HBO Max debuts (and brings 'Friends' back) May 27: All your streaming service questions, answered

Kelly Lawler

"Friends" will finally be back in our lives in May. 

HBO Max, the latest and shiniest streaming service from WarnerMedia, will be available to entertain us in quarantine starting May 27, the company announced Tuesday. The new streamer, which will combine content from HBO, TNT, Warner Bros. and more, will have classics like "Friends," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Sesame Street" streaming upon its debut, plus a handful of originals. Those include: "Love Life," starring Anna Kendrick; documentary "On the Record"; underground ballroom dance competition series "Legendary"; "Craftopia", hosted by YouTuber LaurDIY; new Looney Tunes Cartoons, from Warner Bros. Animation; and Sesame Workshop’s "The Not Too Late Show with Elmo."

HBO Max is the first major streaming service to debut this year and NBCUniversal's Peacock service won't be far behind it. TV seemed to explode in 2019 with the additions of Disney+ and Apple TV+And who knows whether Hollywood will be done after that?  

There are so many shows, movies and services hanging around the internet these days, it might be easy to lose track of something you want to watch. Sure, you know about Baby Yoda, but are you up on the pertinent info about where your favorite shows will be streaming?

To help set you up for success, we answer some frequently asked questions about the streamers, from explaining Disney+ technicalities to answering the most important question in TV: Where can I watch "Friends"?

What does HBO Max have to do with HBO?

HBO Max is not another extension of HBO Now or HBO Go, a digital way to watch HBO programming that you can also get with a cable subscription. HBO Max will be its own independent streaming service from WarnerMedia, the company behind Warner Bros., Turner (TNT, TBS, CNN) and more. Its library will be extensive (Looney Tunes! "South Park"!) and indeed include everything HBO has. But Max is also ramping up original programming (new DC Comics superhero shows and a Mindy Kaling sitcom) for its launch. 

If you want to see Chloe Bennet in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," you'll need Netflix, not Disney+ – at least for the time being.

Why aren't all my Marvel shows, like 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' on Disney+?

Long before Disney+ was in the works, "S.H.I.E.L.D." nabbed a streaming deal with Netflix that hasn't expired yet. The reality for Disney (and Disney's popular brands) is that it sold shows to streamers before it had its own service, so it cannot actually offer its entire library right away. That's why you won't find all the seasons of "Marvel's Runaways" on Disney+ either, or adult-skewed Netflix series like "Jessica Jones."

Too much:Why the streaming wars are ruining TV

Brace yourself: There's a five-month streaming gap between when "Friends" leaves Netflix and shows up on HBO Max.

No, seriously, where can I watch 'Friends'?

 Right now, only on cable networks (TBS, Nick at Nite) and local stations. But the classic NBC sitcom, which left Netflix on Dec. 31, will return to streaming when HBO Max launches on May 27.

What about 'The Office'?

Don't get as stressed as Michael Scott about this one. "The Office" is leaving Netflix to go to Peacock ... but not until 2021. Feel free to relive Pam and Jim's romance as many times as you want until then. 

This all sounds familiar and like I'm not really going to save any money cutting the cord.

You're right! We're entering a new phase of TV that looks like basic cable, with the big streamers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to nab what are essentially re-run rights. Depending on your taste in TV and your internet, cable and cellphone providers, you may end up spending as much or more on multiple streamers as you did on a big cable package. 

Disney+ doesn't have the variety of programming you'll get on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, but there's a ton of it.

Which streamers are actually worth investing in?

It depends on what you want, but in general, the original three (Netflix, Amazon and Hulu) are more diversified than the newcomers. Although Disney+ doesn't have as wide a range of programming, the sheer amount of content is impressive. Apple is a bit too shaky and new, and we haven't seen everything HBO Max and Peacock are bringing yet. If you want just one, Hulu is the best streaming service overall.