Ah, jeez. Remember that streaming service that the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia promised us? It’s called HBO Max, and this big bad boy wants your money. One of many upcoming streaming services, HBO Max will have an expansive lineup from all of the corporation’s properties. We’re talking Warner Bros., New Line, HBO, The CW, TNT, TBS, CNN, TCM, Cartoon Network, DC Entertainment, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, and whatever else the hell they own.
HBO Max, which I assume is short for HBO Maximillian, will not only include legacy content like Friends, but a number of original films and television shows too (called “Max Originals”), because every streaming service needs originals now, it seems. According to a press release, WarnerMedia struck film deals with the likes of producer Greg Berlanti and actress/producer Reese Witherspoon. All together, this will make up for “10,000 hours of premium content.” Per that press release, HBO Max will include:
- The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of Friends — one of the biggest hits on television and in streaming
- The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of fan favorites The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars
- The exclusive streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros.’ produced dramas for The CW beginning with the fall 2019 season, including the highly-anticipated new DC Entertainment series Batwoman, and Katy Keene (spinoff of Riverdale)
- New exclusive movie production deals with Greg Berlanti, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful producers, and Reese Witherspoon, Academy Award® and Emmy Award®-winning actress and producer; Berlanti will produce an initial four movies focused in the young adult space, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films
Included in the line-up of Max Originals are these previously-announced programs:
- Dune: The Sisterhood, an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book “Dune”, from director Denis Villeneuve
- Tokyo Vice, based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat starring Ansel Elgort
- The Flight Attendant, a one-hour thriller series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, which will star Kaley Cuoco, who is also executive producing alongside Greg Berlanti
- Love Life, a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig
- Station Eleven, a postapocalyptic limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, adapted by Patrick Somerville and directed by Hiro Murai
- Made for Love, a 10-episode, half-hour, straight-to-series adaptation based on the tragicomic novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, also from Somerville and directed by S.J. Clarkson
- Gremlins, an animated series from Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment based on the original movie
And that’s apparently just a taste. With existing shows, you can expect Friends to hightail it out of Netflix, just as The Office is doing around the launch of NBCUniversal’s own streaming service. It’s all a goddamn mess.
Says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer:
“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is Friends.”
“Under the leadership of two of the strongest creative visionaries — Casey Bloys (HBO) and Kevin Reilly (original content and acquisitions) — and two of the most experienced digital experts — Tony Goncalves and Andy Forssell — I have no doubt they and their dedicated teams will deliver the world’s best storytelling to audiences of all ages wherever and whenever they want it.”
Even with this information roll-out, questions still remain. What is to happen to WarnerMedia’s existing services? I’m talking HBO Now, DC Universe, and VRV. HBO Now offers all of HBO’s programming in a $14.99/month plan—will those subscribers be given HBO Max for free? Will they have to upgrade? Will HBO Now be phased out for Max? Will Now be a lower tier plan for Max? When will then be Now?
DC Universe is a huge question mark, with the service having some struggles as of late. With confirmation that HBO Max will include DC content, will this spell the end for this $7.99/month DC-exclusive app? In the trailer for HBO Max (embedded above), a quick montage very, very briefly showed the logo for Doom Patrol, which the logo still labels “A DC Universe Original” as part of its programming, which could indicate that DC Universe will be absorbed into this bigger service. Perhaps DC Universe will remain as just a comics service with its video content moving to HBO Max, but it would suck for DC Universe subscribers if they have to shell out more if they only want DCU originals.
Finally, people forget that WarnerMedia technically owns VRV, so the press release specifically mentioning Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth was a curious bit. VRV is a sort-of bundle subscription service, including Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, CuriosityStream, Boomerang, and original content for a paltry $9.99/month fee. It’s a great model, saving consumers money by having multiple subscriptions for the price of one all in a single service. But what does that mean for VRV, seeing how HBO Max looks like a supersized VRV?
It’s all a weird jumble, and unlike Disney+, which divvied up its content and properties into five distinct pillars (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic), WarnerMedia has more to clean up and organize with its widespread library. And most importantly, how much is this all going to cost? Surely it will be more than HBO Now—perhaps $20/month? Will consumers be able to stomach that just to stream The Wizard of Oz?
We don’t know when we’ll hear word about those details, but for now we can look forward to (or dread) the full commercial launch of HBO Max in spring of 2020.