HBO Max begins streaming in late May, joining a crowded field of video streaming services. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which is already available to many Xfinity customers, will launch nationwide in July.
Netflix. Hulu. Disney+. Apple TV+. Amazon Prime Video. YouTube TV. CBS All Access. The Criterion Channel.
The list of premium video streaming services to consider subscribing to already seems endless. Now, two more options with gigantic libraries and some major studio clout are joining the virtual party.
WarnerMedia Entertainment is set to debut its long-awaited HBO Max subscription streaming service in the United States beginning May 27. Powered by premium content from HBO, the streamer will carry over 10,000 hours of programming with a large dollop of Warner Bros. films, paired with shows from TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, CNN, TruTV, and more.
Subscribers will have full access to HBO’s library, which includes everything from episodes of “Sesame Street,” to adult favorites such as “Game of Thrones,” “Watchmen,” and “Westworld,” which was recently renewed for a fourth season. Plenty of binge-worthy older programs, including “The Big Bang Theory” and “Adventure Time,” will also be available.
While it remains unclear when some HBO Max content will be made available it has been announced that all 236 episodes of “Friends” will be streaming at launch. The sitcom left Netflix earlier this year, and since leaving the streamer it has only been available via TBS and Nickelodeon, with the exception of watching on Blu-ray disc or DVD.
The cast of "Friends." Courtesy of NBC
“Friends,” which ran from 1994 to 2004, stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, who were committed to filming an exclusive unscripted reunion special for HBO Max. Production of the special was postponed, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but WarnerMedia stated it will still be filmed and added to the platform at a future date.
One of the streamer’s original programs that’ll be available at launch is new series “Love Life,” a romantic comedy anthology which stars Anna Kendrick. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s “On the Record” is another exclusive title that’ll be streaming this May. The documentary, about music executive Drew Dixon who accused Russell Simmons of sexual assault, had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews.
It’s important to note that while much of what’s inside the Warner Bros. vault will be made available to subscribers, its Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films won’t be hitting the service for the foreseeable future as NBCUniversal inked a deal back in 2016 to have all streaming and on-air rights to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise from 2018 through April 2025.
Unless WarnerMedia strikes a new agreement with NBCUniversal, which seems unlikely when considering Universal Studios theme parks are the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks, don’t expect the platform to take you on any trips to Hogwarts any time soon.
HBO Max is not to be confused with its other streaming services: HBO Go and HBO Now. The former allows content from the premium provider to be streamed by its cable subscribers onto their internet-connected devices, such as tablets and laptops. HBO Now, meanwhile, is essentially the same service except that it’s meant for people who don’t get HBO from a cable provider.
The regular subscription price for HBO Max is listed at $14.99 a month, which puts the service on the expensive end for video streaming options. A discount is available on a limited basis, for those willing to make a year-long commitment, according to the HBO Max website.
While the WarnerMedia team finishes putting together its anticipated launch, NBCUniversal’s Peacock was made available on April 15 to select Xfinity customers with Flex and X1 devices, and it will be made available to the general public and on additional devices on July 15.
Peacock is built around NBCUniversal’s network offerings — NBC, NBCSN, MSNBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and more — and has Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation behind it.
Peacock’s early setup is already smooth, featuring a tiled layout that’s similar to what Netflix and Disney+ subscribers are used to seeing. It has three search options: channels, trending and browse. If you’re looking to set up the Peacock app with the X1 box, use the voice command option “Show me Peacock” on your Xfinity remote control and the app will soon load. After confirming your email address, streaming will be possible in no time.
Peacock is more unique in much of its programming than several of its competitors, as it has live programming and dedicated channels for many of its offerings, in addition to including on-demand options.
With movies, TV shows, news, sports, along with live shows, virtual channels and same-day broadcasts, Peacock has robust offerings for a variety of interests.
Fred Armisen with Daniel Craig performing a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Courtesy of NBC
Peacock has more than 600 movies and 400 TV series to watch, including popular sitcoms “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “30 Rock,” and “King of Queens.” It also has all seasons of “Saturday Night Live.” “The Office” will join the lineup in 2021, once the show’s current deal with Netflix expires.
When the Tokyo Olympics kick off in July 2021, there will also be a 24/7 Olympics channel available with in-depth coverage of the games, as NBCUniversal has exclusive broadcast rights for the Olympics in the United States through 2032.
Xfinity and Cox customers get Peacock Premium, which comes with 15,000 hours of content, with limited ads for no additional charge. An ad-free version is available for $4.99 a month, and for those without Xfinity or Cox, the service can be subscribed to for $9.99 per month without ads — or $4.99 with them. There will also be Peacock Free, an abbreviated form of the streamer, which has ads.
Compared to its competitors, HBO Max seems to be a relatively expensive option, but it’s easy to identify the appeal a subscription offers — especially for viewers who don’t already have access to HBO programming. Peacock, on the other hand, with its wide-ranging options and tiers, seems like an ideal service that’ll supplement and add value to cable TV subscriptions. It's also nice that it won't be breaking any wallets.