How to Get HBO Max If You Already Have HBO

Will you get it for free?

Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images

What if I told you there was a streaming service out there that would provide you with a library of Studio Ghibli films, Criterion Collection classics, and beloved TV shows like Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Sopranos, plus original content, including an upcoming Gossip Girl reboot? (And don't forget the #ReleasetheSnyderCut version of Justice League.) Well, that streaming service is HBO Max, which launched May 27, and it's not HBO, HBO GO or HBO NOW but something completely different.

Yes, it's a little confusing, but the upshot is that HBO Max is effectively replacing HBO but also acting as the streaming arm of Warner Media and adding even more perks on to all that. That means subscribers will have access to everything on HBO but also Warner Bros.-owned movie and TV studio properties, the programming of Turner companies like TNT, TBS, and TCM, and exclusively licensed deals with third parties such as Studio Ghibli. That is all to say that HBO Max has a ton of content out of the gate, with much more on the way, and it's why some of your favorites have been quietly disappearing off competitors like Netflix and Hulu in recent months.

But how do you get HBO Max if you're already a subscriber to HBO? Well, it's both sort of self explanatory and somewhat complicated. Let's dig in.

OK, I subscribe to HBO via my cable provider. Do I get HBO Max for free?

Probably! You get access to HBO Max if you already get HBO through AT&T TV, DIRECTV, AT&T U-Verse, Spectrum, Altice, Suddenlink, Optimum, Cox Contour, Verizon Fios TV, or various other "independent cable and broadband providers." So basically if you already pay for the whole HBO shebang, you will now get a bunch of other stuff, too. Your HBO GO app will also still work if you want to mainline HBO programming only, but it's effectively been made redundant with the launch of HBO Max, so make sure to download the HBO Max app on all your devices.

What if I subscribe to HBO via Hulu? 

Same deal as above!

How about if I'm a Comcast subscriber? 

On launch morning it looked like bad news for Comcast subscribers who seemingly wouldn't be able to leverage their HBO subscriptions into HBO Max, but that very same day the two entities made peace and now people who get HBO via Xfinity are free to get the streaming service. An added wrinkle: Comcast is launching its own competing streaming service, Peacock, which explains some of the earlier acrimony.

Wait, you didn't mention HBO NOW. Do HBO NOW subscribers get HBO Max for free?

Yes! HBO NOW launched in 2015 largely as a way to get people to thwart people from using their friend's or parents' HBO passwords to watch Game of Thrones. (Remember Game of Thrones? We've aged about 100 years in the year since the finale.) Long story short, if you already pay for HBO NOW directly or via Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Verizon Fios, Optimum, Consolidated Communications or Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, you are now converted to an HBO Max subscriber. Note: Your HBO NOW app will magically morph into HBO Max if you have automatic updates turned on (or the next time you update manually), so no need to download the HBO Max app directly if you are an HBO NOW subscriber. And after some confusion over the many different versions of HBO a couple weeks after Max's debut it was turning HBO Now into simply HBO and "sunsetting" HBO Go. Whatever that means. 

But I get HBO through my Amazon account, or maybe my Roku. What about me?

Yikes. This is where you run into issues. If you are getting your fix of Westworld, Insecure, and other HBO programming this way, then you will have to throw down the money for HBO Max separately. To get it on its own, HBO Max costs $14.99 per month after the free trial. So you'd want to sign up for the free trial and then cancel your Roku or Amazon subscription to HBO once that ends. However, there may be relief on the horizon horizon for Roku users: Warner Media is nearing a deal to make HBO Max available on that platform. Keep checking back.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.