Max, Warner Bros. Discovery’s bulked-up and revamped streaming service that takes the place of HBO Max, makes it U.S. debut on Wednesday (May 23). Max makes several subtle enhancements aimed at making the service easier to use and more engaging — while execs say it should also be more stable than HBO Max.
According to the company, a “large portion” of HBO Max subscribers will have their apps automatically updated to Max — while in some cases, users will be prompted to download an updated Max app. If all goes as planned, HBO Max subscribers will have their previous plan (including their username, password and billing information), profiles, avatars, and settings including “Continue Watching” and “My List” items migrated over to the new Max.
SEE ALSO: What Max Launch Means for Existing HBO Max Customers
For the Max launch, WBD has set up “war rooms” in multiple locations worldwide — including in Bellevue, Wash., New York and London — with staff monitoring systems that are set to trigger up to 1,000 alerts if anything goes awry. “The entire team is on standby,” says Warner Bros. Discovery CTO Avi Saxena.
According to WBD, new app updates for Max will roll out every few weeks, starting as soon as mid-June. The company says it will evaluate customer feedback on a daily basis to prioritize new features and fixes.
Max is available on the same platforms as HBO Max, including: iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablet, Android TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, LG Smart TV, Roku, Samsung TV, Vizio SmartCast TV, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, and web browsers (including Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge for Windows and Apple Safari).
Here are the key differences of Max vs. HBO Max:
- More Than the Twice Content: Max comes out of the gate with 35,000-plus hours of programming, more than double what was on HBO Max. That’s largely thanks to hundreds of shows being added from HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, ID, Magnolia Network and other legacy Discovery networks. The additional content includes seasons of “House Hunters,” “Property Brothers,” “Chopped,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Deadliest Catch,” “Fixer Upper,” “Magnolia Table With Joanna Gaines” and more.
- More Stable Performance With a New Video Playback Experience: Max runs on a newly rebuilt code base to provide a more consistent and stable performance across all devices, according to Saxena, who says the merged Max combines the best elements of both HBO Max and Discovery+. “Discovery+ was built only two years ago, so it has a very robust platform,” Saxena says. “HBO Max had some performance issues.” About 50% of Max uses existing code from one of the predecessor platforms, while the other 50% is new, he says. The app’s new video playback experience is designed to deliver “smooth and cinematic video,” according to WBD.
- Simplified Navigation: Overall, Max has streamlined categories, improved content details pages, dedicated brand hubs and thematic content rails to make finding content and discovering new TV shows and movies faster and easier. While HBO is getting dropped from the name of the service, the top of the connected TV menu features a dedicated HBO tab to emphasize that it’s still a core part of the service. The left-hand rail of the Max UI on TVs has just four items (search, home, My Stuff and settings) — whereas HBO Max had 45, including on submenus. In addition, on certain platforms, Max features an easier sign-in process that lets you scan a QR code or use Wi-Fi-based sign-in features.
- New Personalization Features: In HBO Max, content recommendations were featured only on the home screen. Max expands that to provide personalized content recommendations for each user profile across the whole service, based on viewing activity (like HBO Max, Max does not include user ratings at this point). In addition, after you finish a show or TV season, a new end-card recommendation (which WBD calls the “genre outro”) will suggest other content to watch.
- New 4K Plan: Max is available in three tiers, two with the same pricing as HBO Max’s previous plans plus a new premium option that includes 4K Ultra HD content and up to four concurrent streams:
- Max With Ads ($9.99/month or $99.99/year): 2 concurrent streams, Full HD video resolution, no offline downloads, 5.1 surround sound quality
- Max Ad Free ($15.99/month or $149.99/year): 2 concurrent streams, Full HD video resolution, 30 offline downloads, 5.1 surround sound quality
- Max Ultimate Ad Free ($19.99/month or $199.99/year): 4 concurrent streams, 4K Ultra HD resolution content, 100 offline downloads, immersive audio with Dolby Atmos (may include restrictions in some content categories). The expanded 4K UHD content catalog will comprise more than 1,000 movies and TV episodes; all Warner Bros. movies released this year and going forward when they arrive on Max following their theatrical windows.
- More Prominent Kids Experience: Max offers a default kids profile for new subscribers along with accompanying parental controls, including the ability to limit content by ratings, to lock access to adult profiles; and to prevent kids from exiting a kids’ profile. By default, kids’ profiles are set to allow access only to content with PG and TV-PG ratings or lower.
- New Download Experience for Offline Viewing: According to WBD, Max features a new download experience that aims to address problems in HBO Max, which didn’t always work reliably.
- Expanded Profile Avatars Icons: Max will have more than 350 profile icons for users to choose among, after adding about 100 new avatars for characters like Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dobby, Voldemort, Professor McGonagall, and Hagrid from Harry Potter; Joel, Ellie and a Clicker from “The Last of Us”; Tanya, Portia and Valentina from “The White Lotus”; and Peacemaker, Emilia Harcourt and Adrian Chase from “Peacemaker.” Also available are avatar icons from Discovery shows like Chip & Joanna Gaines from “Fixer Upper,” Guy Fieri from “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives,” Bobby Flay from “Beat Bobby Flay,” Jonathan and Drew Scott from “Property Brothers,” Dr. Sandra Lee from “Dr. Pimple Popper,” Trixie Mattel from “Trixie Motel,” Annie Suwan and Kenny Niedermeier from the “90 Day Fiancé” franchise, and a variety of sharks such as a Tiger, Whale, Hammerhead, Bull and Mako from Discovery’s Shark Week. Those are in addition to characters that have been available in HBO Max from classics like “Game of Thrones,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Sopranos,” “Friends,” “The House of the Dragon,” “Insecure,” “Succession,” “Hacks” and “The West Wing.”
- New Ad Formats: The ad experience on the Max With Ads plan will continue to offer among the industry’s lightest ad loads (3-4 minutes per hour), the company says. Max will combine ad formats from HBO Max and Discovery+. Those will include traditional pre-roll ads (15 seconds), mid-roll ads (15 or 30 seconds), takeovers (which allow an advertiser to be the first ad all users see on the platform for one day, with ownership of the pre-roll and first mid-roll ad in each consumer’s first stream); Brand Block, which lets one brand exclusively own every ad moment within a piece of content; InFront, which lets brands sponsor an exclusive ad-free experience for viewers by eliminating all mid-roll advertising in exchange for pre-roll ads; interactive ads; and pause ads that display on screen when a customer initiates a pause.
- Accessibility Features: At launch, Max will feature 6,500 hours of audio descriptive content. That now includes shows lifestyle brands like Magnolia, TLC, and HGTV as well as the HBO and Max originals. In addition, at launch, Max will support screen reader technology on the web, Roku, Vizio, LG, Samsung, Xbox, PlayStation 5, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android Mobile, Android TV, Google TV, Amazon Fire TV, DirecTV, Comcast and Cox.
SEE ALSO: Max Launch: All the TV Shows, Movies Coming to Expanded Streaming Service