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HBO NOW vs. HBO GO vs. HBO Max

Overall best value
  • $14.99/mo.
  • 10,000 hours of content
  • HBO Max Originals
Sign up
No-frills option
  • HBO NOW is now just HBO
  • Same price as HBO Max
No longer available
  • No longer available

Update 7/31/20: Now that HBO has rolled out new hotness with HBO Max, they’re shaking up their app game. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The HBO GO app that allows cable or satellite TV customers to stream HBO is going away as of July 31, 2020.
  • HBO Now, the standalone streaming app, is now called HBO—everything will work the same.
  • There are now only two ways to stream HBO: through the HBO app (formerly HBO NOW) and HBO Max. Each streaming service costs $14.99 a month.

Watch for a more comprehensive update of this guide.

What’s the difference between HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO Max?

Home to countless superlative series, and Entourage, HBO needs no introduction. HBO invented the term “premium cable TV,” and it doesn’t just live on cable or satellite TV anymore.

HBO NOW has been a streaming service of its own for years, and those who prefer their traditional cable or satellite TV have a convenient away-from-home mobile option in HBO GO.

In 2020, there’s HBO Max. Just as three dragons are better than one (getting the obligatory Game of Thrones reference in early), HBO Max is the “maximum streaming” answer to “premium cable TV.” HBO Max somehow gives you a superabundance of content for exactly the same price as regular HBO and HBO NOW.

Let CableTV.com break down the nuances of HBO’s streaming service trifecta.

HBO NOW vs. HBO GO vs. HBO Max pros and cons

HBO NOW and GO

Pros

HBO originals
Recently released movies

Cons

HBO GO requires a cable or satellite TV subscription

HBO Max

Pros

Entire HBO catalog
Loaded TV and movie libraries

Cons

So-so Max Originals

HBO free trials and deals

If you’re subscribed to one of parent company AT&T’s television services like AT&T TV, U-verse, or AT&T TV NOW, you can get HBO free for a full year.

This offer is available only to new subscribers who go directly through HBO, not customers who get HBO NOW through a third party like Amazon Prime or Hulu.

HBO NOW and HBO Max both offer seven-day free trial periods for either streaming service.

HBO NOW vs. HBO GO vs. HBO Max prices and features

Swipe Left to See All →
ServicePriceVideo resolutionSimultaneous streams
HBO NOW$14.99/mo.1080p3
HBO GOFree with cable/satellite subscription1080p3
HBO Max$14.99/mo.1080p3

Data effective 04/17/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

HBO Now Logo

HBO NOW

  • $14.99/mo.
  • 1080p video resolution
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Introduced in 2015, HBO NOW is a streaming service that requires no cable or satellite TV subscription. HBO finally answered the demands of cord-cutters with its own version of Netflix or Hulu, just completely HBO-centric (which you can do if you’re HBO).

HBO NOW carries all of the same original shows, sports specials, and post-theater movies as HBO proper, just in on-demand form. It’s not “live,” but HBO NOW makes its premieres and new episodes available to stream at the same time as they debut on cable or satellite HBO.

There are exceptions: live-aired programs like Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Real Time With Bill Maher, and sports events appear on HBO NOW the day after broadcast. Also, randomly, some movies are available on HBO NOW only for a limited time—which means you’ll have to watch Hobbs & Shaw fast, if not furiously.

HBO NOW supported devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android phones and tablet
  • Android TV
  • Apple iPhone and iPad
  • Apple TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Mac and Windows computers and laptops
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku
  • Samsung smart TV
  • Xbox One

HBO GO

  • Free with cable/satellite subscription
  • 1080p video resolution
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Like HBO NOW, HBO GO gives you everything from standard HBO—nothing more, nothing less. HBO GO is a streaming service available for free and only to regular HBO subscribers, and requires a sign in with cable or satellite TV credentials.

“GO” is the operative word in HBO GO, but the streaming service isn’t limited to just mobile phones and tablets: it’s also available on many of the same streaming devices as HBO NOW is, which doesn’t really help alleviate the HBO app confusion.

HBO NOW and HBO GO are both flawlessly functioning, but neither allows downloads for offline viewing, a major minus for cord-cutters on the GO who want to watch a show NOW with no wireless connection. Not to give too much away, but this is a sticking point addressed by HBO Max—read on.

HBO GO supported devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android phone, tablet
  • Android TV
  • Apple iPhone and iPad
  • Apple TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Mac and Windows computer, laptop
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku
  • Samsung smart TV
  • TiVo
  • Xbox One

Pro tip: You’ll need an excellent TV package to get HBO GO. Check out our article “5 Best TV Packages 2020” to see which one is right for you.

Editor's Choice

HBO Max

  • $14.99/mo.
  • 1080p video resolution
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

Thankfully, the streaming service wasn’t named HBO+, but it would have fit: In addition to offline downloads (a major HBO upgrade), HBO Max gives you all the HBO content of NOW and GO, plus several new exclusive shows and a staggering load of legacy titles from HBO cousin company WarnerMedia.

Remember the hype around Disney+ in 2019? HBO Max is riding a similar wave that’s based more on a treasure trove of classic content than new productions.

Disney+ has originals, but Star Wars, Marvel, and The Simpsons get the clicks. Likewise, HBO Max’s new original shows don’t have the sizzle to match entire catalogues of The Big Bang Theory, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and (clap-clap-clap-clap) Friends.

Just some of HBO Max’s TV catalogue exclusives:

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • The West Wing
  • South Park
  • The O.C.
  • Gossip Girl
  • Doctor Who
  • Steven Universe
  • Adventure Time
  • Impractical Jokers
  • The Bachelor/Bachelorette

HBO Max will also feature a plethora of WarnerMedia-produced blockbuster movies, including DC’s The Dark Knight and Wonder Woman, the Lord of the Rings and Matrix collections, and the greatest sports documentary of all time, Space Jam.

HBO Max carries around 10,000 hours of programming, which includes HBO series past and present, as well as current titles from WarnerMedia networks such as TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, and CNN. Cult hit Doom Patrol was even relocated from DC Universe to HBO Max.

As for in-house series—or as HBO Max calls them, “Max Originals”—there’s not much that looks to be an instant breakout hit like The Mandalorian was for Disney+. But The Flight Attendant, based on the thriller novel and starring The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco, has some early buzz, as do Ridley Scott’s sci-fi series Raised by Wolves and musical revival Grease: Rydell High.

There’s also some new original content for the kiddies on HBO Max, including Adventure Time: Distant Lands, Jellystone, and The Fungies. Also, a whole lotta classic and new Looney Tunes.

The most anticipated event attached to HBO Max is a nostalgic one: a Friends reunion special that gathers all six stars together on-camera for the first time since the series wrapped in 2004. Could this be more of a Mandalorian moment for Max?

HBO Max supported devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV (unavailable at launch)
  • Android phones and tablet
  • Android TV
  • Apple iPhone and iPad
  • Apple TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Mac and Windows computers and laptops
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku (unavailable at launch)
  • Samsung smart TV
  • Xbox One

Our final take: Max is the best of all HBO worlds

We’re not sure if it was HBO’s intention for Max to eventually replace NOW and GO altogether, but it certainly seems that way—why pay the same $15 for less content? HBO Max gives you everything HBO’s other services and cable or satellite TV outlets do, plus so much more.

That so much more means HBO Max’s classic content, not necessarily its original exclusives. Given HBO’s creative track record, it’s inevitable that some HBO Max Originals will blow up (who saw Succession coming?), but right now, it’s all about Friends reruns.

HBO Max may be pricier than Disney+ and Netflix, but it has the quality content to compete. It may also signal that winter is coming for HBO NOW and HBO GO (one last GoT reference). If you want HBO, we say Max is the obvious choice.

HBO NOW vs. HBO GO vs. HBO Max FAQ

Is HBO NOW free on Amazon Prime Video?

With an Amazon Prime membership, you can add HBO as a “channel” in your Amazon Prime Video feed. But it’s not a free add-on: after a free seven-day trial, HBO through Amazon Prime costs $14.99 a month, the same as an HBO NOW or standard cable or satellite TV subscription.

Does HBO NOW carry HBO live?

HBO NOW is a streaming service that is on demand, so it isn’t “live” like HBO on cable or satellite TV. HBO does make new shows and movies available on HBO Now at the same time as they run on standard HBO, so there’s no waiting.

Live-on-air shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Real Time with Bill Maher, and sports events, however, aren’t available on HBO NOW until up to 24 hours after broadcast.

Can you download shows from HBO NOW or HBO GO?

Unlike Netflix and Hulu, neither HBO NOW nor HBO GO allows for downloads of shows or movies for offline viewing. HBO Max does allow downloads, putting it more in-line with other major streaming service subscriptions.

Does HBO NOW support 4K?

HBO NOW does not support 4K. Also, HBO NOW is dropping “NOW” from its name. So it’s just HBO, now.

Can you tell me how to get HBO GO?

HBO GO has gone away. There are only two HBO apps now: HBO (formerly HBO NOW) and HBO Max. Both are standalone services and cost $14.99 a month.

Can I watch HBO live with HBO NOW or HBO Max?

Neither of these HBO apps support livestreaming—the content is available exclusively on-demand.

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