Max launched today — here are 5 questions about the new mega streaming service: NPR
When you spend months promoting a new streaming service, the last thing you want customers to see on your big launch day are error messages and sarcastic comments on social media. .
But that’s what happened for some subscribers on Tuesday morning trying to tune into the mega streaming service Max, which Warner Bros. Discovery has created to unite content from its two biggest platforms, HBO Max and Discovery+.
HBO Max subscribers were supposed to transition relatively seamlessly to Max. But for about 90 minutes this morning, while trying to convert my HBO Max subscription, I kept seeing a message like this:
Other people on social media have complained about similar issues, recalling HBO Max’s legendary past technical issues:
My connection issues finally resolved – I don’t know how or why – and I was able to access the service. A spokesperson for Max wouldn’t say how widespread these issues were, downplaying any disruption and issuing this statement: “You should always anticipate issues during a technology rollout of this magnitude. We can say that only minor problems appeared and were quickly resolved. “
Given that the company has a total of 97.6 million subscribers across HBO/HBO Max and Discovery+, the issues on launch day might be understandable. But one of the service’s selling points was the improved technology, so stumbling on day one still isn’t a great look – which raises deeper questions about what Max and Warner Bros. Discovery are trying.
Will Max be a better service than HBO Max, or just bigger?
Technical issues aside, the new Max offers a similar look to the old HBO Max format with significant changes. At launch, HBO is the only brand across all platforms included in Max that’s highlighted at the top of the homepage, and my homescreen is mostly filled with links to shows in the HBO Max library . This is likely a significant transition, given that Max completely replaces HBO Max, while Discovery+ will remain as a separate platform.
It’s also no surprise that Max is making his debut days before two of HBO’s hottest shows end their run on Sunday: Succession And barry. Fans of both shows have a strong incentive to switch to the new service, making it more likely that the company will retain subscribers and possibly even buy new ones. But I had to scroll halfway through my home screen to find links to Discovery+ brands like TLC, HGTV, and Food Network, minimizing their impact.
The company promises more than 35,000 hours of programming, as well as an average of 40 new TV projects or seasons each month. According to a spokesperson, subscribers have access to all HBO Max programming and “a majority of Discovery+ hours, representing 80% of engagement,” whatever that means.
This is important: since so many consumers no longer have physical copies of the media they consume, when a major streaming service changes the way it operates, it can redefine the scope of content available to a wide range of viewers.
(One thing I noticed: Max offers a lot more options for images to use as “avatars” — photos or graphics you can attach to your account to represent yourself — including characters from Succession, The Sopranos And Dragon House. But I had to scroll through seven rows of options before I got to the picture of a black man, which was disappointing.)
How much does it cost, anyway?
For starters, Max has three subscription tiers: with ads at $9.99/month or $99.99/year; ad-free at $15.99/month or $149.99/year; and an ad-free “ultimate” subscription with more features at $19.99/month or $199.99/year. HBO Max subscribers get access to Max for the same price as their original subscription, so Warner Bros. Discovery is likely hoping most of those subscribers will switch to the new service.
Subscribers who already had HBO Max should see their app automatically update to Max, but if not, you’ll need to download the new app separately (which happened to me). Discovery+ subscribers can choose to stay on the old platform or switch to something else.
What will happen to the HBO brand?
For decades, HBO has established itself as the leading media platform for the industry’s best television programming, from The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos And Thread, For Succession, Game of Thrones And barry. At the start of Max, HBO will remain a series of cable channels and a platform featured in the broader online service, but its brand will no longer be at the forefront of the largest streaming platform in the world. business.
Over time, this could create a seismic shift in the television industry. Warner Bros. Discovery appears to be positioning Max as a broader, more family-friendly platform than HBO, announcing new shows that include a first-ever Harry Potter TV series and a version of Pierre and the Wolf of U2 frontman Bono.
But will this shift in focus make it harder for HBO to take the kinds of creative risks that are core to its brand? Can he continue to produce the kind of television that wins Emmys and sets standards for the industry? Or will we see the service limited by attempts to appeal to an imaginary version of Central America?
Do consumers want the wiring harness recreated in the world of streaming?
One of streaming’s original promises was that subscribers could be freed from the old cable TV system, where you paid a license fee for a bunch of platforms, which many didn’t need or want. But as Wall Street investors began to demand more profits — or any profits — from streaming services, strategies changed, taking us all back to the future. So Max will bring together a range of different platforms, including HBO, Cartoon Network, the DC Universe, HGTV, the Food Network and more – just like a cable system.
As robust as Max’s offerings are, it’s hard to imagine fans of Succession Or harley quinn also wanting to spend hours with Ghost Adventures Or Diners, drive-ins and dives. Will some consumers decide that the slowly rising prices of services like this aren’t worth joining a mega-set of cable-like platforms?
Will the new Max maintain or improve HBO’s shaky diversity record?
A question for programmers looking to reach a larger subscriber base is always who is included in the new target audience. Despite a list of shows that featured significant turning points for women and people of color – The Wire, Los Espookys, Insecure, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Watchmen, Sex and the City And Lovecraft Country among them – HBO and HBO Max have also historically struggled to feature shows created or directed by people from marginalized groups.
As the new Max moves forward, hopefully it will continue to reach for shows that portray characters and stories from an ever-wider range of people. Because the last thing a shrinking streaming industry needs to do is reverse its already limited progress in showcasing projects, performers and creators who are neither white nor male.