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HBO Max vs. Netflix - Which Gives You the Best Value?

Joshua Thiede

Cable-cutters want the most for their money and with so many streaming services available, choosing the best option can be a daunting exercise. As two of the platform’s heaviest hitters, HBO Max and Netflix have a lot to offer, but both have some unattractive disadvantages as well. A look at the Netflix and HBO Max screen limit, pricing options and content availability will help you choose which service provides the streaming experience that best fits your lifestyle.

HBO Max vs. Netflix: Price and Featurs

Netflix has been holding on to the top streaming spot for years, but recent developments have shown just how unstable the media giant’s footing actually is. The streamer has been making headlines for months as it combats account sharing and 200K in subscription losses. However, as it implements a competitively priced ad-supported tier, Netflix will become a more cost-effective contender.

On the other hand, HBO Max already has an ad-based subscription as its lower-tier offering, though recent studies have shown its subscribers are more than willing to pay full price to avoid breaks in their content.

Netflix claims that its service will have fewer ads than HBO Max, which currently shows around three minutes of commercials per hour of television. Cord-cutters looking for even more savings can purchase a year-long plan at either level with HBO Max and receive a 16% additional discount.

Netflix HBO Max
Features Basic Standard Premium With Ads Ad-Free
Subscription Cost $9.99 $15.49 $19.99 $9.99 $14.99
Number of screens 1 2 4 3 3
Mobile Downloads 100 100 100 30 30
Unlimited Content Access
Major Device Support
HD available
Ultra HD available

Maxing Out Screens

One of the biggest issues cord-cutters face when choosing streamers is how many devices can access these services at once. Smart TVs, streaming boxes, consoles and computers all count towards the limit, whether streaming off of the home network or worldwide. The ability to stream on a number of devices means more members of the household can access content, something that families and vacationers will need to keep in mind. Netflix, with its three tiers of subscriptions, offers the most flexibility. Basic customers can stream to a single device, but premium tier subscribers have up to four devices available at one time.

The HBO Max screen limit is a little more restrictive. With both the ad-supported and commercial-free plans, viewers can stream on up to three devices. This beats out Netflix’s similarly priced tier which only streams to two devices at $15.49 a month. While Netflix may be limiting devices, it makes up for it in the number of downloads per device. HBO Max peaks at 30 shows or movies, while its rival allows up to 100 before error messages close the floodgates.

Library Limits

Streaming on multiple devices with dozens of downloads doesn’t do subscribers much good if the content available is lackluster. HBO Max and Netflix both have immense libraries to sift through. And even though Netflix’s catalog had been shrinking, reports suggest that this trend is on the upswing as they continue their partnership with Universal.

HBO Max is also restructuring some of its content. A recent merger with Discovery+ means the two services will soon be available in a bundle with eventual plans to combine them under one app. Family-friendly programming is a must-have for many subscribers as well, and while Discovery+ will add a wealth of educational content, there is still some in-house concern that HBO Max isn't the right platform for children's entertainment.

Original Offerings

Both Netflix and HBO Max have broken the mold when it comes to original content. Home Box Office has excelled at producing quality shows such as the crime thriller anthology series “True Detective,” the 2019 miniseries “Chernobyl,” and the World War II show “Band of Brothers.” Despite bungling the “Game of Thrones” final season, the network is looking to move forward with season 3 of critically-acclaimed “Barry” and hits like “Euphoria.”

Netflix recently released the wildly popular fourth season of “Stranger Things.” Other original programming includes the outstanding premiere season of teen high school drama “Heartstopper,” dark fantasy adventure “The Witcher” and breakout thriller series “Squid Game.” In fact, Netflix often takes chances on original programming though these risks are usually short-lived with only one or two seasons.

The Final Verdict

There’s nothing quite like settling in on the couch to catch up with your favorite programming. Cord-cutters have to consider several factors before deciding between HBO Max and Netflix. Price-wise HBO Max seems to be the leader, though Netflix’s planned ad-based tier could shake up the playing field. A $10/month fee with ads or $15 without is cheaper than Netflix when customers consider what they’re getting.

At its lowest tier, subscribers can only watch Netflix on a single screen whereas the HBO Max screen limit gives its users access on up to three devices. While mom and dad watch “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” the kiddos can stream Elmo and Cookie Monster on “Mecha Builders,” something bottom-tier Netflix families may find themselves arguing about. As an alternative, Netflix users can download up to 100 shows and movies giving them access to content even offline, over three times as much as what HBO Max brings to the table.

For other customers, it’s the original and accessible content that makes the difference. The Netflix library of films and shows is steadily growing even as the company invests heavily in original programming. HBO Max already has a healthy stable of quality films, documentaries and shows thanks to recent acquisitions and decades of work crafting quality programming.

HBO Max may hold the lead in terms of original content and pricing, but Netflix is still the top streamer and it’s working hard to stay that way.


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