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HBO Max vs HBO Go: How Do They Compare?

HBO Max vs HBO Go

HBO Max vs HBO Go: how do they compare? Warner Media has just introduced HBO Max into the streaming wars. And already, the streaming service looks promising as the ultimate one-stop shop for the combined forces of HBO, Warner Media, and DC Comics. But then, HBO suddenly shut down HBO Go right after its release. HBO Now was also rebranded into simply HBO. While the majority of HBO fans welcome the upgrade, there are still many questions to be answered. So how does HBO Max compare with the now-defunct HBO Go? Is HBO Max worth making the leap? Let’s find out.


HBO Max vs HBO Go
Photo by HBO Max


What Is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a standalone, combination-type, on-demand streaming service that launched last May 2020. Warner Media primarily operates the service. Warner Media has also taken in Warner Brothers Pictures, DC Entertainment, TNT, TBS, Turner Classics movies, and more under its wing. These companies comprise the media arm of AT&T and are wholly owned and operated by the telecommunications giant. HBO Max will pool resources from the media arm of AT&T, and that includes all of the subsidiaries mentioned.

Warner Media announced their intent to create an over-the-top streaming service back in 2018. Warner Media intended for HBO Max to capture more of the 70 million-plus subscribers currently using other cable and on-demand streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Disney Plus. The company also intended for HBO Max to replace HBO Go, which it decommissioned beginning the end of July 2020. As of its release, the service remains exclusively available to the U.S., although discussions are underway to expand the service to other countries like Canada.

HBO Max will be a combination-type service on a massive scale. The service includes HBO content plus the consolidated content from all the subsidiary companies owned by AT&T. Users can expect to see the full catalog of original series and movies from HBO. There’s also the A-list blockbusters from Warner Media and DC Comics. Samples of which include the Dark Knight trilogy, Suicide Squad, and many more. There’s also content from third-party channels like Adult Swim, BBC, Fox Network, etc. Warner Media claims to have poured more than 10,000 hours of content into HBO Max, and that was before its release. You can also sign up for a free trial through the official HBO Max website.


What Is HBO Go?

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HBO Go was an on-demand, streaming service that came for free with a standard subscription to HBO. The service is widely considered the successor to HBO Broadband, which was HBO’s first attempt to introduce an on-demand online streaming service. HBO Go was also the first successful attempt of the cable TV network to please “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers” who preferred online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. The service allowed HBO subscribers to stream HBO content, including current and past series, films, and specials on external devices instead of a television. The service became popular for its library of theatrically-released licensed from 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Brothers Pictures.

Subscribers of HBO Go had initially been able to view content only through the HBO website. HBO then turned HBO Go into a free mobile app that could be downloaded on multiple external devices. The software was made available on Amazon Fire, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. In 2019, HBO announced exceptions to compatible devices and withheld access from PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Samsung Smart TVs.

HBO originally intended for HBO Go to supplement the standard cable subscription to HBO. All one needed to have to access the service was a digital subscription to HBO. HBO shut down HBO Go on July 31, 2020, to make way for HBO Max. They also concurrently rebranded HBO Now into simply HBO.


Why Did HBO Shut Down HBO Go?

Sample Show on HBO
Photo by HBO Max


HBO retired HBO Go primarily to solidify HBO Max’s position in the streaming landscape. Here’s HBO offering a package with more content than ever for the same price if you think about it. If you happen to be someone who stuck with HBO Go, you would be paying the same price while missing out on loads of content.

HBO Go was also a free add-on to the cable service to begin with, so it wasn’t a profitable revenue stream. HBO Max already cost AT&T $1.2 billion, and they probably had to sacrifice the resources allotted for HBO Go into HBO Max. The investment is the biggest bet to date made by AT&T to maximize the potential of its acquisition of Warner Media in 2018.


Why Did HBO Retain HBO Now?

Photo by HBO Now


HBO anticipated that the adoption of HBO Max would take time, and they know that there’s always going to be a handful of viewers who will miss out on the service. Users might fail to switch because their cable providers don’t have the deal in place or simply because they were content with what was offered before. Some users might not even know that the upgrade even exists.


Not All Devices Are Compatible With HBO Max

There are also some devices incompatible with HBO Max supported by HBO Now. In which case, some users of HBO Now might be forced to stick with the service if they should encounter compatibility issues. HBO Now is HBO’s way of retaining viewers who don’t have access to HBO Max, and it’s the surefire way to get a hold of cable subscribers who might never make the switch. Users without access to HBO Max can still access the service through It’s also a way for them to access HBO content on devices that are not yet supported by HBO Max (Amazon Fire Stick, certain smart TVs, etc.)


HBO Now Was Designed for Cord-Cutters

We also need to remember that HBO Now was designed for cord-cutters without a cable or satellite subscription. The company has reported more than 10 million viewers who don’t subscribe to cable. These are the kind of viewers who prefer to access entertainment options through broadband. HBO Now is the perfect starting point to get users to shift to HBO Max, but it would take some time. HBO Now is also proving to be a highly profitable revenue stream for HBO. With all things considered, it appears that HBO Now is currently the second-best option to HBO Max. It’s also apparently something to catch HBO should HBO Max fail.


What Will Happen to HBO the TV Network?

Photo by HBO Now


All of the hype surrounding on-demand streaming services makes it look like it’s the beginning of the end for cable TV. But in reality, we haven’t been able to reach that point just yet. The HBO television network will continue to operate indefinitely. Not all households have access to the required internet speeds for fast internet streaming or equipment required for a smooth video streaming experience. As it turns out, cable TV signals are still easier to come by than a steady internet connection. And because of the gaps in infrastructure for HD video streaming, most people remain stuck with traditional cable boxes to watch their favorite shows.

Sometimes it’s not even bandwidth, but the router itself that’s problematic. There are cases when you might experience longer buffering periods during video streaming or keep getting disconnected from the internet for no clear reason. These might be a few signs that you need to buy a new router.

You might also want to explore other possible causes for your slow internet connection before making a jump to another ISP. Issues with internet connectivity and device compatibility are still pretty common. That’s why we can rest assured to some degree that cable TV will not go away anytime soon. The TV streaming provider will continue to run on standard cable as it has for the past few decades.


HBO Max vs. HBO Go: How Do They Compare?

We’ve already explained at length that HBO Max is currently being placed at the front and center of HBO services. It’s also quite clear at this point that HBO has no intention of bringing back HBO Go, at least for the time being to make way for HBO Max. But is it really worth making the switch? What exactly are the differences between these two streaming services anyway? Let’s dig in.



HBO Subscription
Photo by HBO Now


When it was first launched in 2010, the only thing HBO Go required for access was a cable subscription to HBO. This is in contrast to HBO Max, which is a standalone service that doesn’t require a cable subscription. Everything on HBO Max is accessible online using compatible devices. The requirements differ, but both essentially offer the same thing, which is on-demand streaming.

But how will you know if your device supports HBO Max, you may ask. If your device supports HBO Max, the HBO Max app will appear on the app store. Conversely, the HBO Now app will no longer be available on app stores. You should also be able to find the HBO Max app on the app stores of select smart TVs, video consoles, and more. Most streaming providers also offer the upgrade for free, so on this front, HBO Max vs. HBO Go are on equal terms.


Automatic Upgrade to HBO Max via HBO Now

HBO Max upgrade
Screenshot from HBO Max


HBO designed HBO Max to be an automatic upgrade for HBO Now.  If you have a subscription to HBO Now, you may already have the service. If you have the right provider, an app update will handle the transition. That is, the app update will transform your HBO Now app to HBO Max. The upgrade takes only a few seconds and comes at no additional cost. You won’t even have to update your personal or billing information. Simply sign in with your existing HBO Now email and password, and select Access all of HBO Max. You can also reset your password for HBO Max at any point afterward.

There’s a catch, though. Whether or not you get the upgrade depends on your biller. Only HBO Now subscribers billed through select providers are entitled to the automatic upgrade. If you are billed by either HBO, Apple, or Google, you are entitled to the free upgrade straight away. If you have one of AT&T TV Now’s most recent plans, you also get an automatic upgrade at no extra cost.


HBO Max Upgrade Terms

HBO Max Upgrades
Photo by HBO Max


Check out this list of cable, satellite, or streaming companies that have signed up with HBO to provide users with an upgrade:

  • Altice One
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • Apple TV Channels
  • AT&T/AT&T U-verse
  • AT&T TV Now (formerly DirectTV)
  • Cox
  • Optimum
  • RCN
  • Spectrum
  • Suddenlink
  • Verizon Fios
  • WOW!
  • Xfinity

If you get your HBO content from any of these providers, you should be able to use your login credentials from these companies to get into the HBO Max app. If not, you should contact your provider for instructions.

HBO hopes that eventually, all the remaining subscribers of HBO Now will move over to HBO Max. There are a great number of benefits offered by the new service. As such, we predict that only a small number of subscribers will actually stay. But for those determined not to make the switch, HBO hasn’t said anything about decommissioning HBO Now. They also provide a way out for reluctant HBO Max users to get back to their old subscription. You can do this through the little HBO portal on the HBO Max homepage that transforms Max back into Now.


More Streaming Partners Expected to Pour In

Watching TV
Photo by angela piacquadio via Pixabay


Warner Media has not yet done distribution deals with Amazon and Roku. That means subscribers of these services are still not entitled to the automatic upgrade. A good number of other streaming providers are negotiating to include HBO Max in their list of services. Comcast is in the process of integrating Max into its Xfinity interface.

This should allow users to search for Max content without switching to a separate app. Hulu also announced recently that they are making HBO Max available as an add-on to their service. Meanwhile, YouTube TV plans to include HBO Max into a bundled streaming package. There’s a whole bunch of other cable companies and streaming providers that have yet to make a deal with HBO Max. So we’ll have to wait and see.


Subscription Costs

HBO Max Offerings
Screenshot from HBO Max


It used to be that a subscription to HBO Go came free with a standard subscription to HBO. HBO Now and HBO Go each costs $14.99 per month, but the total fees are also dependent on your provider.

Meanwhile, HBO Max costs $14.99, and billing is automatically updated for select providers. HBO Max also comes with a seven-day free trial. As you can see, HBO Max’s cost is pretty much the same as other HBO services.

So, if you’re already an HBO subscriber and wondering if you should get the upgrade, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to. And it would be even better if you could get it for free. As Warner Media announced before the release, subscribers of AT&T Now and AT&T Wireless plans who already subscribe to HBO will get the service for free.



HBO Max Content
Photo by HBO Max


HBO Go contains all HBO original shows (every season and every episode), as well as movies, specials, and other content. That includes the newest and most popular shows like Westworld, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and the iconic Game of Thrones. If you happen to be a huge fan of Game of Thrones but haven’t yet subscribed to HBO Max, check out this guide on how to watch Game of Thrones online for free.

One big difference between HBO Max and HBO Now is that the latter is not producing its original programming because it just streams all the content from HBO cable. HBO Max, on the other hand, promises to produce original programming in addition to exported content from Warner Media and DC Comics. And as you might already know, HBO Go and HBO Now almost have the exact same range. And both are only streaming HBO content. With this in mind, HBO Max already promises to offer so much more content than either of these services could ever provide.


What to Expect From the HBO Max Library

Photo by HBO Go


Fans of reality TV will love American Style, Conan Travel, Parts Unknown, and more. Fans of romantic comedy films might enjoy 13 Going on 30, Pride and Prejudice, and Miss Congeniality. There’s also genre-specific films like The Conjuring series, The Hobbit series, and The DC Extended Universe series. The library also includes classic films from the 50s onwards, like Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, and Citizen Kane.

There are also TV dramas like Gossip Girl, The Honourable Woman, and The OC. We also need to mention Friends, which was the subject of a fierce streaming rights battle between HBO and Netflix. Netflix first had its sights on the popular 90s TV show, but HBO eventually bought its right for $425 million.  Currently, all 236 episodes of Friends can be found on the HBO Max library and not on Netflix.

Some of the highly popular series exported from other channels are also included in the HBO Max library. We have been promised complete seasons of Rick and Morty, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and more. Comic book fans are also looking forward to the complete list of Batman and Superman movies from the past 40 years. But while HBO Max has signed plenty of deals to bring lots of content to the service, not all of it will be there from the start. Nevertheless, HBO Max already promises loads of content that we would otherwise not have with HBO Go or Now. It’s already pretty clear which of HBO Max vs HBO Go offers more variety and content.


Compatible Devices

Compatible Devices
Photo by jeshoots via Pexels


This is another area where HBO Max vs. HBO Go diverges. The latter service was compatible with a lot of devices before it was retired. The former is also compatible with most of the devices that HBO Go had been compatible with. That includes Android TV, Apple TV, Android Phone/Tablet, Xbox, Samsung Smart TV, iPhone/iPad, Google Chromecast, Web Browsers, PlayStation, VIZIO Smart TV, and LG Smart TV but with a few exceptions.

HBO Max isn’t yet compatible with Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Nintendo. You might still be able to play HBO Max on Roku or Nintendo, but only with either AirPlay 2 or Cast support from your iOS or Android device. From the outset, it appears that HBO Go had more devices compatible with it than HBO Max currently does. But then again, there’s still plenty of time for HBO to set things up with other cable companies.



Final Verdict: HBO Max vs HBO Go

Photo by HBO Max


The HBO Max vs HBO Go comparison revealed a lot of similarities in terms of subscription options, compatible devices, and cost. But the defining aspect of the discussion between HBO Max vs HBO Go centers on the amount and quality of content. HBO Max has all the content offered by HBO Now and HBO Go plus content from Warner Media and DC Comics. And we also mentioned content from third-party providers. There’s loads of content to look forward to on HBO Max. And you simply can’t expect to run out of things to watch for a very long time.

It also doesn’t hurt that everything comes at the same cost as your previous subscription. The service is also compatible with a long list of streaming devices, notwithstanding current limitations in terms of streaming partners. With all things considered, we will have to side with HBO Max. If you like having plenty of streaming options and at zero additional cost, then HBO Max is the most practical choice. But hey, if you can’t make up your mind about the right service for you, remember that you can always get both.

If you’re looking for other options, check out this guide on the best Netflix shows to binge-watch with friends this year.

HBO Max vs HBO Go: How Do They Compare?

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