12 things cord-cutters (and everyone else) should know about HBO Max

After a year and a half of build-up and several delays, HBO Max is here.

The $15-per-month streaming service is a direct response to Netflix, beefing up the HBO catalog with many more movies and shows while providing a much slicker experience compared to HBO’s current streaming apps. Its arrival should make the streaming wars much more interesting, while giving cord-cutters (and cable holdouts) yet another streaming service to think about.

If you’re still uncertain about what HBO Max has to offer, here’s what you need to know:

It’s HBO, and then some

Until today, HBO has offered two streaming apps: HBO Go for folks who already get HBO through their pay TV provider, and HBO Now for those who want to subscribe on a standalone basis.

HBO Max will have all the same prestige programming as those apps, and at the same $15-per-month price as HBO Now, but it’s padded out with an extensive catalog of additional movies and TV shows, mainly from the WarnerMedia catalog. Those include films from DC, full trilogies for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, classic TV shows such as Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, cartoons from Looney Tunes, and a small selection of anime from Crunchyroll.

AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, has also secured some programming from outside its catalog, including every episode of South Park, the complete series of Big Bang Theory, all 11 seasons of Doctor Who, and animation from Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, et al). All told, HBO Max will have 10,000 hours of programming, and it also has its own original series on the way.

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Despite the name, HBO Max’s catalog extends far beyond what the cable channel offers.

In a sense, HBO Max is the closest thing yet to a direct Netflix alternative. The price is similar (Netflix’s HD plan costs $13 per month), there are no advertisements, and it’s aiming for the same broad range of tastes and age groups. By contrast, Disney+ and Hulu have narrower audiences—the former appealing more to families, the latter being more for adults—and compared to Amazon Prime, HBO Now will have a much deeper bench of critically acclaimed TV shows.

You might get it for free

If you’re already paying for HBO, there’s a good chance you can get HBO Max at no extra charge. HBO Now subscribers can access Max for free, as can folks who get HBO via Hulu, YouTube TV, AT&T, Spectrum, Altice, Optimum, Suddenlink, Verizon, Cox, and certain smaller providers.