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Pop quiz: What’s the difference between HBO, HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO Max?
WarnerMedia is seeking to clarify that answer. The entertainment company is phasing out the HBO Go app where its cable subscribers have for years streamed programming like Game of Thrones and Insecure. It’s also rebranding the HBO Now stand-alone app it launched for cord-cutters in 2015 as, simply, HBO.
The changes come a little more than two weeks after the May 27 launch of HBO Max, which for the same price as a standard HBO subscription offers a significantly larger library of programming from across the WarnerMedia portfolio.
“Now that HBO Max has launched and is widely distributed, we can implement some significant changes to our app offering in the U.S.,” the company said in a statement.
When announcing the details of HBO Max in October, former WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey called signing up to the service an “IQ test” for customers, explaining that existing HBO subscribers could upgrade to a supersized content offering for no extra cost. But in practice, having three HBO-branded streaming services has created a more complex value proposition for HBO Max than initially intended.
Adding to the confusion is the vast network that WarnerMedia uses to distribute HBO. Customers can sign up via a cable provider like Comcast or Spectrum, by subscribing through third-party streaming platforms from Roku, Amazon and Apple, or by going directly to the HBO website. Depending on where someone signed up, they could either access the programming through HBO Go or HBO Now or even just HBO.
The plan was to have HBO Max take the place of both HBO Go and HBO Now when it launched in May. But in order to make that happen, WarnerMedia had to strike new deals with all of HBO’s distributors to get them to carry HBO Max. On those platforms where WarnerMedia was able to ink deals, HBO Now or HBO Go automatically upgraded to HBO Max. But there were a few holdouts, including Roku and Amazon.
So what’s changing?
The HBO Go app will disappear from all distribution platforms by July 31. That means people who subscribe to HBO via their cable provider will no longer be able to access that app. The majority of those customers will be able to access HBO via HBO Max. But HBO customers whose cable providers don’t have a deal to offer HBO Max, will be able to continue streaming by logging in to hbogo.com until Aug. 31. And, of course, they can watch via good old-fashioned linear TV.
When asked about those pay TV subscribers who don’t have access to HBO Max, a WarnerMedia spokeswoman responded, “The vast majority of HBO Go customers now have access to HBO Max through their cable providers through the distribution deals we’ve secured for HBO Max. For those remaining distributors, we’re remain committed to making HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers as possible.”
Meanwhile, the HBO Now app is becoming the HBO app. Some HBO Now subscribers — like those who watch via Apple TV — have already been upgraded to HBO Max, so this change won’t apply to them. But HBO Now subscribers who access the app via Roku and Amazon will see the rebrand take place over the coming months. They can also access HBO programming through the play.hbo.com website.
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