Max Streaming Service Review: Looks good even without “HBO”.

Save for a few bad impressions from Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming guru JB Perrette, “Max” made a pretty good first impression.

Despite its excellent content, HBO Max has not been a universally loved streaming service. Don’t take our word for it; Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels made a public assent in January. That Breed survey HBO Max, published on Tuesday, was the second best and the second worst user interface among major streamers. (You can guess that.)

The results included complaints about basic features, including rewind buttons and virtual keyboard design, as well as bugs and stuttering. “I find the HBO Max (user experience) consistently infuriating,” said one of the survey’s 40 anonymous interviewees.

Inciting anger is never a desirable feature, but HBO Max will soon be gone. On May 23rd, the streamer will be replaced by a brand new platform built from the ground up. (By comparison, HBO Max replaced HBO Now, which replaced HBO Go, which replaced linear HBO for many cord cutters.) The Max will feature all new technology, a new exterior (now blue!) and a new name – well, sort of.

The future combination of HBO Max and Discovery+ will be known as “Max,” we learned officially on Wednesday — but you, like us, probably knew that well in advance. However, as a mark of introduction and celebration, journalists were invited to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California to witness the live, hour-long unveiling (followed by a media Q&A).

Of course, Max isn’t just replacing HBO Max. That includes most of Discovery+, a service that’s far less prestigious (and cheaper) than HBO Max. According to a poll conducted by Variety, not many Hollywood insiders use Discovery+. (Do not “@” this reporter and HGTV superfan.) “This is the only streaming service that can get away with a mediocre (user interface) value because the service and its content are so niche,” said one respondent.

That scarcity — and relative cheapness — prompted management in February to weigh in on the future of the Discovery-branded platform, home to popular home, food and “90 Day Fiancé” programming. Originally, Warner Bros. planned to end Discovery+ and fully integrate the programming into Max. From now on, it will be possible to have Discovery+ independently and with the Max package. (There will no longer be an HBO-only programming streaming option, and Max will not have all Discovery+ content.)

THE "Max" logo

The “Max” logo

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

Wednesday’s event was a long time coming. Since the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery, Inc. last April, the company has repeatedly pushed back on combining the streamers into a brand new platform. Wiedenfels admitted in January that it was “a bit frustrating” waiting for Max to take shape.

“But the reality is that we only get one chance to make a first impression with the consumer, and we’re not going to throw something that’s not right,” he said at the Citi Communications, Media & Entertainment conference.

If the presentation is that introduced World to Max has every indication that the Max experience will be better than the HBO Max experience. There was no interruption in the live stream; unless you count Warner Bros. Discovery streaming boss JB Perrette’s Bugs Bunny and Joey Tribbiani impressions. Let’s just say they weren’t HBO quality. Or unless you count the odd moment at the very end of the presentation when WBD President and CEO David Zaslav referred to the upcoming “Harry Potter” series as “on HBO.” I mean Max, David, the giant (blue!) logo behind you.

What’s in a name anyway? (Hopefully not much if your name is now “Max.”) Credit Warner Bros. Discovery for keeping the Max prices the same — at least for now — as HBO Max. Make fun of the name all you want, but you can’t say that the value has not changed. If you don’t want to check out Max’s (via HGTV) Barbie Dream Home, which is tied to Warner Bros.’s “Barbie,” don’t; you don’t really pay for it.

In addition to the many (selected) Discovery programs, Max will have several things that HBO Max lacks: personalized recommendations when finishing a series or movie, children’s profiles with functional parental controls and a rebuilt download function. In addition, the response time of the new application and the start time of the video will be 20-30 percent faster, Perrette said (thank God in his own voice). Also faster will be Warner Bros. Discovery’s engineer’s ability to revise Max’s pricing pages to reflect promotions, for example. Changes that once took (kind of) “weeks” (!) in the past now take a day, he said.

And then there’s this, the solution to the strangest churn problem any streamer has publicly discussed about their platform: Apparently, HBO Max’s billing capabilities were so poor that afraid deletions from its US customers can be due to a user’s credit card expiring, a checking account with insufficient funds, or some other bizarre “unintended” exit. Perrette promises that the new streamer will be better able to alert you of billing issues, both via notification and email.

Wow, this app really does it all. We should call this…

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