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How to get HBO Max, whether you subscribe to HBO already or not

Breaking down HBO Now, HBO cable, and internet package deals to unlock the streaming service

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HBO Max logo Image: WarnerMedia
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, HBO Max, is set to launch on May 27 and will cost $14.99 a month. Unless, of course, you have cable, HBO, HBO Now, the internet, an AT&T phone, and/or order the service early, in which case the access and pricing get ... a lot more complicated.

So how do you get HBO Max, and at the price point you’re looking for?

Here’s everything you need to know about signing up for HBO Max, and whether or not you already have it — no matter what your situation is.

What’s the difference between HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max?

First of all, it’s important to understand the various versions of HBO that now exist.

  • HBO: You get this by subscribing through a pay-TV provider, usually a cable company. It gives you access to HBO via old-school “linear” television channels.
  • HBO Go: This is the digital side of HBO, and it comes with the standard subscription above. If you get HBO through a cable TV package, you can use your cable company account to log in to the HBO Go app or the HBO website to stream all of HBO’s on-demand content at your leisure, rather than having to watch it via the TV channels.
  • HBO Now: This is HBO’s stand-alone streaming service. It’s a separate subscription that doesn’t give you access to HBO’s TV channels, but it does give you a login for the HBO website and the HBO Now app, which has all of HBO’s on-demand content. If you don’t have cable TV and are digital-only, this is the way you would subscribe to HBO.
  • HBO Max: This is WarnerMedia’s new streaming service. It has all of HBO’s on-demand content as well as content from WarnerMedia’s other brands, including various animated shows, the DC Universe of shows and films, and hundreds of classic movies. This has a number of different subscription options that we’ll describe below.

There’s no real reason to have anything on this list other than HBO Max, if you can help it. Max gives you all the content the other services offer, along with all the extra WarnerMedia content. This is why many HBO Now and HBO cable subscriptions come with access to HBO Max at no additional charge. However, there are some exceptions.

If you have HBO through a cable company, you likely get HBO Max

Though it’s the blurriest of WarnerMedia’s own explanations, prospective HBO Max customers should get access to the service automatically if they currently subscribe to HBO through a cable television provider.

As of HBO Max’s launch on May 27, WarnerMedia has announced partnerships with Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Verizon Fios TV, and some independent providers under the National Cable Television Cooperative — and, of course, its own parent company, AT&T (which also owns DirecTV). Anyone who subscribes to HBO through one of those providers will be able to access HBO Max at no additional cost.

If you have HBO through an app subscription, you likely get HBO Max

On top of its deals with cable TV providers, WarnerMedia has partnered with digital services and providers to make sure that HBO customers who subscribe through those services will get HBO Max as well. The current list: Apple, Google, Hulu, Optimum, Samsung, Verizon Fios internet, and YouTube TV. Users will automatically be signed up for the service when HBO Max launches on May 27.

If you have HBO through Amazon or Roku, you don’t

WarnerMedia doesn’t have agreements with either Amazon or Roku, so customers currently won’t get HBO Max if they subscribe to HBO through those platforms. Users can switch to an HBO Now subscription through HBO itself and get the service, or they can just subscribe to HBO Max on its own instead.

If you subscribe to HBO Now, you likely get HBO Max

Most people who subscribe to the streaming-only HBO Now service through one of the cable providers or online services above are also good to go — they’ll get HBO Max for free.

At the same time, HBO Now customers billed through Amazon or Roku won’t have access to HBO Max at this time (because WarnerMedia hasn’t yet made deals with those companies). If customers can change their HBO Now subscription to be billed through HBO directly, they’ll wind up with HBO Max as well.

If you’re not sure how you’re subscribed to HBO Now, you can check the “Billing information” section of your profile in the app.

If you have TV through AT&T, you might get HBO Max, depending on your plan

There’s a bunch of different options when it comes to AT&T’s cable TV packages, which means there’s a bunch of different possibilities for HBO Max subscriptions.

The following AT&T TV plans get HBO Max at no additional charge:

  • DirecTV Premier
  • DirecTV Lo Maximo
  • U-Verse U400
  • U-Verse U450
  • U-Verse U450 Latino
  • AT&T TV Now Max
  • AT&T TV Premiere (when it’s released)

The following AT&T TV packages give users one free year of HBO Max:

  • AT&T TV Choice
  • AT&T TV Xtra
  • AT&T TV Ultimate
  • AT&T TV Optimo Mas

New customers to each of the following plans also get a free year of HBO Max:

  • DirecTV Choice
  • DirecTV Xtra
  • DirecTV Ultimate
  • DirecTV Mas Ultra
  • DirecTV Optimo Mas

Most other subscribers to TV packages from AT&T and DirecTV will be eligible for three months of HBO Max for free — except for those under these packages, who won’t get any free trial at all:

  • U-Verse U-Family
  • U-Verse U-Basic
  • AT&T TV Now Plus
  • DirecTV Family

If you have AT&T broadband internet, you’ll at least get a taste of HBO Max

Users with AT&T’s Internet 1000 plan get HBO Max for free. Subscribers with any other AT&T internet plan get one free month of HBO Max.

If you have AT&T wireless service, it’s the same deal

Users with AT&T’s Unlimited Elite wireless plan get HBO Max for free. If users have any other wireless plan, they get one month free.

What if I don’t have any of these?

Anybody can sign up for HBO Max through its website and get the service for $14.99 a month.

WarnerMedia is offering a discounted price for people who sign up before the service launches on May 27: $11.99 a month for the first year.

Update: WarnerMedia announced on May 27 that it has a deal with Comcast — HBO Max will be available at no additional cost to HBO customers who subscribe through Xfinity, and the HBO Max app is coming to the Xfinity X1 platform as well as the Xfinity Flex. This story has been updated to reflect this new agreement.

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