HBO Max Still Doesn't Stream In 4K HDR, Is Missing Key Films In Its Catalogue

HBO Max launched this Wednesday with one of the most impressive catalogues for a new streaming service. Not only did it have the highly coveted streaming rights to Friends, it also had decades of Warner Bros. movies and TV shows to pull from. But as new subscribers scrolled through the offerings, a few gaps in the HBO Max catalogue started getting noticed.

Why are all of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films there, except for The Desolation of Smaug? Why is there not a single Superman title to be found? Every streaming platform has the odd gap every now and then due to the complicated legal web that is streaming rights, but with HBO Max so early in its debut, it's hard to know or find out when these gaps will be filled. It seems like this is one of the few things that HBO Max has to fix now that it's launched, in addition to none of its titles being available to stream in the high-definition 4K HDR video.

The Verge was the first to point out the gaps in HBO Max's catalogue of films that you would expect to be on the service upon launch. Much hoopla was made about the DC films and TV shows that would be joining the streaming service, including DC Extended Universe films like Justice League or Wonder Woman, films that could ostensibly stand up against Disney+'s Marvel collection. But The Verge noticed that Man of Steel, AKA the film that kicked off the whole DCEU, and a whole host of Superman titles weren't available on HBO MaxThe Verge writes:

Man of Steel is the sort of small absence that will then clue you into a larger one: there isn't a single Superman adaptation to be found. No Christopher Reeve films, no Superman Returns, no animated movie or show, no Smallville or Lois & Clark. Granted, DC shows and movies present a unique problem for HBO Max because DC Universe, a streaming platform exclusively for comic book-inspired content, exists under the WarnerMedia umbrella. But this further muddies the waters and doesn't really make clear what you should expect from HBO Max.

The Verge points out other odd absences, like the middle Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug, despite the presence of all of Peter Jackson's other Middle-earth epics. And the highly anticipated streaming debut of the entire Studio Ghibli library is missing one key masterpiece: Grave of the Fireflies (which is actually streaming on Hulu, due to the fact that its distribution rights belong to the publisher of the original short story).

It's likely these films are missing because of complicated distribution rights issues or deals that have not yet expired. But the issue is that HBO Max is not yet informing subscribers of which titles are leaving and which titles are arriving — similar to how Netflix, Hulu, and now Disney+ announce new arrivals every month. It could be because it's early days for HBO Max, but this is vital information that the service should think about making public.

One other major kink that the service has to overcome is the lack of 4K HDR video availability. Many streamers own new TVs that support 4K resolution and high dynamic range, and streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+ have quickly accommodated higher resolution viewing (albeit at higher costs). But not HBO Max yet, according to CNET. While plans for "4K HDR, Dolby Vision, HDR10 Plus and Dolby Atmos are on our roadmap," a spokesperson for HBO Max said, those options aren't available on launch, despite HBO Max being the priciest new service at $15 a month. There is no date specified for when those advanced audio and video formats would be available.