Why HBO Max Is Winning the Streaming Wars

The Undoing Nicole Kidman HBO Hugh Grant
(Credit: HBO)

With so many streaming services, it can be hard to know which ones are worth paying for. But one new-ish service seems to be rising above the rest.

Despite only launching this past May, HBO Max has seemingly become every film and TV lover’s must-have streaming subscription. What does this one have that the others don’t?

A Deep Bench of Movies

HBO Max started off strong. Out of the gate it offered the entirety of the anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli library (Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro), a large selection of DC films, and all the Turner Classic Movies and Criterion Collection picks a cinephile could want.

Since then, it’s expanded its selection with 2019 and early 2020 hits (such as Birds of Prey, The Invisible Man, Emma), including a number of Oscar nominees (think: Ford v. Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Joker).

This is a fraction of the quality films this streamer has, and finding a film there is quite different than scrolling through films on Netflix or Hulu, where most of the options are B-movies with some hits mixed in. And while Disney+ does have a large selection of films, they’re exclusively family friendly.

But there’s more: HBO Max’s fancy new deal where Warner Bros sends the studio’s entire 2021 slate of films to the streamer on the same day they premiere in theaters (did you catch Wonder Woman 1984 before it left on January 24?).

A Growing TV Library

HBO Max does not yet have as many TV shows as Hulu or Netflix, but it’s steadily amassing a treasure trove of long-running hits.

The service did, however, launch with both Friends and all 12 seasons of the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory — the first time the entire series has been available to stream — and is now adding some more big hits, even stealing away fan favorites like West Wing and Gossip Girl from Netflix.


A Number of Buzzy Originals

When Disney+ launched, it really only had one big original series available, The Mandalorian, and it was slow-going until WandaVision came to Westview.

But since May, HBO Max has had one hit after another. From the darkly obsessive The Vow to the light quarantine fluff Selena + Chef, to the murder mystery nail-biter The Undoing and the globe-trotting phenomenon The Flight Attendant, the streamer has been churning out must-see original series.

Kaley Cuoco The Flight Attendant Trailer Cassie Bowden

Wait — What About the Price?

OK, yes, $14.99 a month is a lot. So if you’re not a subscriber and are tempted to sign up, first make sure you don’t already have access to the site: If you’re an HBO cable, HBO Go, or HBO Now subscriber — or if you subscribe through Amazon or Hulu — then all you have to do is activate your account.