This streaming service was the best in 2023. What it is and why it dominated

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The streaming world saw a paradigm shift in 2023, as the industry faced an actor’s and writer’s strike. It also witnessed a spike in both series cancelations and Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) Channels, changing the entire playing field. However, it was an especially big year for HBO Max, as the world saw this platform rebrand itself as “Max” after merging with Discovery+.

Since every big media company wants to have the next big streaming service these days, Max had a lot to compete against this year. And with such monumental changes occurring behind the scenes, it very much seemed like an uphill battle for Max to succeed. Nevertheless, this newly dubbed platform made itself the best streaming service of the year for various reasons.

It has the best selection of films and TV shows

NBC / NBC

As media giants like HBO started creating their own streaming services, top hitters like Netflix saw some of their most popular shows leave their libraries and move to their competitors. As a result, Max is now one of the few platforms with easy access to so many beloved, high-quality shows like Friends, South Park, Rick and Morty, Chernobyl, Game of Thrones, and The Sopranos. Also, despite recent headlines, fans of HBO’s Watchmen can rest assured knowing it is still available on Max.

At the same time, Max continues to have a far more extensive library of the most beloved films. Such a collection features classics such as The Matrix, Dune, Pulp Fiction, The Exorcist, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the works from DC Comics and Studio Ghibli. Though Netflix now has some of these films available on its platform, particularly those by DC, Max remains more consistent with its selections by retaining more of its greatest hits for far longer.

Many great new releases

Joel and Ellie look at the camera in HBO's "The Last of Us."
HBO / Image via HBO

Max started 2023 off with a bang with the release of HBO’s The Last of Us, which immediately became one of the most popular shows of all time, thanks partially to its availability on streaming. Since then, the platform has hosted many new and returning hit shows such as Love & Death, The Gilded Age, Succession, Perry Mason, Barry, The Righteous Gemstones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Our Flag Meets Death. HBO may have suffered a spectacular flop with Sam Levinson’s panned miniseries, The Idol, but it more than compensated for it with all these other successful releases.

And though they weren’t box office hits in theaters, a handful of new DC films like The Flash and Blue Beetle were dropped on Max in 2023 that became streaming hits, at least for a short time. This year also saw many welcome additions to Max’s database like Evil Dead Rise, Barbie, Mad Max: Fury Road, and many of the best James Bond films, including Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Skyfall.

The competition has been leveled

Netflix on a TV screen showing on the Roku home screen.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

There was a time when Netflix seemed to reign supreme in the streaming industry. But it seems it couldn’t carry all those shows atop its lofty throne. As the company continues bringing the ax down on many beloved shows, with Inside Job, Glamorous, Shadow and Bone, and 1899 removed in 2023, the once-unstoppable streamer has lost more of the public’s good faith. On top of that, the introduction of ads in its new tier system and a crackdown on password sharing added more fuel to the fire. While the latter led to a spike in subscribers, all these changes have brought Netflix down to the level of its competitors.

All in all, many major streaming services, including Max, have grown more expensive in the past year, giving viewers all the more reason to cancel their accounts and think more carefully about who they subscribe to. That isn’t to say Max had a breezy year, as it lost 1.8 million subscribers in the quarter following its rebranding, as stated by Variety. Despite this, investors were warned that such a decline would happen, and Max did receive almost 3 million new subscribers in the two quarters beforehand, which helped balance things out and help it keep up with all the other struggling platforms.

All A24 movies are now coming to Max

The infamous handshake from "Talk to Me."
Causeway Films / Causeway Films

In its first 10 years in business, A24 has made several award-winning films, and as fans are hoping to see more from them, Hollywood is now dying to do more business with them. There were already plenty of terrific films from A24 available on Max, including Hereditary and Ex Machina, and HBO had already worked with them on the smash-hit series Euphoria. However, the acclaimed indie studio signed a deal with the streaming company this month that should please members of both Max and A24’s fanbases.

According to Vulture, this new agreement guarantees all of A24’s films will be available to watch exclusively on HBO, Max, and Cinemax following their theatrical runs. Thus, Max subscribers will now get to see Dicks: The Musical, Dream Scenario, The Zone of Interest, The Iron Claw, Civil War, and all the other new releases from A24 on the site before the end of the year, giving Max an advantage over competing platforms.

Max survived the merger

Warner Bros. Discovery executive JB Perrette on stage at the Max launch event.
Warner Bros. Discovery / Warner Bros. Discovery

Much like Netflix in recent years, many popular shows on Max suffered cancelations in 2022, many of which made for nasty surprises to subscribers. Not only that, in an act that was unheard of until recently, Max oversaw a mass exodus of HBO exclusives from its digital library, including Westworld, Minx, Raised by Wolves, and The Nevers (with only more removals to come in the near future). These changes came from the corporate shake-up following the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger, which has given the company a divisive public response.

Though nine Max shows were canceled this year, thankfully, they were only half the amount of cancellations witnessed in 2022 and half of those seen from Netflix this year. On the bright side, Vulture reported that many of these shows will reappear on third-party FAST channels (amongst other digital platforms). Max also filled the void they left behind with its many new releases, helping build a fresh new house from the foundation left by HBO Max.

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