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With a backlog of HBO original programming, Time Warner movies and television properties, and a year's worth of Warner Bros. theater releases, HBO Max ain't a bad deal at $15 a month. But if that's outside your budget, the streaming service will get a cheaper option soon. Reports say that starting in June, you'll be able to watch most of its content for $9.99 a month, with frequent interruptions for commercials.
CNBC cited anonymous sources for the price, but the fact that an ad-supported tier is coming in June was already confirmed by parent company AT&T. That will bring HBO Max in line with Hulu and similar ad-supported services, which offer more expensive options to get rid of them. Notably, Disney+ and Netflix still don't have conventional advertising, though they're not above the usual promotional home page gimmicks. Hulu's ad-supported service is just $6 a month, even less if you bill yearly, but offers a far less star-studded catalog.
Crucially, the $10-a-month tier will not include access to this year's WB movies, released on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters due to the pandemic. But take heart, penny-pinching movie lovers: that deal isn't going to survive into 2022 anyway, as the major movie markets complete their vaccination programs.
At $10 a month, HBO Max with commercials will sit between Disney+'s $8 a month (without ads) and Hulu's $12 a month (again, without ads). Netflix offers a basic plan with just one screen and no HD at $9 a month, but its standard HD subscription price is $14 a month, with an even pricier $18 upgrade for 4K resolution.
Personally, I think $5 extra a month is more than worth it to avoid the scourge of modern advertising (hey, could you click on some of the links around this page? It really helps us out), and removing those WB movies gets rid of the primary reason I subscribed in December. But any option that allows more budget-conscious users to access the content is a win, especially now that modern movies and TV shows are split into an eternal turf war between international media companies.
$10 ad-supported tier coming in June
HBO Max has confirmed that, indeed, it will charge $9.99 a month for an ad-supported tier of its service. It'll be available "the first week of June," and will include access to everything on HBO Max except same-day WB movie releases, still scheduled to continue for the rest of the 2021 calendar year.
Oh, but that's not all. While the commercials will be either the usual grab-bag or a shorter presentation by a single brand (as is often the case on ad-supported Hulu), WarnerMedia's announcement says that soon they'll start showing you commercials when you pause a show or movie.
Pause Ads (Coming soon): Create a new space to connect with meaningful engagement opportunities when a consumer takes a break.
The press release doesn't say if these ads will appear every single time you pause, or if they'll be full video commercials or just textual banner ads. But congratulations, HBO Max, for somehow finding a way to make ads suck even more.
The new $9.99 ad-supported tier is now available, to both new subscribers and existing HBO Max viewers. You can save $20 on the commercial tier by paying for a year up front.
Oh, and a few more downsides with that cheaper tier: quality will max out at 1080p, you can't download shows or movies to the Android or iOS app, and once again, you don't get those new WB movies in 2021. Okay? Okay.