As a cord-cutter, I was eagerly waiting for HBO Max to be made available in Latin America. Luckily for us, it only took a year, way before Europe or Asia! Suck on that First World!
Better still, it was launched right around the Uni’s winter holidays, which turned into freezing my studies because this year’s been a lot. The cherry on top? I used an early-bird promo with a 50% discount for life! HBO Max is cheaper for me than Netflix… Why are you looking at me like Denzel Washington at Casey Affleck at the Oscars?
Don’t worry, you’ll get your schadenfreude.
Irrelevant full disclosure: I am team WB and Co. I know, it’s embarrassing to stan a media conglomerate, and they do f**k up on a monthly basis. But pound for pound, most of my favorite things came from WB/HBO, or they at least own the rights to them. I was raised by Cartoon Network as a child and the Warner Channel as a teen. I prefer DC to Marvel. To me, it’s as close as you can get to an inelastic good in entertainment.
Cue in Frolic.
Let’s start with technical issues. The image quality is stunning. So is the audio, whenever the stream is not fluctuating between 4K and 144p, but my ISP is utter sh*t, so they get a pass. Also, since we’re giving credit when credit is due, they keep the credits running until the very end with both movies and tv series (no “what to watch later” trailers popping up).
Now let’s get catty: EVERY SINGLE THING TAKES TOO LONG TO LOAD. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out the subtitles’ settings, and they themselves are the problem. For some reason, the screen pulsates and flashes as they change. EVERYTHING here should come with an epilepsy warning. How could they fail at something so basic? Aren’t they owned by a communications and IT giant?
Also, browsing back and forth is awkward as hell and I’m bombarded by EVERYTHING without any sort of algorithmic parsing, with the glorified softcore placed right next to Teen Titans.
But the real crush came when I toured through the content. I expected it wouldn’t be available, but I was still hoping that the TCM and Criterion Collection library would be there. Of all the things that I miss about my University’s libraries, the film collection is the one I long for the most. They even had collections of Soviet Animation! But with the TCM/Criterion channel, boy would I finally reignite my cinephile spark!
It wasn’t available, not for the lowly Global South. OK, fine, but neither is The West Wing. Nor classic Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, no… NO BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES AND BATMAN BEYOND? THREE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF ZACK SNYDER’S THE JUSTICE LEAGUE AND NOT THE CROWN JEWEL OF WARNER BROS.’ ANIMATION?
WHAT’S THE POINT OF VERTICAL INTEGRATION THEN?
Look, I’m not a rube. I am relatively well-versed in how international distribution rights work. I have an MA in Publishing. I know there’s a point to the segmentation of contracts according to territories and time periods. But that was before the internet, and before torrent, and before COVID. Goddammit Warner, niche streamers have been surprisingly successful. Please, let me pay you for this stuff. Add $4 or $5 dollars on top of that.
Or at the very least, don’t be dicks about VPNs.
I have one because I wanted to protect my data and … well, when your country’s current government has a flirt-on with authoritarianism, let me be paranoid. Of course, accessing content from other countries is a brilliant added value … but HBO Max blocks itself using Chilean servers!
Luckily, I figured out that if you pause the VPN, access the platform, and then reactive it, you can have it running while watching and browsing, but it crashes every now and then. I have to start the process all over again, sometimes midway through an episode!
And yes, I will admit it: I have used the VPN (GASP!) to watch content only available in the US.
I know, how dare I use subterfuge? To have my way with films and tv series we, in the Global South, have been deemed unworthy of watching … even though piracy here is rampant and I am actually happily paying for it? I mean, I’m guessing all the subscription fees go to a common pool right?
Nope, no excuses. How dare I disrespect the contracts you have with local cinemas (even though you yourselves ignored the ones you had with US & Canadian cinemas and producers?).
Yes, I should admit there’s more than enough content available in my current territory to be busy for a while. I mean, 10% of the subscription fee will go to rewatching Veep. Also, trying for the right combination of VPN servers is enough of a pain in the ass to just give up. Maybe it’s me who is greedy; there’s stuff that’s been in my Netflix watchlist since 2013. Maybe I need to wait a while. Or maybe I need to stop simping for a media conglomerate.
Whatever the case, I’m tied for life to this. Is this what it feels when people marry too early? As if you know you can make this … investment last for a lifetime, but buyer’s remorse sets in, reminding you that it’s still early enough for you to pull out, and that there are more tempting offers out there. Also, why is a streamer making me think about my mortality?
And yet, it’s a 50% discount. Streamers’ business model is based on the sunken cost fallacy. Also, I use a friend’s Disney+ account.