Decades before glossy Netflix and Amazon shows began luring Hollywood A-listers to the small screen, cable network HBO helped invent premium television. Now, the home of TV hits The Sopranos , The Wire and Game of Thrones is looking to catch up with its new-found online rivals through the launch of its own multibillion-dollar streaming platform – HBO Max – this week. “Within the crowded constellation of entertainment brands, HBO is a crown jewel,” says Christopher Smith, a communications professor at the University of Southern California in the US. “They’re using the HBO brand bludgeon to break their way through in the streaming wars.” Fifteen new HBO Max original productions, including The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo and Love Life , will be available on HBO GO (available as a subscription on Now TV) in Hong Kong. The platform enters a competitive marketplace in the US. Besides Netflix , Amazon Prime and Hulu, the likes of Disney+ , Apple TV+ and Quibi have recently joined the fray. But having licensed its films and series to other streamers for years, HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia felt it could no longer skirt the direct-to-consumer revolution that is seizing Hollywood. Beloved Warner Bros shows like Friends , and films from Casablanca and Citizen Kane to the Batman series, will sit alongside prestige HBO programmes on the service. HBO Max was supposed to launch with a long-anticipated Friends reunion, but the coronavirus put an end to those plans . With the pandemic delaying filming across Hollywood, HBO Max executives are counting on comforting classics to lure subscribers in anxious times. “We’re really tapping into the nostalgia and the warm feeling that’s associated with these iconic characters that people love, and stories that they’ve fallen in love with year and year again,” marketing head Katie Soo told a recent webinar organised by US film trade magazine Variety . “The reality is, this is a challenging time. There’s no playbook for it.” Still, despite the new platform’s enviable back-catalogue, media analysts have voiced concerns over its strategy. At US$15 a month, HBO Max is the most expensive option out there, and it comes at a time when US unemployment is soaring. The platform’s “more is more” approach is also at odds with the classic HBO model of focusing on fewer, high-quality productions that “really move the needle”, Smith says. “That does threaten to dilute what made HBO so special.” One campaign for HBO Max used a tagline reading: “Where Bada … Meets Bing … Meets Bang.” It was accompanied by images of fictional mafia boss Tony Soprano, Chandler Bing of Friends , and The Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper. The ad was slammed by analysts for confusing consumers about what HBO Max actually stands for. Potentially adding to the confusion is the fact that HBO Max will run alongside pay-TV service HBO Go, and existing stand-alone app HBO Now. “Bad slogan, bad promotion,” Smith says. “But the actual substance of what they were marketing is phenomenal.” While HBO Max has no leading original launch titles, it does have high-profile series and films in the pipeline. In the works are three new shows from Lost creator JJ Abrams, a Gossip Girl revival, and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi Raised by Wolves . New production label Warner Max will also provide eight to 10 mid-budget films per year. Comic book fans haven’t been forgotten, either – around the world, they have collectively swooned with the recent announcement of a much-hyped new edit of 2017 ensemble movie Justice League . A recent Hollywood Reporter poll found HBO Max’s biggest lure is its DC universe of titles featuring beloved characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. As well as recent films starring those characters, HBO Max also includes more offbeat superheroic fare such as bizarre comedy-drama Doom Patrol . A lack of new productions aside, analysts say now could be an ideal moment to unleash beloved content on a cooped-up public. “With people spending more time at home, and more time streaming, they kind of backed into a decent time,” says Leichtman Research Group president Bruce Leichtman. And others who have “been at home overwatching Netflix, overwatching Disney+” may also be “anxious to try something new”, says Wedbush tech analyst Brad Gastwirth, adding “content right now is king”.