Q. I heard about a new streaming service called HBO Max. I have HBO Now so what is HBO Max? Is that the same thing? Why would I subscribe if it is? — Frank, Dayton, Ohio. 

Frank, you’re not the only one confused. Let me explain.

HBO Now is a streaming version of the HBO channel found on cable and satellite TV systems. The cost is $14.99 a month and you can watch HBO Now on Smart TVs, streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV, as well as computers, laptops and mobile devices.

HBO Max is a new streaming service from AT&T (which also owns HBO Now and the pay TV HBO) that will debut on May 27. The cost will also be $14.99 and it will include the programming available from HBO and HBO Now as well as non-HBO shows and movies such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, South Park, Wonder Woman (pictured), The Wizard of Oz and The Matrix.

There will also be some original shows, and content from AT&T-owned channels such as the Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Turner Classic Movies.

With all that extra programming on HBO Max, why would you subscribe to HBO Now if both services are the same price?

That’s a good question and I am stumped for an answer. It would seem logical that AT&T would just eliminate HBO Now and make HBO Max its main streaming offering. There’s no reason that I can think of that anyone would subscribe to HBO Now once HBO Max is available, unless a third party company is offering a discount. (Example: Amazon earlier this year provided three months of HBO Now for $9.99 a month.)

The scenario gets more peculiar when you note that AT&T will give HBO Max for free to HBO Now subscribers who purchased their subs from HBO. Again, why not just dump HBO Now and turn it into HBO Max? Why have people using two different services for $14.99 a month when they could use one for the same price? Wouldn’t that be simpler  for everyone, including AT&T?

Well, as we get closer to HBO Max’s launch, perhaps we’ll learn more about this puzzling strategy.

Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann