HBO has long been an entertainment juggernaut. With the recent announcement that all new Warner Bros. movies in 2021 will be available at no extra charge through HBO Max on the same day as their theatrical release, you might be considering subscribing to HBO Max. The fact that HBO is finally going to be streaming content in 4K, starting with the release of Wonder Woman 1984 this Christmas, makes the streaming service more enticing than ever. If you’re a Prime member and you do decide to subscribe, as a Fire TV owner you are much better off subscribing to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels than directly through HBO. Here are several reasons why.
Full access to all HBO Max apps
First and foremost, there’s no downside to subscribing to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels because doing so gives you the exact same access to all HBO Max apps on all platforms and devices as if you subscribed directly through HBO. I wouldn’t be writing this article if you were forced to use Amazon’s apps. When you login/activate an HBO Max app, you simply select “Sign In Through a TV or Mobile Provider” and then choose “Prime Video Channels” from the list of providers. That will grant you the exact same access and content as if you subscribed through HBO directly. Whether you want to use the HBO Max app for Fire TV, on your phone, on a tablet, or any other device, you’ll be able to use any HBO Max app just the same.
Same Price ….or possibly cheaper
Subscribing to HBO Max through HBO directly or through Prime Video Channels both cost $14.99 per month. The exception to this is if either HBO or Amazon run promotions for the subscription, which occasionally happens. There is a possibility that using an Amazon Store Card or an Amazon Visa Card to pay for your subscription through Prime Video Channels will earn you 5% cashback, making the subscription through Prime Video Channels slightly cheaper at $14.24 per month. I’ve looked through all the terms and conditions for both cashback programs and haven’t been able to find anywhere that says Prime Video Channels do not qualify for cashback rewards, but, fair warning, I also have no way to confirm that they do earn cashback.
HBO has stopped offering a free trial of any length for direct subscriptions. Prime Video Channels do offer a 7-day Free Trial for HBO Max subscriptions. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Also, when it comes time to cancel your subscription, Amazon usually lets you choose whether you’d like to continue accessing the content until your current billing period ends or if you’d like to end access immediately in exchange for a refund of your last payment. I say this is usually the case because I don’t know if they stop offering that option once you’re too far into your billing period or some number of months into a subscription.
Live Channel Access & Fire TV Program Guide Integration
Subscribing to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels gives you access to 8 different live HBO “cable” channels that integrate directly into the Fire TV’s program guide. I know, on-demand content is all the rage and linear live channels are becoming a thing of the past, but, honestly, sometimes it’s just nice to “see what’s on” and let the powers that be choose what’s best to watch at a given day and time. As far as I can tell, HBO’s live channels are not available in the HBO Max app. If you’re subscribed to any other channel or service that integrates into the Fire TV’s program guide, like YouTube TV, Pluto TV, and Sling TV, you’ll see your HBO channels right alongside the channels from the other services. You can favorite a channel to keep it at the top of the guide or you can choose to hide a channel if you’re not interested in seeing it on the list.
Access HBO Content Directly in the Fire TV Interface
When you subscribe to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels, the Fire TV knows it and, essentially, unlocks all HBO content in the main Fire TV interface. HBO content will begin to appear on the Home screen, in the Live tab, as various recommendation rows, and in more places. Picking something on HBO from a Fire TV search or from one of the various Fire TV screens will just play the HBO content directly in the Fire TV’s video player, as if it were streaming from Prime Video. You don’t have to wait for an additional app to load or dig around the HBO Max app if you don’t want to. It’s also nice using the familiar Fire TV video player interface with X-Ray support instead of learning/remembering HBO’s own interface. HBO’s content available in the Fire TV interface also works better with Alexa voice commands than the HBO Max app.
Fire TV Recent Row Integration
If you’re subscribed to HBO Max directly and watching all of its content through the HBO Max app, all you’ll ever see in your Fire TV’s “Recent” row is the HBO Max icon. If you’re subscribed through Prime Video Channels and, therefore, have all of HBO’s content accessible through the Fire TV interface, individual movies, episodes, and channels will appear in the Recent row when you access them. This lets you more easily jump back in where you left off. In the screenshot above, I watched an episode of Ballers through HBO, then checked to see what was on the live HBO channel, and then started watching the movie Ford v Ferrari through HBO. All three appear individually on the Recent row so I can quickly jump to the next Ballers episode, back into the movie where I left off, or see what’s playing right now (and its progress) on the live channel, all without needing to load or dig through the HBO Max app. These individual recently accessed videos are also synced across all of your Fire TVs (if you have the setting enabled) and even synced across all of your Prime Video apps on different devices.
Access HBO on Echo Shows, on Rokus, and in Prime Video apps
HBO Max is not yet one of the video services available through an Echo Show smart display or on Roku devices. So if you subscribe to HBO Max directly, there is no way to watch it on those devices. However, I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this, if you subscribe to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels you can access all of HBO’s content directly within any Prime Video app, regardless of platform. Since Prime Video is pretty ubiquitous on every device, it gives you an extra way to access HBO, which includes Echo Shows and Rokus. Even if an HBO Max app is available on a specific device, you may just find that the Prime Video app performs better than HBO’s app. Either way, having options is always nice.
In conclusion, subscribing to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels gives you all of the exact same access to the HBO Max app as a direct subscription, but adds a bunch of extras for browsing and watching the content. If the price is the same through either subscription method, it really seems like a no brainer to go with a Prime Video Channel subscription instead of a direct subscription. Even if you plan to never use any of the extras mentioned above and always just use the HBO Max app, it’s nice knowing you’ve got options if you need them in the future.