HBO is changing the name of at least one of its HBO-branded services because no one gets the difference between them, The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey reported. HBO Go is going away completely, and HBO Now will simply be known as HBO.
Jarvey cites “significant brand confusion” as the reason behind the move by WarnerMedia and its parent company, AT&T. HBO Max launched last month and left many, many, many users deeply confused, because HBO has a few other streaming services that also cost money. Some subscribers saw HBO Now disappear, replaced with HBO Max, while others still saw HBO Now on their set-top boxes. Then there are the folks who had HBO Go and no idea how to get HBO Max, with its larger catalog of movies and TV shows.
WarnerMedia has since confirmed Jarvey’s claim in a statement to Gizmodo (the bolding is our own added emphasis):
Now that HBO Max has launched and is widely distributed, we can implement some significant changes to our app offering in the U.S. As part of that plan, we will be sunsetting our HBO GO service in the U.S. We intend to remove the HBO GO app from primary platforms as of July 31, 2020. Most customers who have traditionally used HBO GO to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max, which offers access to all of HBO together with so much more. Additionally, the HBO NOW app and desktop experience will be rebranded to HBO. Existing HBO NOW subscribers will have access to HBO through the rebranded HBO app on platforms where it remains available and through play.hbo.com. HBO Max provides not only the robust offering of HBO but also a vast WarnerMedia library and acquired content and originals through a modern product.
The original idea was that HBO Go would continue to be the primary portal for HBO content for people who subscribe to HBO via their premium cable provider. Those users could then log into HBO Max with their HBO/HBO Go credentials and access the new service for free. HBO Max would be available for $15 a month to people who didn’t already subscribe to HBO through other channels. Previous HBO Now subscribers would automatically get access to Max, unless they subscribed through certain platforms, in which case they’d be stuck with Now.
This last bit is what led to a whole mess of confusion. Two key streaming platforms, Amazon and Roku, didn’t have agreements with WarnerMedia in place when Max went live, which meant their millions of users didn’t have immediate access to the new and highly promoted service and needed to Google to figure out why. And a good rule of thumb is: If you have a new service roll out but people have to do a lot of searching to understand how to get access or learn if they even HAVE access, you have thoroughly fucked something up somewhere along the way.
It doesn’t help that there was already confusion over the difference between HBO Go and HBO Now. I know at least one person (parent) I managed to prevent from subscribing to both. Hell, I regularly had to Google the two to tell them apart when writing about them.
When HBO launched HBO Go in 2010, it chose the name because no other network was really offering a single, easy-to-use portal to access all its content on-demand and commercial-free. The company also wanted to set the service apart from HBO on your TV. When HBO Now launched in 2015 as a way for people to subscribe to HBO without a cable subscription, Go kept its (by then thoroughly unnecessary) name, and confusion began to build.
Now HBO Go will go away entirely by July 31. If you subscribe through your cable provider or a service like Apple or Hulu, you can just log into HBO Max and continue on with your life and have access to a larger library of content.
HBO Now subscribers will see a minor change—the app they use will have a shorter title sans “Now.” But the confusion over why they’re stuck with Now—wait, sorry, I meant HBO—when everyone else gets Max, will no doubt persist. WarnerMedia could not comment on the state of negotiations with Roku and Amazon. So it will likely be many months yet before HBO Now, excuse me, HBO, is finally upgraded to Max.