Posted February 26, 2020 • Last updated September 12, 2020

Where can I watch HBO Max programs in Canada?

Looking for "Love Life", "Legendary" or Studio Ghibli movies on streaming in Canada? Most Max Originals will be on Crave; we're keeping track of the rest.

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You may have heard about HBO Max, a new streaming service from WarnerMedia which launched on May 27, 2020, with streaming rights to the Studio Ghibli animated film catalogue, past hit series like Friends, and a slew of new programs on top of HBO's original series and current film lineup. This service is currently only available only in the United States.

Most of HBO Max's "Max Originals" programs including Love Life, An American Pickle, Selena + Chef, and Raised by Wolves are or will be available in Canada on Crave, largely as a result of an expanded deal struck between Bell Media and WarnerMedia in late 2019. Crave is already the home of most HBO programming in Canada.

However, there will be exceptions. WarnerMedia is only selling broadcast rights to HBO Max programs it produces directly or otherwise controls worldwide rights to, and even then some programs will be excluded due to conflicts with other prior relationships. HBO Max is also ordering programs from other studios, and it appears Crave – or any other service that wants to pick up the Canadian rights – needs to negotiate separately with those studios.

Further details

What is HBO Max? How is it different from HBO?

The streaming service later named HBO Max was first announced by WarnerMedia in late 2018, soon after the former Time Warner was taken over by American telecom company AT&T.

From the beginning, the plan has been for the service to include all of the existing HBO pay TV channel's content in the U.S. (both first-run movies and original series and specials), augmented with more programming from other divisions of WarnerMedia (like Warner Bros. Pictures, Cartoon Network, TBS and TNT) and targeting different audiences from those HBO has attracted traditionally (which have been mostly older, and mostly men), in order to make it a stronger competitor to other streaming services like Netflix.

To that end, HBO Max has announced a large number of new, original series, movies and specials, many based on other WarnerMedia properties, and most targeting younger generations as well as women.

HBO Max has also acquired U.S. streaming rights to a number of existing series produced by WarnerMedia, including Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and The West Wing, as well as past episodes of externally-produced series such as South Park and Doctor Who.

While HBO Max shares the "HBO" name – which makes sense from a marketing perspective – the "Max" programming lineup was originally handled by a separate programming team, reporting to the executive in charge of basic cable channels TBS and TNT. (As of August 2020, those responsibilities have been merged into a single team.)

HBO Max will not be available outside the United States initially, but previously announced plans to expand to Latin America and parts of Europe by 2021, in areas where HBO already operates its own local HBO-branded service, and has accelerated plans to expand more widely.

In other countries where HBO already has a deal with another broadcaster, WarnerMedia has so far chosen to extend those relationships – as in Canada, where HBO Max has a partnership with Crave.

What's the relationship between HBO Max and Crave?

Bell Media, which owns Crave among other Canadian TV networks like CTV, has a long-term output agreement for "new scripted series primarily produced by the divisions of the Warner Bros. Television Group for HBO Max".

In many ways, this is a natural extension. Crave has long been the home of HBO programming in Canada (you can read more about this relationship here) as well as the first-run pay TV home of Warner Bros. theatrical films, while CTV and affiliated cable channels carry many (though not all) of WarnerMedia's other TV series. Indeed, this new agreement also extends Crave's rights to HBO series and Warner Bros. movies. And certainly there are many parallels between Crave's 2018 relaunch (when the CraveTV library was added automatically to all subscribers of the former TMN) and how HBO Max is being rolled out to existing HBO subscribers.

At about the same time as this agreement was announced, WarnerMedia also announced a similar extension with Sky in Europe for HBO programming rights, which is reported to extend until 2024 or 2025. We have no reason to expect the length of Bell's deal would be much different.

What HBO Max series will be available on Crave?

The following HBO Max series (listed alphabetically) have been, or will be, released on Crave's "Movies + HBO" streaming tier, and in most cases will have or had airings on the Crave / HBO linear channels (see next section for original movies):

  • Craftopia (kids/teens crafting competition series hosted by Lauren "LaurDIY" Riihimaki) – all eight Season 1 episodes premiered Wednesday, May 27
  • Expecting Amy (docuseries featuring Amy Schumer) – all episodes available since Thursday, July 9
  • Legendary (competitive vogue reality series) – first two episodes premiered Wednesday, May 27; subsequent episodes released weekly
  • Love Life (romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick, produced by Lionsgate Television) – first three episodes premiered Wednesday, May 27; additional episodes released Thursday, June 4 (episodes 4-6) and June 11 (episodes 7-10); also airing on CTV Drama Channel in fall 2020
  • Raised by Wolves (science-fiction drama series from executive producer Ridley Scott) – episodes released weekly starting Thursday, September 3; also airing on CTV Sci-Fi Channel
  • Selena + Chef (cooking show starring Selena Gomez) – available starting Thursday, August 13

Other specific new series that are confirmed to be covered by the agreement (some still in development, with no guarantee they'll ever see the light of day) as of May 2020 are:

  • College Girls (working title)
  • Crime Farm
  • DC Super Hero High
  • DMZ
  • Dune: The Sisterhood
  • The Flight Attendant
  • Generation
  • Untitled Green Lantern-based series
  • Gossip Girl (reboot / sequel to the 2007-12 series)
  • Red Bird Lane
  • Rules of Magic
  • Strange Adventures
  • The Shelley Society
  • Tooned Out

(Some rough details about most of these series and others are in this 2019 WarnerMedia press release.)

Additionally, Bell Media already has the Canadian rights to Doom Patrol, a series which originated on the U.S.-only DC Universe service, but going forward will also be considered an HBO Max original. This series remains available on both CTV Sci-Fi (formerly Space) and Crave's base streaming tier. (Season 2 began on June 25, 2020.)

Note that not all HBO Max series that do fall under the agreement will necessarily be exclusive to Crave, or even debut there. Besides the aforementioned Doom Patrol, Bell Media management has indicated that the upcoming Gossip Girl reboot could debut on one of its cable channels like CTV Life before eventually streaming on Crave.

How about HBO Max / Warner Max original films?

In addition to the main HBO service's lineup of theatrical and original films, HBO Max will also carry a range of service-exclusive films. Some of these are Warner Bros. films that are being moved to a streaming-only release such as Superintelligence, while others are being acquired or developed for the service under the Warner Max film label.

In a June 2020 feature story in The Globe and Mail about the availability of streaming service programming in Canada, a Bell Media executive is quoted as saying that their "licensing agreement does not include HBO Max original feature films" at this time, but that negotiations are ongoing. Bell later confirmed (in an update to that article, and subsequent posts or schedule releases) that Crave will carry at least the following HBO Max original films:

  • An American Pickle (Warner Max-acquired comedy film starring Seth Rogan) – released August 6, 2020
  • Class Action Park (documentary about an infamous New Jersey water park) – released August 27, 2020
  • Let Them All Talk (comedy film starring Meryl Streep and Gemma Chan, and directed by Stephen Soderbergh) – release date TBA
  • On the Record (documentary about allegations of sexual abuse against Russell Simmons) – scheduled to air on Crave 1 on September 21, 2020; may be released on-demand sooner
  • Unpregnant (road movie starring Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira) – to be released September 10, 2020 (per post on Bell Media's PR site)

We believe it is highly likely that, based on their existing relationship with WarnerMedia, Crave will have effective first right of refusal on the majority of HBO Max-exclusive films. However, the Globe piece seems to make clear that Crave may still make decisions on a film-by-film basis.

In regards to new cuts of previously-released Warner Bros. films, such as the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League set to be released on HBO Max in 2021, we think the situation is less clear. That's because Warner Bros. has already sold off Canadian broadcast rights to its theatrical films to different outlets in separate broadcast/streaming windows, whereas it's been keeping these rights for itself in the U.S. (i.e., on TNT and TBS, and now HBO Max).

In Canada, the original cut of the film has already cycled off both Crave and Netflix, and if recent history for other Warner Bros. (and specifically DC Extended Universe) films holds, the next broadcast window for the original cut will be with Corus and its Showcase channel, where it'll air periodically for a couple of years. So that might preclude a release of the recut on Crave – though it's not obvious whether Showcase would then automatically be able to air the recut either. (For what it's worth, MobileSyrup recently reported that Warner Bros. told them that international release plans are still being finalized.)

What original programs are not part of Crave's deal with HBO Max?

While Crave will have a broad selection of HBO Max programs, there are still a number of exclusions. Whereas Crave's current partnership with for HBO's mainline programming has covered most acquisitions from third-party producers, as well as co-productions like the British miniseries Years and Years or Chernobyl, it does not appear that similar HBO Max acquisitions will be covered in the same way.

There are several HBO Max original programs (or U.S. debuts) that we know for sure will have Canadian broadcasters other than Bell Media / Crave, listed in the table below:

Program Canadian rightsholder
Looney Tunes Cartoons Teletoon

Teletoon's parent company Corus Entertainment has an existing relationship for animated programming from WarnerMedia (including other Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network programs). Corus confirmed in June 2020 that Teletoon would carry this new series beginning in fall 2020.
Pure CBC Gem

CBC acquired the Canadian rights to this British series based on the book by Rose Cartwright and starring Charly Clive (not to be confused with the Canadian series of the same name also available on CBC Gem), and released it in Canada several months before HBO Max's U.S. release.
Sesame Street;
Esme & Roy;
The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo
Treehouse TV

All of these series are produced or co-produced by Sesame Workship, with the first two moving to HBO Max from the main HBO (U.S.) service. However, neither aired on Crave under its existing HBO deal either, as Canadian broadcast rights were sold separately to Treehouse TV.

In June 2020, Treehouse's parent company Corus confirmed that the Elmo spin-off would also begin airing on the channel later in 2020.
Trigonometry CBC Gem

CBC acquired the Canadian rights to this series from BBC Studios.
The Murders at White House Farm CBC / CBC Gem

International rights to this British drama (titled just White House Farm for domestic broadcast), commissioned by ITV and distributed by All3Media, have been spread across multiple broadcasters, and HBO Max has U.S. rights only. It was released in Canada starting April 22, 2020 (under the title White House Farm Murders).

Other examples of programs that will air on HBO Max in the U.S. but are not yet confirmed to be available on Crave (or any other service) include:

  • series commissioned or acquired from outside studios, like Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies which is being produced by Paramount Television;
     
  • other fully animated programs, like Close Enough, the revival of The Boondocks (from Sony), or even those produced by WarnerMedia, like Adventure Time: Distant Lands and Jellystone! – as with Looney Tunes, it is very likely (but not confirmed) that many of these will air on Corus channels like Teletoon (see below);
     
  • certain reality shows and docuseries like Ellen's Home Design Challenge, or The Big Shot with Bethenny; and
     
  • other programming like upcoming reunions for Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The West Wing (particularly as the original runs of these programs are not currently available on Crave).

Also unconfirmed to date is Search Party, a dark comedy series from WarnerMedia's Studio T division starring Alia Shawkat, which aired for two seasons on TBS and is being continued by HBO Max, but to our knowledge has never aired in Canada – and has not been mentioned in Bell's announcements regarding HBO Max either.

To be clear, it's very possible that much of the programming above could still end up on Crave. The announcements to date simply suggest that they are not part of the current deal and would require further negotiations, either with WarnerMedia or with the other production companies involved. In some cases, it's also possible Bell Media has already taken a look and decided based on price, content, or other factors, that those programs are not worthwhile acquisitions for Crave.

WarnerMedia has an existing relationship with Corus Entertainment for animated programming, including broadcasts on YTV and Teletoon, and licensed Canadian versions of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, so it would stand to reason that the majority of animated programs will end up on Corus' channels.

It may well end up that other broadcasters have made or will make deals for the remaining HBO Max programs, but these may not be announced until Canadian broadcast dates are scheduled.

What about shows like Friends, South Park, Rick and Morty, and Doctor Who?

As far as we know, the (new) streaming rights that HBO Max has secured for these and other shows are for the United States only. So for Canada, as of now, the upshot seems to be – no change to the status quo.

Netflix retains the rights to stream Friends in Canada (and in many other countries outside the U.S.).

There are already Canadian versions of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim operated by Corus Entertainment, with rights to the American versions' original programming. Thus, Adult Swim Canada (available through cable as well as Prime Video streaming package StackTV) will retain rights to new episodes of Rick and Morty, and a rotating selection of past episodes, for the foreseeable future. (To be clear, we're not aware of any streaming service in Canada where all past seasons are currently available.)

But Crave already has Canadian streaming rights to many of the other library series that HBO Max will be highlighting, like South Park, Doctor Who, and The Big Bang Theory.

However these are pre-existing deals, and just because Crave is now aligned with HBO Max does not guarantee that Crave will have the same terms or that these deals will remain in place in exactly the same way going forward. If, say, the BBC gets a better offer for Canadian streaming rights to Doctor Who when its current deal with Bell Media runs out, there's no guarantee that it'll stick with Crave just because of its U.S. deal with HBO Max.

For other WarnerMedia programs, unlike the U.S. where that company has long operated its own cable channels like TNT and TBS which it could use to air Warner movies, there's a patchwork of licensing deals in Canada covering individual programs and various sets of movies, so it cannot easily assign similar rights to a single Canadian partner. As another example (beyond Friends), rights to older Warner Bros. movies tend to get split among many different channels and services including Netflix, Bell Media channels like Starz, and Corus Entertainment channels like Showcase. There probably won't be any big shifts here.

Even for other library programming that HBO Max is promoting without a current streaming home in Canada, like The West Wing (also a Warner Bros. series), there has not yet been any indication that Crave will be acquiring those rights.

What about the Studio Ghibli film library?

HBO Max made a big splash when it announced that it would be the first U.S. streaming service to carry the catalogue of Studio Ghibli animated films like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle. Netflix then followed up in early 2020, announcing it had secured global rights to these films outside the U.S., Canada and Japan.

This, of course, left two big holes: Japan (which is of course Studio Ghibli's home market, and where it might be constrained by existing domestic distribution contracts, or perhaps just seeking a more lucrative domestic streaming deal), and Canada.

Some media outlets erroneously suggested that HBO Max would have North American rights that would also cover Canada, but Crave management subsequently clarified that it is not receiving any rights to Studio Ghibli films through its dealings with HBO Max.

On June 22, 2020, Netflix finally announced it had made a deal covering Canada, making 20 Studio Ghibli films available on June 25, with one more (The Wind Rises) coming August 1.

The core of the issue was that Ghibli has two international distributors: GKIDS in the U.S. and Canada, and Wild Bunch everywhere else except Japan. Netflix purchased rights for all of Wild Bunch's territories, but they needed to make a separate deal with GKIDS in order to get Canadian rights – which evidently took a lot more time.

Is there any possibility that Canada will get the "real" HBO Max anytime soon?

Anything is possible, particularly following recent announcements elevating HBO Max's priority within WarnerMedia. But as noted above, it appears that Bell Media has locked up rights to HBO and most WarnerMedia-produced HBO Max programming until the mid-2020s. Regardless of any changes in WarnerMedia's management or strategy since the deals were signed, these deals are not likely to be undone without either a serious breach of contract, or some sort of cancellation buyout.

Even if HBO Max does eventually launch as a standalone service in Canada, as with other international services like Netflix, there is no guarantee that it would be able to get the same programming rights in Canada as it has in the U.S.

If anything, it's more likely that there'll be tighter integration between Crave and HBO Max, given the similarities in film and other programming rights between the two (and the overall similarities in strategies between Bell and AT&T). At least one Canadian market analyst has already predicted that Crave will rebrand as HBO Max within a couple of years, in order to maximize the marketing benefits of the relationship.

We here at WCIW are less certain about such a rebrand, but we do think there's a strong likelihood of the relationship staying close in the years to come.

(And if we may offer a suggestion to Bell – even if Crave remains as its own Canadian-operated brand – if WarnerMedia is as serious as they seem to be about making HBO Max a top-tier global service, perhaps it makes sense for Crave and HBO to start working together on their streaming architecture, or risk falling further off the bandwagon in terms of next-generation features like 4K resolution. Which, we know, Max doesn't have yet either... but at least they've indicated it's on their near-term roadmap.)

Significant revisions

  • September 8, 2020: Added a few more shows that have been confirmed for Crave (or other Canadian services).
  • August 5 and August 10, 2020: Miscellaneous updates.
  • June 28, 2020: Updates, mainly re HBO Max-exclusive films.
  • June 23, 2020: Updates re Elmo, Looney Tunes and Studio Ghibli.
  • June 3, 2020: Minor updates.
  • May 26, 2020: Updates to Crave's premiere airdates of launch episodes.
  • May 23, 2020: Noted HBO Max launch series that have shown up on Crave's schedule; added brief discussion of Zack Snyder's Justice League.
  • April 22, 2020: Noting confirmed launch date, and noted launch-day original programming to discussion of shows not part of Bell Media's deal.
  • April 20, 2020: Noted Canadian rightsholder to White House Farm.

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