First, the HBO Now app and desktop experience will be rebranded as “HBO,” a change that will roll out over the next few months. Existing HBO Now subscribers will have access to HBO through the rebranded HBO app on platforms where it remains available — including Roku and Amazon Fire TV — and through play.hbo.com.
The separate HBO Max, which debuted May 27, is the subscription service WarnerMedia is trying to consolidate everyone on — priced at $14.99 monthly, the same as HBO Now but with about double the content. HBO Max “provides not only the robust offering of HBO but also a vast WarnerMedia library and acquired content and originals through a modern product,” a company rep said.
Why isn’t everything just becoming HBO Max? It’s because WarnerMedia doesn’t have HBO Max distribution deals with Roku or Amazon, along with a few other partners, so it can’t fully retire the HBO Now/HBO legacy service.
Meanwhile, WarnerMedia is sunsetting the 10-year-old HBO Go app, which it has offered to pay-TV subscribers who get HBO through a cable, satellite or telco provider.
The HBO Go app will be removed from platform partners as of July 31, 2020; customers who have pay-TV providers that don’t yet have HBO Max deals will be able to continue to authenticate into hbogo.com through Aug. 31.
Service providers that have signed on for HBO Max represent most of the pay-TV households in the U.S. Those include Comcast, Charter, Hulu, YouTube TV, Altice USA, Cox, Verizon, AT&T-owned DirecTV and AT&T’s TV services, and affiliates of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), a consortium of smaller cable operators. (Dish Network and Sling TV do not offer either legacy HBO or HBO Max.)
“Most customers who have traditionally used HBO Go to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max, which offers access to all of HBO together with so much more,” a WarnerMedia spokesperson said. But — again — note that HBO Max still isn’t available on Roku or Fire TV.
What about HBO subscribers with pay-TV providers that do not have HBO Max deals? “For those few remaining distributors, we’re committed to making HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers as possible so hope to get those deals done soon, too,” the WarnerMedia rep said.
In other words: The phasing out of HBO Go is partially designed as a stick to drive remaining pay-TV partners into the HBO Max corral — and add pressure on Roku and Amazon to fall in line as well.
WarnerMedia says it will not publicly disclose HBO Max subscriber numbers before AT&T’s second-quarter 2020 earnings release next month.