Newly Launched HBO Max Gives Access To All Seasons Of 'Friends'

May 27, 2020
Originally published on May 28, 2020 6:17 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

"Friends" fans rejoice. All episodes of this classic sitcom are now available streaming today after they were yanked from Netflix at the end of December. They are back thanks to the debut of a new streaming service, HBO Max. But there's a lot more to HBO Max than a Ross and Rachel rewatch, and here to talk about it is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

Hey, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: Hi. So let's start with the basic. What is HBO Max? And how can people get it?

DEGGANS: Sure. So HBO Max is a streaming service that was created by WarnerMedia that feature all the channels and all the material under its banner. It's part of this drive that we've seen over the past year for these big media companies to create their own streaming platforms so they have more control and they make more profit. Now, HBO Max debuted today with about 10,000 hours of content, including everything that's available on the entire HBO service from "The Sopranos" to "Game Of Thrones." And that's right alongside "Friends," "South Park," DC Universe, "Sesame Street," the TCM channel, 21 films from the legendary Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, and a lot more. Now, it costs about $14.99 a month, which is the same as HBO. And you get a seven-day free trial for new subscribers.

CHANG: OK, well, what if you're like me and you already have HBO? Do you also have to buy HBO Max in order to get all this extra material?

DEGGANS: No, not necessarily.

CHANG: OK.

DEGGANS: Now, most people who have HBO Now, which is the standalone streaming service for HBO, they're just going to get converted over to HBO Max, which is the same stuff from HBO but a lot of the extra stuff. If you get HBO through your cable provider, you'll be converted if you get your service from a list of cable companies that include Spectrum, Cox, Comcast, Verizon Fios, a lot of the big ones. You can check online at help.hbomax.com to see if your cable provider is on that list. And this is interesting because this is the third streaming service to debut since the pandemic forced so many of us to stay at home. And NBC rolled out its Peacock service to Comcast subscribers in April. And this platform with 10-minute quick-bite videos, Quibi, also started in April. But I think this is the service that is really going to have an impact.

CHANG: This is so interesting. I mean, because we are all watching a lot more TV right now now that we're all stuck inside. Is that the only reason you expect HBO Max to do well (laughter) because we're kind of hunkering down still?

DEGGANS: Right. You're stuck (laughter).

CHANG: Yeah.

DEGGANS: Well, that's part of it. But, you know, I think what we learned during the age of coronavirus for streaming services is that the library is key. So you've got these streaming services like Apple TV Plus or Quibi that mostly have original content, and they're not having as much of an impact. But HBO Max has got "Friends," "The Big Bang Theory," "Doctor Who," all eight "Harry Potter" movies, you know, lots of films and TV series that already have tons of fans. So the price tag for HBO Max seems a little hefty. It's only a little less expensive than the most expensive tier of Netflix, but it costs a lot more than Disney Plus, their two biggest competitors. But if you already have HBO, you're already paying that price, so it might not seem like that much of a change.

CHANG: OK. So I understand that you have spent today playing around with the service before this little interview...

DEGGANS: Oh, yes.

CHANG: ...We're having. Nice job you have, Eric. What do you think? Is it really worth $14.99 per month?

DEGGANS: OK. Now, let's just allow that I'm a TV geek, so keep that in mind.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DEGGANS: But I actually liked it. I mean, the material is basically all their library stuff, HBO's collection of originals and feature films. And then you've got these HBO Max originals that are exclusive to the service - a show called "Love Life." It's not that great, but they've got some great stuff from "Sesame Street" and also a really interesting documentary, "On The Record."

CHANG: That is NPR's Eric Deggans.

Thank you, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LE MATOS' "MONTROSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.