflix last year? Are you a diehard fan who doesn't want to dig out your DVDs to rewatch your favorite DC, Harry Potter, or Studio Ghibli movie? Are you just using the service to binge-watch old HBO originals that you've already pretended to see? Either way, HBO Max has something for you -- as well as a judgment-free opportunity to explore content outside of that. And given the basically-open secret that a lot of people share streaming service accounts, there is a sense that HBO Max is here to provide a little bit of something for everyone, as opposed to strictly family-friendly or adult-oriented content. It's easy to picture each member of a family using HBO Max for a completely different kind of content, without worrying about it screwing up their personal algorithm.

There's also a sense of "quality over quantity" when it comes to HBO Max's offerings, as it is not as concerned with dumping content online just for the sake of its numbers. By and large, the subcategories and genres on HBO Max are easy to browse and navigate through, without feeling like something truly epic is slipping through the cracks. In an age when Netflix's new content is legitimately impossible to keep up with week-to-week, the number of titles that are on HBO Max feels way less intimidating to comb through. Sure, you might not stumble on some forgotten Disney+ title that you thought you hallucinated as a child, or some Netflix title that only a small handful of people have watched, but you get a sense that if something is on HBO Max, there's a good reason that you should check it out.

That feeling has been abundantly clear with HBO Max's handful of original content, which might not be as zeitgeisty as The Mandalorian was for Disney+, but is still incredibly admirable and promising. As the numbers have shown, the family-friendly shows Looney Tunes Cartoons and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo have already been a hit for the service, while adult-oriented programming like the rom-com anthology series Love Life and the drag ball reality show Legendary have found their audiences as well. While none of the shows might dominate the pop culture conversation yet, their releases have largely been well-received. Much of this might be thanks to the series' release structures, with episodes either being relatively short (less than 15-minutes, in the case of Looney Tunes and Elmo), or released in bingeable chunks (weekly episodes for Legendary, and 3-episode weekly releases for Love Life), in a way that never feels as daunting as Netflix releasing a 13-hour series on the same day.

1comments

It's safe to assume that this release structure will also benefit the slew of originals that HBO Max has in store, including DC's Justice League Dark, Green Lantern, DC Super Hero High, and Strange Adventures series, high-profile series like Station Eleven, Circe, and Dune: The Sisterhood, and yes, the Snyder Cut of Justice League. While the zenith of streaming services has led people to expect a lot of content out of the gate (remember, Netflix didn't begin creating original content until six years after it first offered streaming media), HBO Max is clearly laying the groundwork to become a premium place for original content.

Although HBO Max hasn't made an astronomical impact on the streaming service landscape, its first month indicates that it could be a true dark horse in the years to come. While the price point of $14.99 might intimidate some (despite being a dollar less than Netflix's most premium package), it's absolutely justifiable. As the service's marketing has proclaimed, it really does take the positives of HBO (many were already paying $14.99 for an HBO Now subscription, which allowed users to access HBO and its back catalog without cable), and adds a slew of new content all in one place. If you're looking for a consistently high-quality, but unintimidating streaming experience - as well as the promise of epic new content to come - HBO Max will definitely be worth your while.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.