HBO Max Questions Answered: Do Current HBO Subscribers Have To Pay For The New Streaming Service?

WarnerMedia executives gave a huge presentation last night revealing all sorts of details about the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, including its release date and pricing, the announcement of some new shows, and a couple of high-profile acquisitions. That's all well and good, but there's been some confusion about whether current HBO subscribers will be given free access to the new service.

You have HBO Max questions, and we have answers. Well, as many answers as possible at this moment, since some aspects still haven't been made crystal clear.

If you're wondering whether you get HBO Max for free, you could try reading this description from the press release in the hopes of finding the answer:

Launching in May of 2020, WarnerMedia will be making HBO Max available to customers in the U.S. for $14.99 per month. The company is targeting 50 million domestic subscribers and 75 – 90 million premium subscribers by year-end in 2025 across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. At launch, AT&T will immediately offer HBO Max to the roughly 10 million HBO subscribers on AT&T distribution platforms, at no additional charge. HBO Now direct-billed users who subscribe directly through will also have access to Warner Media's HBO Max product. AT&T customers on premium video, mobile and broadband services will be offered bundles with HBO Max included at no additional charge. We are in active discussions with our distributors and look forward to offering their customers seamless access to this great product.

Have your eyes rolled back into your head yet? Me too. But thanks to the legwork done by The L.A. Times, here's a more straightforward answer to the question (at least, as straightforward as we can get with the information we have thus far).

If you subscribe to HBO through an AT&T-owned service, including DirecTV, AT&T TV, or U-Verse, then you'll have free access to the new streaming service the day that it launches in May of 2020. Other folks who will get it for free are those who subscribe to HBO Now, but – and here's the catch – only if you signed up directly through If you signed up through Amazon Prime Video or through another third party like Apple, there's a chance that you might be able to get a free subscription, but WarnerMedia is still hashing out possible deals with those companies, and it could easily fall through and leave you having to get a new subscription.

The same situation applies for people (like me) who subscribe to HBO through a non-AT&T cable provider like Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Cox Communications, Infinity, etc. – it's still unclear if we'll get the new service for free, because WarnerMedia is still negotiating with those companies to try to hammer out a deal. And while the future of those deals is anybody's guess, some TV critics online were speculating about why those companies might want to strike a deal:

As for how the changeover will actually work, one of the executives gave an example during a Q&A session after the presentation last night:

"I'll give you the example as an AT&T or DirecTV subscriber. You're an existing setup, you download the app, and you can watch the entirety of the HBO service on the app, as well as the incremental Max content that you saw today. And then your existing linear HBO channel, if you will, still is accessible through your DirecTV and AT&T service."

For more, be sure to check out our complete list of all the original TV shows and movies that will be coming to the new streaming service.