Long before the age of streaming, HBO was considered the number one destination for. With its HBO Max streaming service, that content has been combined with a huge catalog of popular shows and movies, including Friends, Rick and Morty, Sesame Street, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and just about every movie. Movie. Not to mention, it’s the only streaming service that releases movies like same day are available in theaters at no additional charge this year.
However, all these benefits come at a high price: $ 15 a month, more than competitors like, other . But those who want to save a little money now have another option: HBO Max with ads, which costs $ 10 a month and only promises per hour.
I tested both versions of HBO Max, with ads and without ads. Here’s how the two plan options differ.
If you’re used to watching live TV with commercials or basic Hulu, the ad breaks on HBO Max with commercials won’t be a big deal for you. In my tests, the ads were relatively infrequent, but the number varied depending on what I was watching.
The ad load was lighter with shorter comedies. During the Friends and The Nanny episodes (both under 30 minutes), I saw a 15 second ad at the beginning and had two more ad breaks for about 30 to 45 seconds each in between. That’s a lot less than what you would get on network television.
The films were a bit more unpredictable: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had nine ad breaks during its two-hour and 30-minute runtime, ranging from 30 seconds to one minute each. Before and after each ad break there was a 5 second “comeback” animation, which I found to be an annoying waste of time. But that screen didn’t appear in any of the other shows or movies I watched, except for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (I tried a few more kids movies like Space Jam and Scooby Doo, but their ad breaks didn’t have this, so maybe it’s Potter-specific.)
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Meanwhile, Wonder Woman 1984, Tenet, and Oslo had no ad breaks at all. The Friends reunion special had seven commercial breaks over the course of its one hour and 45 minute run. (You can see how many ad breaks a show or movie has by pressing the fast-forward button on your device – you’ll see little pauses in the progress line, and if you try to skip one of those breaks, you’ll have to watch those ads.)
Even for movies with the most ads, they passed quickly compared to the ad grade for Hulu, which sometimes includes breaks of up to 90 seconds in length, and Peacock’s, which promises about five minutes of ads per hour.
Although the ads didn’t bother me much, at $ 10 a month, HBO Max with Ads is still more expensive for a streaming service – Hulu’s ad-supported plan is only $ 6 a month, Peacock has a free tier, and you can watch. Netflix and Disney Plus ad-free for $ 9 and $ 8 per month, respectively.
Another big downside: signing up for HBO Max with ads doesn’t give you the full HBO Max experience. You lose the ability to download content to your phone or tablet for offline viewing. And you also can’t see Warner Bros. movies on the big screen when HBO Max starts streaming them the same day they hit theaters, including the upcoming In the Heights, Dune, and The Matrix 4.
If you don’t care about some ads and want to get access to all of the HBO Max shows, but you don’t care as much about those big screen launches, HBO Max with ads might be a good way to save $ 5 a month. in exchange for a few ads per hour. It can also be a less expensive way to test the service, as it no longer offers any free trials. But if part of the reason you cut the cord was for an ad-free experience (and you want mobile downloads and access to these new movies), the $ 15-a-month plan might be worth paying for.
If you’re a long-time HBO fan who expects an ad-free viewing experience, someone who watches most of your shows on ad-free platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, or Amazon Prime Video, or someone who really hates commercials, $ 15 – The one-month HBO Max plan is probably worth the extra $ 5. This price is on the higher end compared to other ad-free streaming services, but it costs the same as paying for the traditional HBO channel through most pay-TV providers.
Two big benefits of the ad-free plan are the ability to download shows and movies to your phone or tablet for offline viewing, and access to those new big-budget movies the same day they hit theaters, at least until 2021.
If you’ve been paying for HBO for years and converted to HBO Max from the previous HBO Go app last year, it may be worth keeping your $ 15 / month ad-free plan to continue that experience and get all the benefits. that the service has to offer. (Or you can always try to find someone who pays for this and is willing to share their password with you.) But if you’re thinking of signing up for the first time, you might consider trying the $ 10-a-month plan to try it out first.
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