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HBO MAX vs Netflix: Comparing the Two Streaming Behemoths

hbo max vs netflix
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So you’ve got about $15 left in your streaming and/or TV budget, which do you spend it on? Netflix which has the standard plan for $15.49 now, or HBO MAX which is $14.99. There’s a lot to like about both streaming services, and both have plenty of great content. Here, we’re going to help you decide which is the better streaming service to subscribe to.

Pricing & Features

The features across Netflix and HBO MAX are pretty similar. HBO MAX has two plans, an ad-supported plan and an ad-free plan. While Netflix has Basic, Standard and Premium, though you really shouldn’t consider the Basic plan as it’s a bit…  too basic.

Some of these features depend on the plan, like the number of screens you can use simultaneously, as you can see below. It’s also surprising that Netflix lets you download up to 100 shows and movies on mobile devices, across all of the its plans.

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HBO MAXNetflix
CostAds: $9.99
Ad-free: $14.99
Basic: $9.99
Standard: $15.49
Premium: $19.99
Number of screens3 (for both plans)Basic: 1
Standard: 2
Premium: 4
Mobile Downloads30100
Unlimited Content Access
Major Device Support
HD availableOnly on Standard & Premium
4K HDR availableAd-free onlyPremium only
How to sign upSign UpSign Up

Top titles

Netflix is really the streamer that started the whole “Original Content” phase of the streaming wars. This was because Netflix didn’t want to be stuck licensing content from different studios. As they could lose that content with the licensing agreement is over. As was the case with two big titles like Friends and The Office. So Netflix has been spending a ton of money on original content over the past decade or so. But that doesn’t mean they have better content than HBO MAX.

squid game
Squid Game – Netflix

Some of the bigger titles for Netflix include Stranger Things, Squid Game, Ozark, Bridgerton and Tiger King. But that is really just the tip of the iceberg for Netflix. However, with Netflix, a lot of its originals only have a season or two. As they churn them pretty quickly. Cancelling a lot of big shows after a season or two. So a show is lucky if it gets more than a couple of seasons like Grace and Frankie, or House of Cards.

HBO MAX on the other hand, has the entire Warner Brothers library, which is the second largest studio in the US. So there’s tons of original content there. Even if we don’t talk about The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, there are plenty of other big titles here. Like Euphoria, Barry, Winning Time and The Guilded Age. HBO MAX also has House of the Dragon and The Time Traveler’s Wife coming later this year.

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The difference here is that HBO MAX will get content from Warner Bros. Discovery, its parent company, while Netflix has to buy content from different studios, and even license it from other countries to show in the US and vice-versa. Putting HBO MAX on an unlevel playing field here.

Netflix for sure has a bigger library of original content, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. Saying who has the better library is going to depend on what kind of content you like to watch, as well.

Is 4K HDR available?

Both services offer 4K HDR, however they are not available on all plans.

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For Netflix, you’ll have to fork over $19.99 per month to get 4K HDR. While HBO MAX will only ask for $14.99 per month for 4K HDR. So it’s a bit of an easier pill to swallow.

However, we wouldn’t recommend getting these plans solely for 4K HDR. That’s because the amount of their library that is available in 4K HDR is still quite small. A lot of movies and TV shows are still being filmed in 720p or even 1080p. So it’s not necessarily worth paying for 4K.

How are the ads?

HBO MAX does have an ad-supported tier, which Netflix is planning on adding later this year. For HBO MAX, the ads aren’t too bad. Warner Bros. Discovery says that you’ll see on average about four minutes of ads per hour. Generally a 15-second ad at the beginning and additional ad-breaks that are 30-45 seconds long. Which is much better than Network TV and even on Hulu’s ad-supported tier.

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hbo max ads consumers 2021
HBO MAX with Ads

It also does not run ads on its original content. So if you’re looking to watch a lot of MAX Originals, then you won’t see many ads.

Honestly, the ads on HBO MAX aren’t bad at all. Especially if you already get Hulu ad-supported, which has a lot more ads.

Which should I subscribe to?

Who has the better content? That depends on what content you like. But HBO MAX has a pretty large library, which you can get for as low as $10 per month if you’re okay with ads. Which is rather impressive. Netflix is planning an ad-supported tier that is set to launch later this year, though we are unsure what that price will be.

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On that lower tier, Netflix users are stuck with 480p quality and only able to watch on a single screen at a time. While HBO MAX will offer up to 1080p quality and up to three screens, for the same price. But the caveat there is going to be ads.

Netflix has a much larger library, plus loads of content it has licensed from other studios, so for a family, Netflix might be the better choice. Many still believe that HBO MAX isn’t really a good fit for kids just yet. Even though it does have Sesame Street to its name. You really can’t go wrong with either streaming service. And what we would recommend is subscribing to one to watch your favorite shows until they are over, and then pausing it til they come back. Which can be done for both services.