HBO Max recently announced that starting December 5th, 2023, legacy ad-free subscribers will lose access to 4K streaming. This change is coming as HBO Max simplifies its subscription tiers and aligns with other major streaming services that offer 4K streaming only on their premium ad-free plans.
This news has many legacy subscribers wondering what’s next for them. Should they upgrade to retain 4K streaming? Or keep their plan as-is if they’re not concerned with streaming in the highest resolution?
This in-depth guide will cover everything legacy HBO Max subscribers need to know about the 4K streaming changes coming on December 5th. We’ll explain:
- Why HBO Max is making this change
- How the new HBO Max subscription plans will work
- Your options as a legacy subscriber
- The pros and cons of upgrading your plan
- Tips for deciding if 4K streaming is worth it for you
- Frequently asked questions about the HBO Max 4K streaming changes
Let’s dive in and unpack what current legacy subscribers should know ahead of December 5th.
Why Is HBO Max Removing 4K Streaming for Legacy Subscribers?
Previously, HBO Max offered an ad-free plan for $14.99/month that included 4K streaming access. This was a holdover from before the HBO Max and Discovery+ services merged under Warner Bros. Discovery.
Now, Warner Bros. Discovery aims to simplify and consolidate the pricing tiers across their unified streaming service. Starting on December 5th, 2023, there will only be two main HBO Max subscription options:
- Ad-free plan – $19.99/month – Includes 4K streaming
- With ads plan – $9.99/month – Capped at 1080p Full HD streaming
By removing 4K streaming from the legacy ad-free plan, HBO Max is bringing it in line with competitors like Netflix, which only offers 4K streaming on its premium plan tier.
For new subscribers after December 5th, the options will be straightforward: pay $19.99/month for the 4K-enabled ad-free plan, or pay $9.99/month for the lower priced tier with ads and no 4K streaming.
But for existing legacy ad-free subscribers, this change means losing a perk of their current $14.99/month plan unless they upgrade.
How The New HBO Max Subscription Plans Work
To help explain the impact for current legacy subscribers, let’s take a closer look at how the new streamlined HBO Max subscription plans will work after December 5th, 2023:
HBO Max Ad-Free Plan
- Monthly price: $19.99/month
- Video quality: 4K streaming enabled
- Ads: None
- Other perks: Unlimited downloads, access to same-day Warner Bros. movie premieres
This premium ad-free plan provides the full HBO Max experience. By paying $19.99/month, subscribers get 4K streaming quality in addition to enjoying content ad-free.
It’s ideal for viewers that want the highest video fidelity to take full advantage of 4K TV screens. Plus, unlimited downloads make it easy to watch HBO Max’s library of shows and movies offline.
HBO Max With Ads Plan
- Monthly price: $9.99/month
- Video quality: Max of 1080p Full HD streaming
- Ads: 4-5 minutes of ads per hour
- Other perks: Some downloads available
The new ad-supported HBO Max plan gives cost-conscious streamers access to all the same great content for just $9.99/month. However, this cheaper plan limits video quality to 1080p Full HD resolution.
Viewers will also see 4-5 minutes of advertising per hour. While not ideal for purists, the ads may be a palatable trade-off for substantial monthly savings. Limited downloads are also available on this tier.
Your Options as a Legacy HBO Max Subscriber
As a current legacy ad-free HBO Max subscriber, you have two main options in response to the 4K streaming changes coming December 5th:
1. Upgrade to the ad-free plan to keep 4K streaming
The most straightforward option is to upgrade your legacy ad-free plan to the new premium ad-free plan when the changes take effect on December 5th.
By upgrading, your subscription price will increase from $14.99/month to $19.99/month. But you’ll retain uninterrupted access to 4K streaming and other ad-free perks.
If excellent video quality and an ad-free experience are top priorities for you, upgrading to continue 4K streaming makes sense.
2. Keep your legacy ad-free plan
Alternatively, you can stick with your legacy ad-free HBO Max subscription that costs $14.99/month. This option makes the most sense if you’re satisfied with 1080p Full HD streaming video.
The benefit is retaining your current price point. By keeping the legacy plan, you’ll continue enjoying an ad-free experience and unlimited downloads.
You’ll just be capped at Full HD resolution instead of 4K after December 5th. If you don’t mind sacrificing 4K streaming to avoid the price hike, keeping the legacy plan is the way to go.
Can I switch between HBO Max plans?
Yes, subscribers can change plans or alternate between the ad-free and ad-supported tiers at any time. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel online effortlessly based on your changing needs.
Both new and legacy subscribers will have flexibility. However, do note that if you downgrade from the ad-free $19.99 plan to the ad-supported $9.99 plan, you cannot carry over any 4K downloads.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Upgrading Your HBO Max Plan
Let’s explore the key pros and cons current legacy subscribers should consider when deciding whether to upgrade to retain 4K streaming:
Pros of Upgrading to the Ad-Free Plan
Continue uninterrupted 4K streaming – Upgrading ensures you can keep streaming your favorite shows and movies in ultra high-def 4K resolution without sacrificing this visual perk after December 5th.
Maintain ad-free experience – The premium ad-free tier will continue letting you stream all content commercial-free. Avoiding video ads may be a priority.
Future-proof for new 4K content – HBO Max has been ramping up new releases in 4K like House of the Dragon. Choosing the ad-free tier future-proofs your access.
Enhanced downloads – The upgraded plan enables unlimited 4K downloads for offline viewing. Great for frequent travelers or commuters.
Best streaming quality – You’ll enjoy the highest fidelity streaming on any screen. Ideal for getting the most out of premium 4K or 8K TVs.
Budget flexibility – If $19.99/month fits your budget, the visual benefits may outweigh the small increase in subscription cost.
Cons of Upgrading to the Ad-Free Plan
-$5/month price increase – Upgrading means paying $5 more per month, which adds up over the course of a year.
-Only benefits 4K TV owners – You’ll only see a meaningful difference if you have a 4K or 8K TV. On a 1080p TV, Full HD already looks excellent.
-4K streaming uses more data – Streaming in 4K uses about 7GB of data per hour. Could exceed data caps without unlimited broadband.
-Not all content in 4K – While HBO Max’s 4K catalog is growing, much of the library is still 1080p. You won’t get full value yet.
Key Pros of Keeping Your Legacy Ad-Free Plan
-Avoid a price hike – Keeping your current $14.99/month ad-free plan means saving $5 each month.
-Little change in viewing on a 1080p TV – If you don’t have a 4K TV, you may not notice lower resolution streaming.
-Saves broadband data – 1080p streaming uses far less data than 4K. Helps avoid exceeding home broadband data limits.
-One less monthly bill to think about – Locking in $14.99/month means fewer billing changes to keep track of.
Potential Cons of Sticking with the Legacy Ad-Free Plan
-Lose 4K streaming – While not critical for everyone, you’ll no longer be able to stream shows & movies in ultra high resolution.
-Video won’t look as sharp on a large/premium TV – Lower 1080p resolution means quality dips, especially on bigger higher-end screens.
-No option for 4K downloads – Sticking with the legacy plan means no downloading videos in 4K to watch offline.
-Miss future 4K content – As HBO Max releases more originals and films in 4K, you’ll miss out on the best quality.
As you weigh your personal pros and cons, think about your viewing habits, TV setup, budget, and priorities. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Choosing the best route depends entirely on your specific needs and preferences as a streaming viewer.
Tips for Deciding If 4K Streaming Is Worth It for You
Here are some helpful tips for legacy HBO Max subscribers considering if upgrading to continue 4K streaming is worthwhile or not:
- Think about your TV setup – Do you have a 4K or 8K TV to truly benefit from ultra HD resolution? If you only have a 1080p TV, you may not get value by upgrading.
- Calculate the annual cost – While $5 more per month doesn’t seem huge, it adds up. Tally the annual price difference to make sure it fits your entertainment budget.
- Consider your streaming habits – Do you binge shows for hours daily? Or mostly watch casual TV a few times a week? Frequent streamers get more out of 4K.
- Compare HBO Max’s 4K library – Take stock of how much 4K content HBO Max offers and if it covers the shows/movies you watch most.
- Think ahead for upcoming releases – Are you excited to stream new releases like The Last of Us or sci-fi epic Dune 2 in 4K when they drop in 2023?
- Check your broadband data usage – Streaming large amounts of 4K video can consume data quickly. But if you have unlimited broadband, data limits aren’t a concern.
Take the time to evaluate your specific viewing habits and setup to decide if 4K streaming will enhance your experience proportionally to the monthly cost.
Frequently Asked Questions About the HBO Max 4K Streaming Changes
Here are answers to some common questions legacy HBO Max subscribers have about the upcoming 4K streaming changes:
When do the 4K streaming changes happen?
The new HBO Max subscription plans and accompanying 4K streaming changes will take effect on December 5, 2023. This is the date legacy ad-free subscribers will lose 4K streaming unless they upgrade.
What happens if I do nothing?
If you are an existing legacy ad-free subscriber and take no action, your plan will automatically convert to the equivalent of the new ad-free $14.99 plan. This means you’ll keep paying your current price, but video will be capped at 1080p Full HD resolution.
Can I downgrade and re-upgrade plans monthly?
While HBO Max makes it easy to switch between plans, you cannot continuously cycle between the ad-free and ad-supported tiers month-to-month. Your plan must be maintained for a minimum period before switching back and forth.
If I upgrade my plan, can I get a refund if I change my mind?
Unfortunately, HBO Max subscription payments are non-refundable. If you upgrade but later decide to downgrade again, you cannot get a refund for the months you paid for the ad-free plan.
How much more data does 4K streaming use?
4K streaming consumes about 7GB of data per hour compared to just 3GB per hour for 1080p Full HD streaming. If you have a data cap, streaming large amounts of 4K video could impact your data usage significantly.
Will I lose access to any content by not upgrading?
No. The actual HBO Max content library will remain the same regardless of which subscription tier you choose. The only difference is the maximum streaming resolution. You can access all the same shows, movies, and specials.
Am I guaranteed that everything will stream in 4K if I upgrade?
Not necessarily; while HBO Max is expanding its 4K content, the 4K library is still limited compared to its total catalog. Much of the content is currently only available to stream in 1080p or below. But the 4K catalog is continuously growing.
Can I upgrade or downgrade my plan at any time?
Yes, you can change your HBO Max subscription plan at any time by managing your account online. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel entirely at your discretion. If cancelling, you can come back and re-subscribe later.
The Bottom Line – Evaluate Your Personal Viewing Preferences
Legacy HBO Max subscribers now face an important decision about whether or not to upgrade their plan in order to retain smooth access to 4K ultra high definition streaming.
There are compelling benefits to upgrading if you want the absolute best streaming video quality. But sticking with your legacy ad-free plan also remains a viable option if you’re satisfied with Full HD 1080p resolution.
Take time to honestly evaluate your specific viewing habits, TV setup, and budget priorities before arriving at the best choice for your needs. While losing 4K is unfortunate, the sheer amount of movies, shows, and originals available make HBO Max a worthwhile streaming investment at any tier.