The confusing, annoying debut of HBO Max

May 28, 2020, 1:22 PM UTC

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

I’m a little confused about HBO Max, the new $15-a-month streaming service from WarnerMedia, which used to be called TimeWarner, formerly the parent company of Fortune’s parent company. Are you confused now too? I’m sorry. Blame the media behemoths.

We’re all in this confusion thing together. As Fortune’s Aric Jenkins points out, HBO now has three apps: Go, Now, and Max. One is for cable subscribers, another for cord-cutters, and a third is the AT&T unit’s top-tier streaming product. (I should have mentioned: The old phone company owns WarnerMedia; read Geoff Colvin’s explainer of AT&T’s woes if you’d like to understand better.)

Anyway, when I read Wednesday that HBO Max had debuted, I was excited. It’s got new shows and an impressive library, and I already pay for HBO through Comcast. Good news: I get HBO Max for no additional charge. Bad news: While I can get it on my iPhone—the download and authentication took two minutes—it won’t work on my Roku because WarnerMedia and Roku are having one of those consumer-unfriendly clashes of the media titans over money. (What else?) I could watch HBO Max on a Chromecast, several of which I seem to have lying around. But that’s not how I stream stuff; I like to lean back, as they say in the industry, not forward. (WarnerMedia signed a last-minute deal with Comcast Wednesday, so HBO Max will be integrated into my cable box soon, but that feature wasn’t ready today.)

The business journalist in me is rather excited by all this competition. NBCUniversal’s Peacock hasn’t even started strutting yet. But the consumer in me just finds it annoying. As further validation, Edmund Lee at The New York Times published a still-not-completely-clear “handy guide” to how to view HBO Max.

I’m a bit of an HBO addict, and it’s probably the reason I haven’t agreed with my wife’s desire to cut the cord. The streaming revolution ought to have been easier.

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. I write a newsletter. Robert writes a newsletter. I come back. President Trump is still feuding with Twitter. Today's twist is a hastily drafted executive order Trump may sign that would have the Federal Communications Commission shrink the liability protection for online platforms. What will tomorrow bring? Meanwhile, Twitter applied its "Get the facts about..." link to some tweets from a Chinese government spokesman about the origins of COVID-19.

Worth every penny. The annual analysis of CEO pay from Equilar and the Associated Press came out on Wednesday and for the first time a woman was the highest paid CEO, and a woman in tech at that. The winner will not be a surprise to Data Sheet readers: Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su topped the list with total compensation valued at $58 million. The stock market value of AMD has risen from under $3 billion when she took over in 2014 to $62 billion today.

Not quite slipping the surly bonds of Earth. "Weather permitting," SpaceX was going to make history on Wednesday. But weather did not permit and Elon Musk's rocket startup will try again on Saturday to complete the first-ever commercial launch of humans into orbit.

It takes at least three weeks not to like you. There are many reasons to complain about Apple's Siri digital assistant, but Apple is on the case. On Wednesday, the company confirmed acquiring machine learning startup Inductiv, which helps A.I. apps eliminate data errors. Speaking of Apple, last week we reported rumors that the company was acquiring old TV shows for its streaming service. Now comes news that one show is the Muppets spin-off Fraggle Rock. You'll be able to watch all 96 episodes and a new reboot is coming soon. Apple also won rights to Martin Scorsese's next movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Unfollow. After many reports that Google's Android software was tracking users' locations, Arizona's Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the company on Wednesday. “When consumers try to opt out of Google’s collection of location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit,” AG Mark Brnovich told the Washington Post.


Anxiety, depression, and other mental-health issues are spiking. Charlotte Jee has a piece for the MIT Technology Review examining a variety of online tools and apps aimed at helping people cope. She spoke with web designer Simon Fox, who had the idea for an online course about cognitive behavioral therapy called Helpers.

But all these products tap into a tantalizing idea: getting more people to proactively look after their mental health. Fox hopes we might use the pandemic as an opportunity to further destigmatize mental health care and help build up people’s resilience. “This can be a chance to grow your own toolbox to deal with difficult things,” he says. “It’s not about not feeling things, but it’s about adapting and having more mental resources to deal with the demands you’re facing.”


Bug bounty startup Synack valued at $500 million to boost ‘white hat’ hacking from home By Robert Hackett

Instagram throws influencers a lifeline with revenue sharing for IGTV ads By Kristen Bellstrom

The pandemic won’t derail the green energy transition By Eamon Barrett

What Amazon would gain by buying self-driving car startup Zoox By Jonathan Vanian

Autonomous vehicles make sense in the coronavirus. But they’re hurting By Lucinda Shen

Business critic Anand Giridharadas has a message for newly graduating MBAs By Aaron Pressman

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a 50% discount for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


Social distancing is becoming a way of life and some fashion designers are catching on. Don't miss Veronica Toppino's crazy hats or the wearable fuzzy doughnut. Stay safe out there.

Aaron Pressman


Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet