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STREAMING WARS: HBO Max comes to Canada, sort of


You can put your credit card down for the time being.

HBO Max, the latest mega-streaming service to hit the U.S., is skipping Canada during its launch, licensing its original content to Crave instead.

That means if you already subscribe to Crave and have the HBO + Movies add-on, you’re all set for a new pipeline of content.

Or, if you’ve yet to take the plunge, it might be time to take another look.

This doesn’t mean everything coming to HBO Max from now on in the U.S. will be coming to Crave, but the original series arriving stateside are coming to Crave for now.

This is part of a long-term deal Bell Media previously announced with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution last year to retain exclusive rights to HBO Max content outside of the U.S.

“We aren’t able to break down subscriber numbers for Crave, however, Crave’s overall current subscriber base stands at over 2.7 million,” said Adam Slinn, spokesman for Bell Media.

The programs will also arrive on other CTV-branded platforms, which Bell Media also controls.

Launching on May 27 south of the border, HBO Max delivers an amalgam of HBO and Warner Bros. programming, which includes a huge library of well-known franchises such as DC Comics, Harry Potter, Studio Ghibli and more. The service costs a hefty $15 a month, but luckily we’ve been spared yet another subscription.

What's available?

The first batch of HBO Max shows available on Crave (yes, with HBO + Movies, just always assume so from now on) include: the Anna Kendrick rom-com vehicle Love Life, a dance competition show called Legendary and kid crafting show Craftopia. Most have a few episodes out now to get you started, with more coming each week.

Legendary is an LGBTQ+ focused dance/fashion competition in the underground New York ‘ballroom’ scene. Families (chosen members of a dance crew) vogue and death drop their way to the top of the heap while sharing what makes them unique.

In Legendary, an LGBTQ+ dance and fashion competition, eight families compete for a US$100,000 prize. Now available on Crave with the HBO + Movies add-on. - BELL MEDIA
In Legendary, an LGBTQ+ dance and fashion competition, eight families compete for a US$100,000 prize. Now available on Crave with the HBO + Movies add-on. - BELL MEDIA

For fans of dance competitions, this is a highly-produced and flashy take on a very specific form of the medium.

The interviews with the different families highlight their struggles and passion, giving the audience a chance to get to know who these people are. It’s an interesting insight into a world that doesn’t often get its time in the spotlight.

Craftopia is specifically crafted (heh) for a younger audience, which is potentially great with so many kids stuck inside for a potentially very long summer.

Competitors go head-to-head creating spectacular home-made artistic objects for a US$5,000 prize. The kids featured are wonderfully enthusiastic about their creations and also very supportive of their fellow competitors, which is heart-warming to see.

For parents, this might spark some ideas for crafts that can be made at home to keep kids crafting and having fun during quarantine.

And something for the young streamers, Craftopia is a crafting competition where kids go head-to-head to create amazing things from cardboard, styrofoam and glitter. - BELL MEDIA
And something for the young streamers, Craftopia is a crafting competition where kids go head-to-head to create amazing things from cardboard, styrofoam and glitter. - BELL MEDIA

The highlight of the new batch of content so far for me has been Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Noelle). This romantic comedy anthology is a refreshing, clever and authentic take on the genre.

The first season follows Darby (Kendrick) as she searches for love and connection in an increasingly connected and distracted world; think Sex And The City, except in the 2010s with younger people.

Kendrick is just infectious to watch, you can’t help but root for her through all of her stumbles and victories. Each episode highlights a chapter or year in her love life, warts and all, giving a realistic take on modern dating.

Some of the major shows heading to Crave via the HBO Max in the future include: a Gossip Girl reboot, The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco, Dune: Sisterhood, which is from director Denis Villeneuve, who is also working on the much-anticipated Dune movie and more.

So what does this mean for Crave as a service? Could this make Crave a more popular choice for Canadians?

A subscription to Crave and the HBO + Movies add on comes to $19.98 per month, which is pretty steep. Hopefully HBO Max content will make that package seem more valuable for existing and new subscribers.

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