The future of (HBO) Max


@hbomax on IG

Sarah Bergin, Arts Editor

Max–who has officially dropped HBO out of its title–is a coveted streaming platform from Warner Bros. Discovery, proven by a wide audience of 96 million active users at the end of 2022. Despite the large variety of acquired film and television shows that draw viewers in, the public is left wondering: what will happen to Max after their acclaimed original series have run their course and their Discovery+ merger begins?

As part of the weekly Sunday premieres, I sit attentively in front of my computer, waiting to see what happens next to the Roy family or what cheeky, pure comment Noho Hank will say next. I am not alone, with “Succession” and “Barry” becoming some of the most talked about shows of Spring 2023. Film critic Zoë Rose Bryant posted on Twitter after season four’s third episode of “Succession” premiered: “I don’t think it’s too soon to say that tonight’s episode of Succession was literally one of the greatest in the history of television.”

This is just one of the many praises that have been shared following the episode of “Succession” on April 9, which became an instant favorite. The voyeuristic feel of a 30-minute, one-shot take intercut with other perspectives hovered over the characters for what seemed like forever, creating an illusion. It somehow manipulated time even further by contradicting itself, passing by in a second as a heart-racing portrayal of grief. It’s needless to say that this episode alone enamored viewers. 2.5 million people across the world watched it upon its release, breaking its previous record of 2.3 million for the first episode of the show’s final season.

Now, 2.5 million is not a staggering amount compared to its 96 million users, but 2.5 million watched it the night it was released. These statistics don’t include other demographics that are watching it at a later date. On April 16, the highly anticipated final season of “Barry” will premiere, aligning with “Succession.” Due to this, viewership may increase even more. Having two beautifully composed and unique shows ending at a similar time is terrifying, not just as a fan, but also presumably for the company and its creatives.

With these two staples coming to an end, Max has been attempting to one-up their catalog. One of their upcoming new series is from the infamous “Euphoria” creator, Sam Levinson. His new project, “The Idol,” has a star-studded cast, including Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Lily Rose-Depp, among other notable names in the entertainment industry. Rolling Stone released a tell-all about the behind-the-scenes environment on “The Idol” set at the beginning of March. This angered The Weeknd, leading him to respond with a scene from the show on Twitter. The messy chaos may be a PR stunt, but the scene he shared is not leaving me begging for more. If anything, it is making me beg them to free Daniel Levy.

Another addition has been the “Harry Potter” television adaption–a series based on the same exact material that the original eight movies and seven books contain. This news is unsurprising considering the wealth and success stemming from the video game “Hogwarts Legacy,” Disney+’s successful “Star Wars” series spin-offs and the streaming numbers from “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon.” In Disney+’s case, along with Max’s “House of the Dragon,” at least the material itself is new, yet placed in an existing world. Feeding off of nostalgia is nothing new, but it is disappointing to see a decision like this being made by a streaming service that is respected for prioritizing original material.

The unfortunate news is that people will watch the “Harry Potter” television series regardless. Whether it be a “hate-watch,” just out of pure curiosity or true, unbridled excitement, audiences will tune in. This adds to the perpetual cycle of reused material, something that will never end until the money stops rolling in. In turn, it prevents new, creative material from being produced by large media conglomerates.

Despite this, there are some exciting releases coming to Max, including a new season of “True Detective.” Fans are excited about the revamp of the anthology, with Jodie Foster playing one of the main characters. Even though it is an intriguing addition to the platform, viewers are still skeptical of Max as a platform. Filmmaker Kevin Kunze replied on Twitter, “I’m excited to watch this on HBO. Get the Max out of here.”

Streaming services as a whole bring their own dilemma to the table: a lack of physical media. It is possible for these media conglomerates to wipe shows off the face of the earth, which has already begun. Max, in anticipation of its upcoming Spring 2023 merger with Discovery+, has dropped multiple HBO and Warner Bros. properties to cut monetary costs. Children’s programming is at the forefront, with “Sesame Street” affiliated works and other material from Cartoon Network on the chopping block. Variety has reported that there is little to no information about whether these cuts are available physically after their disappearance. Art has a price, and it’s clear that the price is being conveniently valued over accessibility.

Since they have scraped “HBO” out of their name, the general public is left with no connection that they are affiliated with HBO titles. Warner Bros. Discovery formally announced the streaming service’s new title, Max, on April 12. Taking “HBO” away is like naming NBC “Company” or Showtime “Show” – it just doesn’t work. Why take away the best piece of your brand loyalty?

Max will also have tiered plans beginning on May 23, with price ranges from $9.99 to $19.99. The tiered prices are also a sign of bribery, giving the highest paying customers the ability to stream with four different devices at once and 4K viewership from the comfort of their home, while the lowest paying customers are left with advertisements. They are not alone in this, as streaming limits have been prioritized as a part of Netflix’s business model. Time will tell whether these elements will impact Max’s amount of subscribers for the worse.

There is a bright side to Max’s platform, though. The Gen-Z-influenced sitcom “Hacks” remains alongside the video game adaptation “The Last of Us.” “The White Lotus” is still around with its quirky yet dark murder mystery alongside Nathan Fielder’s uncanny “The Rehearsal.” Thankfully, we can also revisit the hilariously political “Veep” and the everlasting classic “The Sopranos.” Regardless of what is to come, taking a nostalgic path down the HBO rabbit hole (or discovering these series for the first time) is something that will never fade away. Unless streaming ceases to exist altogether, then these wonderfully original pieces will be taken down forever with well-funded, unwarranted remakes.