I love HBO. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid. Ever since I’ve been on my own, I’ve always paid to subscribe to it, be it on cable, DirecTV or now streaming. I can’t live without it. They consistently make the best original TV shows, TV movies and miniseries of any studio. I doubt Netflix will ever make anything as good as Chernobyl, Band of Brothers or The Pacific. I want any combined HBO/Warner Bros. streaming service to be the best of all the streaming services because they are going to have the best in-house content available by leaps and bounds. I’m harsh here because I love you, HBO Max. I want the best for you. You’re never gonna beat Netflix in subscriber count, and it’s gonna be hard to top Amazon simply because Prime Video is directly attached to a monopolistic shopping site. BUT, there’s no reason you can’t be #3. You’ve got more library content available than Disney or NBC Universal.
What we got this week from HBO Max at launch does not even closely resemble the potential it’s got, which is incredibly disappointing. They have done a horrific marketing job. It seems like if you’re not interested in watching Friends these people don’t care about you. (DID YOU HEAR HBO MAX IS THE NEW HOME OF FRIENDS?!?!?!?!?!)
I don’t mean to pick on Katie here, but I randomly saw this on Twitter while searching for people talking about HBO Max. She does a whole thread pointing out the obvious content they launched with (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Harry Potter, Looney Tunes), yet I can still find about a dozen opportunities missed that should’ve been obvious to these guys long before they even announced a launch date. And of course she doesn’t respond to anyone who brings up some of the things they’re missing. Neither do any of the official HBO Max accounts.
Here is some of the content and features I’ve noticed that are missing at launch:
–The lack of bonus content/extra features.
This is something I’ve been raging about internally and on social media for years. With physical media on the verge of extinction, these companies have to start including the behind-the-scenes documentaries, deleted scenes, commentary tracks, etc. as “Extras” sections on their movies and shows. It would be the easiest thing in the world to implement. You’ve already got “Extras” sections on a lot of titles, but usually it’s just a damn trailer. You can upload as many other clips and features to that section as you want, guys. And people would watch it. Commentary tracks are just as easy to add. You just add each commentary track as one of the audio track options. It wouldn’t require a team of IT supergeniuses to make this stuff happen. Wow. Much technology. So computer. Many codes.
As an example: they’ve got all 3 Lord of the Rings movies, but in theatrical form only. I can’t choose to watch the Extended Editions instead, and none of the hours and hours of bonus content from those releases is available. No effort has been made to involve the audience other than “Here’s 9 more hours of stuff to watch. You’re welcome.”
They’ve got two of the Hobbit movies, but for some reason are losing them both on June 1st. I’m assuming this has to do with previously existing streaming deals, but of course who the fuck knows because explaining something like that would be too difficult.
Given what Peter Jackson and his films did for that studio, the LOTR/Hobbit movies should have their own “Tolkien hub” filled with all sorts of stuff to explore beyond just watching the damn movies. Zero extra effort.
Disney+ is actually doing a decent job of putting bonus features on their titles, and I pray the other services start following that example.
As a film lover, and someone who likes to proclaim that my DVD collection was my film school, I refuse to accept that this kind of content will just vanish with physical media. There are many, many people like me who find learning about the process of making the movie as interesting as the movie (or TV show) itself.
-There’s no way to rate or recommend titles. There’s no trending section or Top 10 list of the most-watched titles. I don’t need this stuff to decide what to watch, but I like knowing what the everyone else is consuming. The top 10 list on Netflix is a consistent source of entertainment, as it’s almost always filled with absolute garbage.
–There’s no support or availability for 4K. That is unacceptable in the year 2020. Netflix has a treasure trove of stuff available in 4K. Disney+ had 4K on its big titles running at launch and you can watch their 4K stuff without an additional charge (unlike Netflix). You can buy 4K-ready TVs for like 200 bucks now. That means it’s mainstream. It’s no longer the future. This is the new standard for high-quality internet video, not 1080p. Stop being lazy.
-Once my HBO Now apps on my phone and TV auto-morphed into HBO Max, my watch history and watch list were completely erased. I guess nobody on the development team thought that might be a good thing to have carry over. It’s in the details, people.
–George Carlin did 14 standup specials for HBO in his career. How many are available at launch on Max? Zero point zero. That’s an insult, quite frankly. HBO used to the gold standard of televised stand-up comedy, but in the last few years they’ve been blown out of the water by Netflix, who simply bought their way to the top of the game by paying all the big names insane amounts of money on multi-special deals.
-There are a shocking amount of major Warner Bros. titles that either aren’t available or appear immediately on the “Last Chance” list. Again, I know that’s because of pre-existing rights deals, but they didn’t plan ahead on some of these titles so that their biggest hits (and by extension, subscription draws) would be in-house when their own service launched? I dunno, *I* would have thought of that. I don’t know why Warner Bros. has to negotiate with itself to have some of its best and most popular movies available right now.
On the flipside of this coin, when Disney+ launched, they included pages for Pixar and MCU movies that were still streaming on Netflix, and put the date each one of those movies each one of them would be available on Disney (Coco at the time, Black Panther, some Star Wars, etc.), so that at least we knew it was coming. It was a simple little feature, but I appreciated the honesty of being like, “We don’t have the rights to stream this on here yet, but we will, and here’s exactly when.” Amazon doesn’t do that. HBO Max doesn’t do that. HBO Max just pretends that movies it clearly should have the rights to don’t even exist. Netflix has a large section where you can see what’s coming soon. HBO Max’s “Coming Soon” section lists 12 movies- most, if not all of which are titles that were already scheduled to arrive on regular HBO. There’s no indication on the platform that Max has made any attempt to acquire new titles for the future.
-They have none of the Dark Knight trilogy movies, which are apparently in streaming limbo at the moment. In fact, they have NO CHRISTOPHER NOLAN MOVIES WHATSOEVER!!! How is this possible? He’s only the most important director the studio has had for the last 20 years.
Speaking of Batman, they have Batman ’89, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but Returns and Forever are leaving June 1st. Makes tons of sense.
-Similarly, they have a grand total of six Clint Eastwood movies. This is the most prolific director they’ve ever employed. How are you not gonna have an entire Eastwood section?!
-For years, I’ve been particularly anguished by HBO over the disappearance of their 1999 TV film RKO 281, which was a fantastic movie about the behind-the-scenes drama over the making of Citizen Kane. It starred Liev Screiber as Orson Welles, Melanie Griffith as Marion Davies and James Cromwell as William Randolph Hearst. I saw it on HBO on TV when it first aired, loved it, then bought it on DVD as soon as it was available (which I guess would’ve been sometime in 2000), but since then the movie has basically been erased from history. It received no Blu-ray release and has never been available to stream on HBO or to rent anywhere else. It’s literally as if they just forgot about it. I’m pretty sure every other “HBO Films” movie is available on the platform, but my favorite one, and one of their best, is gone.
The film won the Golden Globe for best TV Movie. It was nominated for 13 Emmys. WHY DOES IT HAVE NO DIGITAL TRANSFER? It was never available on HBO Now. It still isn’t available on Max.
It’s not all bad, though. To their credit, they have a very good collection of old movies under the Turner Classic Movies “hub”, including a bunch of foreign films (and several Akira Kurosawa classics). They’ve got some old Hitchcock, they’ve got Dr. Who, all the major Studio Ghibli releases, all of Harry Potter (if you’re into that kind of thing), and enough Looney Tunes and Sesame Street to keep your kids occupied for months.
I don’t expect anyone from WarnerMedia will see this, but I hope that there are some people internally at the company fighting for some of these features to be implemented in the near future. And I still highly recommend you subscribe to the service. Even if it only had HBO’s original content, it would be worth the price of admission.
This was the most exciting minute of my life when I was a kid: