AT&T’s four-year streaming project finishes off with the launch of HBO Max during the best time possible: quarantine. The conglomerate has spent the past years garnering deals with numerous well-known franchises such as Warner Bros and DC to jump-start its release. Because of this, the arrival of HBO Max back in May 2020 boasted major hits ranging from Crazy Rich Asians to the highly anticipated Friends.
Let’s start with what is right. AT&T signing a deal with Studio Ghibli was incredibly shocking. It was the main reason why I chose to subscribe: there are no other legal services in the US that have a license to stream the beloved Miyazaki movies. HBO Max, therefore, pretty much monopolizes this franchise. However, Netflix does have a permit to Studio Ghibli outside of the US, Japan, and Canada. You could always turn on your VPN to see them, but whatever. It is tedious to find a free VPN that Netflix has not blocked and that you can use on TV.
HBO Max has excellent content for the average person. You can tell that they focused on both quality and quantity. Blockbuster films like the Harry Potter series, Doctor Sleep, and It: Chapter 2 are guaranteed to draw people in, and HBO knows that. These are just the tip of the iceberg — there’s also South Park, The Boondocks, Annabelle Comes Home, and the list goes on and on.
DC also just dropped a bunch of new trailers, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League is set to be released on HBO Max, so there is a good chance they can expect a surge in subscribers in 2021.
With this platform’s arrival, does this mark the beginning of the end of Netflix? Certainly not. There are undeniable flaws with HBO Max.
I am not too happy with the price of $14.99 a month, but it is somewhat justifiable considering the number of major movies they have. I cannot look past the fact that Netflix is priced at a lower $12.99 per month, and they manage to have plenty of appealing blockbuster movies.
Side note, AT&T has stated that, in the future, there are plans for a version with ads at a lower subscription cost, but for now, they are only working on fixing this startup.
There are also a lot of complaints that HBO Max is not yet supported on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Personally, to me, it was not a problem because my TV doesn’t need either to use the app, but to a majority of subscribers, these two are essentials. And until they solve this issue, it poses a huge problem that could stunt its growth.
In terms of anime content, HBO Max is outrageously disappointing (other than Studio Ghibli). Despite having an entire Crunchyroll collection, the number of shows they provide is scarce. In this medium, they truly lack both quality and quantity. The one thing I couldn’t believe was how, for some reason, there were only subbed or dubbed versions for specific shows. It seems incredibly easy to add one more language audio. Surely someone on the planning team had to have known the importance of providing both the original language and English.
It was unsettling when I found out I couldn’t watch Hunter x Hunter in sub, and I had to stream it somewhere else. I was most drawn to the Crunchyroll collection, yet I ended up watching nothing from that section. On the other hand, you can see that Netflix has been gradually stepping up their anime game, primarily through their Netflix Originals. It is something to consider.
It’s quite evident that HBO Max is still in the works. After all, it has only existed for roughly three months. It’s had a great start, and I can see this streaming service’s potential in the future, but AT&T has a long way to go if they’re looking to surpass Netflix.