At a WarnerMedia presentation today, the HBO Max parent company announced that its streaming service will debut an ad-supported pricing tier the first week of June. The regular cost of HBO Max (sans ads) is $14.99/mo, which is very decent considering all that the service offers from its movie and TV catalogue. But an ad-supported tier is a smart move; for $9.99/mo, you’ll get commercials, but not as heavily (according to WarnerMedia) as, say, another streaming service we won’t name, whose ad load is abso-hulu-tely monstrous.
For the most part, there will be no difference between the two pricing tiers in terms of content; everything that is available on HBO Max at full price (shows and movies from HBO, the Warner Bros. library, Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, TBS, DC, and more) will be part of the ad-supported tier. But there is a crucial exception: the Warner Bros. same-day premiere movies (like the recent Wonder Woman 84, Godzilla vs Kong, and Mortal Kombat) will not be part of that deal. You’ll have to go an actual theater (!) for that.
As far as the ad experience goes, there will currently be “brand blocks,” (one long break from one advertiser, with limited interruption). In the future, “pause ads” (ads that pop up when you, y’know, pause) and “branded discovery” (sponsored content as you browse, probably like banner ads on websites) will also pepper your viewing.
Of the major streaming services, Hulu is the best known for its commercial tier, but Peacock also uses ads with its free and lower-level price points. IMDb TV, owned by Amazon, is a free ad-supported app, with both new and library content. And Paramount+ is set to add a lower commercial-supported tier to its subscription service this summer, meaning that Netflix is the only major holdout.
The HBO Max pricing news today comes on the heels of an announcement that WarnerMedia will soon be merging with Discovery, Inc, and you can read more about what the means for the streaming wars here—though we don’t yet know what it will mean for future cost to consumers or whether discovery+ will continue to exist on its own.
For more HBO Max, check out our list of the best TV shows streaming there that aren’t HBO, the 50 best TV shows that are HBO, as well as the best movies and best comedies you can watch there right now.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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