As a professional TV critic, the question I get asked most frequently isn’t “What should I be watching?” It isn’t “Which streaming services do I actually have to sign up for?” It isn’t even “Sounds cool. Is that on Netflix?”
It’s “What on Earth is HBO Max?”
Walking through the what, why, and how of the Streaming Wars’ latest combatant would require a full explainer, of which there are already many available on the internet, some of them from HBO itself. In short: Wednesday’s launch is the end result of a massive, yearslong merger between AT&T, a communications company, and Time Warner, an entertainment company. Once the acquisition survived a challenge from the Justice Department in federal court, a 15-month process stretching from late 2016 to mid-2018, AT&T rebranded its new asset as WarnerMedia and set about pooling the two companies’ resources.
The result is a service meant to combine the infrastructure of AT&T with the substance of WarnerMedia, itself a sprawling conglomerate made up of elements like Warner Bros. , CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, half of the CW, and of course, HBO.
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