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HBO Max vs. Netflix: What Streaming Service is Best for You?

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HBO Max vs. Netflix: What Streaming Service is Best for You?

As two of the premier giants in the world of on-demand streaming, HBO Max and Netflix are well-placed to demand your dollars with high-profile and quality content. While Netflix has been around for years and gained a loyal following through a decade of original programming, including some of the biggest hits in recent memory, HBO Max has quickly caught up and continues to grow.

With the understanding that both of these streaming services can offer something for everyone, how do you choose which one is best for you? Unfortunately, there is no quick answer and help you choose the right one for you. 

Let’s break down both services so you have all the facts.

HBO Max vs. Netflix: Side-by-Side Comparison

HBO Max vs Netflix infographic
HBO MaxNetflix
First LaunchedMay 2020August 1997
Price Per Month$9.99 monthly (with ads)
$15.99 monthly (no ads) 
$9.99 monthly (Basic)
$15.49 monthly (Standard)
$19.99 monthly (Premium)
Simultaneous ViewersThree devices simultaneously 1 Device (Basic)
2 Devices (Standard)
4 Devices (Premium) 
Available BundlesNone (bundles with cable companies offer no discount) None
Ads Per Hour4 minutes of ads per hour4-5 minutes of ads per hour
Number of TitlesApprox. 2,000 films and 600 TV shows6,500 titles in total 
Subscriber Count96.1 million (Q4 2022) 231 million (Q4 2022) 

HBO Max vs. Netflix: What’s the Difference? 

Pricing

HBO Max

When HBO Max first launched in May 2020, the then $14.99 price point took the industry by surprise. At the time, it was the most expensive popular streaming service around and was priced $6 more than Netflix’s plans at the time. Fast forward to March 2023 and HBO Max’s pricing has changed, but only by a little. 

The higher of HBO Max’s available plans, the Ad-Free plan, is available for $15.99 monthly or you can purchase it for $149.99 for the whole year, a savings of 20%. With this plan, you receive all of HBO Max’s programming, including its exclusive originals and movies. All programming is available in HD (assuming it was made in HD) and you can download both TV shows and movies for watching offline.

To help attract a new audience, HBO introduced its With Ads version in June 2021 for $9.99 monthly or $99.99 a year, a savings of 16% over the monthly rate. Subscribers opting for the lower price point will still receive thousands of series, movies, and HBO Max originals in HD but without the ability to download and watch offline. Unfortunately, HBO Max doesn’t offer any bundle support like Disney+ where you receive a discount if you also sign up for Hulu and ESPN+. 

Netflix

Over time, since it first rolled out as a DVD rental service, Netflix has slowly increased its prices. When HBO Max first launched, Netflix was the less expensive of the two services. Today, two years later, it now costs more. 

As of March 2023, Netflix currently offers three tiers of pricing. The first, its Basic plan, offers one subscriber an opportunity to sign up for Netflix for only $6.99 a month. With this plan, you can watch Netflix on one device at a time, though you still enjoy all of Netflix’s content in HD quality with no ads and offline downloading on one device. 

Jumping up to the Standard plan at $15.49 a month and you receive all of the same benefits as the Basic plan but you can now watch and download on two devices simultaneously. In addition, the quality of the content jumps from HD on the Basic plan to Full HD on the Standard plan. Netflix’s highest price point, its Premium plan, costs $19.99 monthly and enables up to four devices to watch simultaneously and up to six devices to download offline content. In addition, the Premium plan boosts video quality to Ultra HD and adds spatial audio to certain content. 

Content

HBO Max

As the pricing for HBO Max and Netflix are not too far apart, the biggest consideration for anyone choosing between the two is likely to be content. What makes this decision truly difficult is that both on-demand streaming services are responsible for some of the most popular content over the past decade. 

For HBO Max, flagship exclusive programs like Game of Thrones, House of Dragons, Euphoria, The Wire, Succession, Big Little Lies, The Sopranos, The White Lotus, and The Last of Us are just a few of the excellent programs available. HBO Max is also home to the Warner Bros. library, which adds a huge chunk of programs with shows like West Wing, Friends, South Park, the Big Bang Theory, and so many more.  

HBO Max is also home to a deep library of movies including popular DC comic titles like Black Adam, Shazam, Justice League (Snyder Cut), and Aquaman. For a time, HBO Max even saw first-run movies launch at the same time as the theater for films like Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Dune, Matrix 4, and Wonder Woman 1984

Netflix

When it comes to content libraries, Netflix has long been the streaming service to beat. As deep and as rich as the content library is at HBO Max, Netflix simply has more to offer customers for a similar price. Shows like Stranger Things, Squid Game, Wednesday, Bridgerton, The Witcher, Lucifer, Inventing Anna, and Ginny and Georgia are just a few of the TV shows that are already part of the cultural zeitgeist. 

When you add in movies like Red Notice, Don’t Look Up, Bird Box, Extraction, The Gray Man, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and The Irishman, Netflix really shows its strengths as a content provider. There is a strong case to be made to subscribe to Netflix just for its exclusives, but there are other popular programs like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Parks and Recreation, Schitt’s Creek, The Good Place, and more for your viewing pleasure. 

Both Netflix and HBO Max have won numerous awards for their exclusive content, so it’s safe to say that no matter which streaming service you choose, you are getting quality content to view. 

Supported Devices

Regardless of whether you choose to subscribe to HBO Max or Netflix, you shouldn’t have any issue finding a place or device to watch content on. HBO Max has a robust device selection between smartphones and tablets (Android and iOS), computers, as well as various television companies. Support for PlayStation and Xbox consoles is included as are downloadable apps for Roku, Samsung, and LG TVs, plus Amazon, Android, and Apple TV interfaces. 

On top of all of the available devices, HBO Max has one additional placement in the form of Xfinity’s X1 platform. Adding HBO Max is as easy as grabbing your Xfinity remote, selecting available apps, and choosing HBO Max. You can start streaming right away as soon as you add your login information. 

Like HBO Max, Netflix has an equally robust selection of available devices, including many of the same placements like Samsung and LG TVs, Roku, and Amazon Fire TVs. As far as game console support, Netflix includes support for all of the most recent consoles but can also go back in time to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Vita. 

In addition to availability on smartphones and tablets, streaming media players, and computers, Netflix adds significant support through pay-TV providers like Xfinity, Cox, Vodafone, TIVO, Dish, Blue Ridge, and more. While HBO Max focuses heavily on Xfinity, Netflix branches out to far more cable TV providers to ensure Netflix is available from a set-top box. 

Netflix
Netflix offers a greater volume of original content, but HBO Max might be easier to navigate for some users.

Streaming Quality

For those who value streaming quality and have the bandwidth to support lots of HD/4K video, this may very well be a factor in deciding which streaming service to choose. Between both services, you’ll see a lot of HD programming though HBO Max which only offers one version of HD whereas Netflix offers three different types of HD programming with HD, Full HD, and Ultra HD. 

HBO Max also only offers a fairly small list of 4K content compared to Netflix. For the most part, users can expect a mix of 720p and 1080p for the bulk of HBO Max’s content selection. On the other hand, Netflix offers a wide mix of 720p, 1080p, and 2160p, or what Netflix considers 4K Ultra HD. Whereas HBO Max only includes a few dozen titles, Netflix offers more than 1,000 pieces of content in 4K Ultra HD quality. 

User Interface

When judging the interfaces between HBO Max and Netflix, it’s being done very subjectively. Some people may like more content in their faces and others may like less. If you are preferential toward the latter and fewer content discoveries, HBO Max feels less cluttered, especially on smaller screens, like a smartphone. HBO Max offers fewer categories to review and instead focuses more on content that has just been added, popular movies or TV shows, trending, as well as other highlights like Oscar nominees.

Netflix’s interface feels more cluttered but content discovery is handled better. Aside from jumping right into the top 10 movies and top 10 TV shows, the further down you scroll, the more likely you are to find a category that fits you. Comedies, action and adventure, science fiction, binge-worthy, spy TV, etc., all available at your fingertips.

The bottom line with user interface is that if you like a less cluttered interface, HBO Max is the way to go. If you are looking to quickly discover something new to watch, Netflix is the better option. 

HBO Max vs. Netflix: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Netflix has more than 231 million subscribers while HBO Max has 96.1 million, making Netflix the biggest streaming service in the world. 
  • HBO Max has around 2,600 movies and TV shows to watch while Netflix has more than 6,500. 
  • Both Netflix and HBO Max are home to some of the most popular and award-winning programs over the last few years. 
  • Netflix offers more device compatibility overall but most people will find plenty of ways to watch either HBO Max and Netflix. 
  • HBO Max pricing is more simplified with just an ad-free or ad-support plan while Netflix has three different plans based on how many simultaneous views you need at once. 

HBO Max vs. Netflix: Which One is Better? 

This really is the million-dollar question and the answer is anything but obvious. Both HBO Max and Netflix offer outstanding content at a price point that’s relatively similar and available on dozens of devices. Netflix is likely still the best place to go if you value original content as they simply have more volume. As strong as HBO Max is with its originals, they simply offer less of them. The good news is that you will find something to watch on both services, but thanks to Netflix’s deeper selection of content, it’s still the streaming service to beat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the better on-demand streaming service overall?

This is a truly subjective question, but after looking at the pros and cons for both HBO Max and Netflix, the latter is still the best on-demand streaming service available. 

How do HBO Max and Netflix prices compare to Disney+?

Disney+ remains one of the lowest-priced on-demand streaming services at $7.99 monthly for ads or $10.99 monthly without ads. 

Which streaming service has the better smartphone/tablet app?

HBO Max is more enjoyable to use and faster but the Netflix app helps you quickly discover more content. 

Does HBO Max have ads? Does Netflix?

If you choose to opt for HBO Max’s $9.99 monthly plan, you will receive up to four minutes of ads per hour. The same timeline applies to Netflix’s $9.99 monthly plan. 

Can you rent TV shows or movies on HBO Max or Netflix?

Neither HBO Max nor Netflix offer any content for renting; your subscription cost covers all content. 

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