HBO is probably the United States' most popular and acclaimed cable network, closely linked to the so-called 'golden era' of television thanks to a string of massive shows including The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Westworld.
Despite that success, and the popularity of those massive shows, it's surprisingly difficult to watch HBO live or browse its back catalogue in the UK or many other countries beyond the US. Here's how to access the network's back catalogue through the HBO Max streaming service from anywhere, along with the best ways to watch HBO shows on UK channels.
How to watch HBO Max in the UK
If you want guaranteed access to everything HBO produces - including the extensive back catalogue of Warner Bros content - the easiest method is to sign up for the HBO Max streaming service. This costs either $14.99 per month for the ad-free version, or $9.99 per month for ad-supported content.
The full version of this Netflix-esque streaming platform lets you watch all of HBO's content. While it doesn't include the option to live stream the HBO channel itself, it does add most original programming and films within minutes of the start time, so you can watch the latest Westworld episode almost-live.
With the Warner Bros back catalogue, you'll also get access to all ten seasons of Friends, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and new film releases such as Dune and The Matrix 4 when they release later on this year.
Other content on there includes almost the entire DC library, the Studio Ghibli film collection, anime from Crunchyroll and exclusive originals including the Friends Reunion Special and the Justice League Snyder Cut.
The big downside is that HBO uses geo-targeting to block users from outside of the US, so if you head to the HBO Max website you'll just see an error message. Of course, there is a way round this: use a VPN. This masks your IP address, allowing you to browse the web as if you're based in another country - in this case, as long as you connect through a US server, HBO will believe you're trying to watch from the US.
Our most recommended VPN is NordVPN, which you can sign up to from £2.29/$2.75 per month, but check out our guide to the best VPNs for streaming video if you want to look at some of the other VPNs we've tested that are particularly well suited to streaming platforms like HBO Max.
Billing information for HBO Max
Once you've signed up for your VPN of choice, you'll need to download it on either your iOS or Android device, as you'll need that for your payment information. The HBO Max website only allows you to sign up if you have a payment card that's tied to the US. If you don't have that, here's the steps you should take:
- Launch your VPN on your iOS/Android device and connect to a US server
- Create a new Apple ID/Google Play account in your browser that's tied to the US (leave phone number and country blank)
- Register your new account on your iOS/Android device app store
- You should now have access to the US app store - download the HBO Max app
- Create a new account with your email address and password
- Use Paypal as your method of payment (this can be a UK account)
- Once your account is verified, you can sign in from any device
You should now be able to watch HBO Max as if you were in the US, providing you have a VPN on the device you're using.
Watch HBO shows on Sky Atlantic or Now
If signing up for both a VPN and HBO Max sounds like too much work - or money - then there is one more option in the UK: Sky Atlantic.
Sky has a deal with HBO to exclusively air the American network's shows in the UK, meaning that most major HBO shows - including both Game of Thrones and Westworld - air on Sky Atlantic. In addition to that the channel offers a number of shows from other premium American networks such as AMC and Showtime.
Because of that premium content, you can't add Sky Atlantic to a TV package with another provider - it's exclusive to Sky subscribers. So if you want to watch the latest HBO shows on Sky Atlantic you'll need to sign up to Sky.
There is a cheaper way to access the same content: Sky Atlantic's shows are also included in the Now Entertainment Membership, which costs £9.99 per month and allows you to stream a variety of TV shows - from Sky channels and beyond, including the HBO series - from your phone, games console, smart TV, or PC. You can try it right now thanks to a seven-day free trial too.
Now is definitely the cheapest way to watch HBO shows in the UK, but it does come with one big disadvantage: while it always has the most recent shows, the service's access to the back catalogue varies considerably as licensing deals change.
Can I watch HBO on Amazon Prime?
HBO used to be available on Amazon Channels, which was an additional subscription on top of a Prime Video one. However, this has now been axed.