Why HBO Max is the best streaming service of 2022 – but can't rest on its laurels

An image of a person holding a phone with the HBO Max app loaded and the TechRadar Choice Awards logo attached to it
HBO Max is our pick of the best streaming service for 2022. (Image credit: Future)

Sorry, Netflix, there's a new streaming king in town.

After what seemed like an insurmountable challenge, one of Netflix's biggest rivals – HBO Max – has wrestled the "best streaming service" crown from its competitor. Well, in our opinion anyway. We've picked Warner Bros' streaming platform out as the TV streamer of the year in the TechRadar Choice Awards 2022 sponsored by Sky Broadband, meaning Netflix's dominance has come to an end after years at the top.

There are plenty of good reasons why HBO Max is our top pick for this year, too. For starters, the plethora of top-tier HBO Max shows that have released on the platform over the past year, as well as the amount of award-winning TV series in its back catalog – particularly HBO's in-house productions – prove that streaming giants should favor quality over quantity.

Whether it's compelling, multi-award winning dramas including Succession and Euphoria, huge fantasy hits like House of the Dragon, comic book fare like Peacemaker, or comedy-positioned projects, such as The White Lotus and Our Flag Means Death, HBO Max's glittering array of TV offerings is of consistently high quality. 

In a world where other streamers have started turning more and more to reality-based shows that are easy to churn out – we're primarily looking at you, Netflix and Disney Plus – HBO Max largely opts for loftier TV offerings. That's not to say HBO Max isn't immune from producing content based around the reality show formula, either. It's just that its offerings are far more enjoyable, provide a light form of educational content for audiences to take in, and don't numb the brain in the same way that Netflix's Is It Cake? does.

Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon is another superb entry in HBO Max's back catalog. (Image credit: HBO)

Then there's HBO Max's movie and documentary back catalogs, which elevate it above its competitors in multiple genres.

From The Batman and Dune, to The Suicide Squad and The Matrix Resurrections, HBO Max is the home of some of the best modern films around. But its back catalog is much more than the flicks that have been released in recent years. The sheer number of excellent Warner-distributed movies, stretching all the way back to the studio's earliest years, on HBO Max is not to be sniffed at. The range and scope of its film offerings means there'll be something for everyone, no matter their age or their genre preference, to stream on any given weekend. Not bad for a streaming service that didn't originally launch until May 2020.

And what of those HBO Max documentaries? There's a slew of superb non-fiction-based productions on Warner Bros' platform as well, including the eye-opening McMillion$, emotionally impactful Leaving Neverland, and the damning indictment of the current US political scene with the shocking 4 Hours in the Capitol. This year more than any other, HBO Max has stepped up its game in the documentary department – and doing so aided its push in becoming our stand-out streamer of 2022.

Robert Pattinson stars as the Dark Knight in The Batman film

The Batman is available to stream on HBO Max now. (Image credit: Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros.)

As delighted as HBO Max/Warner Bros. is over this award win – at least, that's how we imagine they've reacted – things might not be so rosy in 12 months' time.

Simply put, HBO Max may not even exist this time next year. Warner Bros' recent merger with Discovery – the entertainment conglomerate is now creatively known as Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – means HBO Max and Discovery Plus will eventually become one gigantic streaming service. It's unclear what new name (if any) will be born out of this union, how HBO Max and Discovery Plus subscriptions will be affected, or whether half of the content available on both streamers will even be available in the near future. Multiple shows have already been permenantly removed from HBO Max since August's merger, ensuring nobody's favorite programs are safe from the chopping block.

A pie chart showing the US demand share of original programming for the biggest streaming services, including HBO Max and Netflix

HBO Max is struggling to beat the competition in the original programming demand share race. (Image credit: Parrot Analytics)

HBO Max is already feeling the downsides of its merger and the removal of subscribers' favorite films and TV series. In the US, HBO Max's audience demand share for original programming currently sits at a measly 6.9% (per leading analytics firm Parrot Analytics). By contrast, Prime Video (9.3%), Disney Plus (8.5%), and Hulu (7.4%) hold bigger market shares than WBD's primary streamer. Even Apple TV Plus, which continues to struggle to attract subscribers despite its own stellar movie and TV line-ups (and a Best Picture Oscar for drama film CODA), isn't been outperformed by HBO Max – Apple's streaming service similarly holds a 6.9% demand share on original content.

Clearly, HBO Max has a lot going for it – we wouldn't have named it as our pick of the streaming services for 2022 if it didn't. Equally, though, it can't rest on its laurels. The competitive nature of the streaming world means it's only a couple of false steps away from losing a large portion of the goodwill it's built up over the past two and a half years. Just ask Netflix, which has endured a torrid 2022 compared to its rivals.

HBO Max is a titan of the streaming industry and is more than deserving of TechRadar's 2022 best streamer award. Its future success, though, will be determined by whether it'll continue to survive following Warner Bros' merger with Discovery – and that's before it can even continue to pump out fan favorite and award-winning content. 

Enjoy the adulation while you can, HBO Max – because it might not come around again.

For more HBO Max-based content, check out our full HBO Max review. Alternatively, find out how much an HBO Max subscription costs or read up on whether a free trial is currently available.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.