Whenever a tech firm says "don't worry, we're not going to change anything for at least X months" you can be pretty sure that as soon as X months are over, they're going to change it. And the latest example of that comes from Max, formerly HBO Max. When the service was rebranded earlier in 2023, Warner Bros Discovery promised that existing ad-free subscribers would be able to keep features including 4K and HDR for at least six months. And now those six months are up, you'll never guess what's happening next.
If you're a subscriber and you haven't already received the email, it'll be coming soon to tell you that if you want to stay on $15.99 per month you'll be saying goodbye to 4K and HDR. If you want those, you'll need to spring for the Ultimate plan, which is $19.99 per month. To soften the blow, Max is currently offering 20% off the annual price if you upgrade to Ultimate.
What else is Max killing off for legacy subscribers?
As The Verge reports, there's another important change for legacy subscribers: the three-stream limit has been cut to two, which is the same as for customers of the current Max ad-free plan. That won't affect solo households, but it could be an issue if you have kids streaming in other rooms at the same time. Downloads aren't currently affected, though: you can still save up to 30 episodes of the best Max shows on supported devices so you can view them offline.
The move isn't exactly unexpected, because it simply moves legacy subscribers onto the same plans as more recent sign-ups. That means you have a choice of three plans: the $9.99 ad-supported no-downloads tier, the $15.99 no-ads plan with downloads, and the $19.99 4K and HDR Ultimate plan. There's also a free sports add-on, and that will become paid-for from 29 February: that'll cost a further $9.99 per month.
The changes will take effect from the next billing cycle, so if you pay monthly, the changes take effect from your December bill. If you pay annually, your plan will change when it's time to renew.
The changes were announced after we made Max our streaming service of the year, a decision that was based in part on its competitive pricing compared to rivals. We still think it had the best year of the big streamers, but there's no doubt that for long-term subscribers it's suddenly become a little bit less impressive.
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.