Longtime subscribers to HBO Max will be losing a key feature in the coming weeks, after the streaming and entertainment company announced changes to its standard ad-free tier.
Max, which was previously known as HBO Max before a revamp and relaunch earlier this year, emailed current customers and former HBO Max subscribers to inform them that changes were coming to their accounts.
Beginning on the subscriber’s December billing date, Max will no longer offer 4K streaming on its standard ad-free tier. Additionally, the streaming service will restrict the amount of simultaneous streaming devices from three to two.
Max users wanting to get back their 4K streaming will need to upgrade their plan to the “Ultimate Ad-Free” tier, the company said.
Those features have always been exclusive to Max’s “Ultimate” plan since its May relaunch, but legacy HBO Max subscribers were grandfathered in and were allowed to keep both 4K and three-device streaming, which was previously standard with the old service’s ad-free plan.
But Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO and the streaming service, warned legacy users that their old plan would be phased out eventually. Now that time has apparently come.
The cheapest ad-free tier is $15.99 per month, while the “Ultimate” plan is $19.99. The streamer also offers an ad-supported plan, which costs $9.99 per month.
While not a price increase, the loss of previously offered features have left many feeling shorted, with some users on social media threatening to cancel their accounts in favor of illegal streaming and downloading.
Consumer prices in the streaming industry have been rising regularly, with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Apple all raising prices in the last year. Max increased its prices by $1 back in January.
KTLA consumer reporter David Lazarus said the reason for price hikes and, not-so-subtle, encouragement to upgrade existing plans, can be attributed to a lack of profit from the expensive and competitive endeavor.
“Streaming costs are rising, and will continue to rise because the industry remains in search of a sustainable business model,” Lazarus says.
He described the challenges facing streaming companies as a “self-inflicted wound,” one brought upon by low introductory prices that were money-losers.
Warner Bros. Discovery lost 1.8 million streaming subscribers when it rebranded HBO Max as Max this year, yet still came within $3 million of breaking even on its direct-to-consumer segment in Q3.