HBO Max, HBO Now, and HBO Go: What’s the Difference?

HBO Max has finally arrived. But how does it differ from HBO Now and HBO Go?

Photo: WarnerMedia

WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max has arrived in a big way. HBO Max launched on May 27 with a truly impressive array of content. The streamer is home to thousands of hours of Warner-branded TV shows and movies and is set to add even more throughout the year. 

One area where HBO Max has faltered a bit though, is in branding. HBO Max is designed to contain everything WarnerMedia has to offer. This includes Warner Bros. movies and its subsidiaries, and shows from channels like TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, The CW, and much more. Then why does the name of the service include only HBO? And then how does it compare to other HBO-branded Warner streaming services like HBO Now and HBO Go? Well, let’s explain.

For starters, it might be helpful to change the name of “HBO Max” in your head to “WarnerMedia Streaming Service” for that’s really all that HBO Max is. Warner went with “HBO” branding for its all-encompassing streaming service simply because HBO is a powerful brand. For years now, HBO has been closely aligned with quality television. And there’s no quicker route to declaring that a new streaming service will also feature quality television than to slap the “HBO” tag on it. 

So HBO Max is basically just this long-awaited WarnerMedia streaming service that contains all of WarnerMedia’s available content, similar to how Disney+ consolidates all Disney properties. HBO is indeed a part of it…but so is everything else. Now where things get confusing is the fact that HBO Now and HBO Go are still in existence. 

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HBO Go is the streaming service available to people who have an HBO account through their cable service. This way they can log onto HBO Go via an app or web browser when they’re away from their home television. HBO Now is the HBO subscription service that individuals without a cable subscription can purchase. HBO Now costs $14.99 and gains you access to all of HBO’s content via web browser or app. 

Now here’s where things get REALLY weird. If that $14.99 price point for HBO Now sounds familiar, that’s because that’s the same price point for HBO Max. If you recall, HBO Max already contains HBO. So why would one purchase HBO Now when HBO Max is an option? The answer is that one would not do so. There’s no reason to purchase a fresh HBO Now subscription when HBO Max is on the table…unless seeing Friends on the homepage really churns your stomach or something.

So why do HBO Now and HBO Go even still exist? The answer is that they might not for much longer. Cable users are able to access HBO Max through numerous different cable providers. HBO Go is still there just for people who have not made the switch yet. Presumably once HBO Max reaches critical mass on cable packages, Warner will quietly phase it out. The same goes for HBO Now. Warner had set up its launch so that HBO Now would automatically change to HBO Max for users who logged in on May 27. But of course, no technology launch is perfect and it will take some time for users to fully make the transition. 

For now, however, HBO Max, HBO Now, and HBO Go all co-exist in the media ecosystem. The important thing to know is that HBO Max is almost undoubtedly the one that new users will want to subscribe to.