HBO MAX is a web video streaming platform that offers all you would expect from the name and much more besides. It went online during May 2020 to complement HBO’s other digital media. This service provides premium content that includes HBO’s original programming like “Game of Thrones” and channels that include DC, Cartoon Network Adult Swim, Studio Ghibli, and CNN. If that’s not enough for you, HBO Max also has the entire Warner Brothers catalog — which means you get the Looney Tunes channel and Friends.
So if HBO Max sounds like a really excellent video streaming service to you, it’s because it is indeed! But there’s a catch. HBO hasn’t invested a lot of effort in the internationalization of its platforms. Hence HBO Max serves only US-based users at present, and it deploys a geo-blocking technology that prevents any outsider from watching the platform’s content. So if you’re not in the US and you try to watch a video in the HBO Max catalog, you will get the error: “HBO Max is not available in your region.”
Are you one of those souls who can’t enjoy HBO Max because of your physical location? Then, this article is for you! You will be delighted to learn that you can see HBO Max even away from the US if you just learn to use a single digital tool: the virtual private network (VPN).
Streaming HBO Max away from the US – The quick guide
Let’s say you already have a subscription to HBO Max, and you don’t have time to read our whole article, or you don’t need to learn that many details because you’re already conversant with VPN technology. Then, here’s how you can see HBO Max in the quickest possible way:
- Get a VPN subscription. NordVPN is our preferred VPN vendor. You can choose the one you like, but it has to be a premium service. Stay away from free VPNs.
- Download and install the VPN apps and software your service provides for the operating system or device you intend to use with HBO Max.
- Sign in to the VPN.
- Choose a server based in the US.
- Now launch your browser, point it to HBO Max, sign in, and enjoy all the content you want!
HBO Max and VPNs: Why do I need one, anyway?
The thing with legal video streaming services is that they can’t offer all the content they have to every user on the planet. Before showing a title, they must negotiate with the copyright owner and agree on what material the platform can broadcast to which countries. Consequently, every country has a different catalog (assuming there is something at all), depending on the platform’s rights.
Since HBO owns the copyright to its original programming, at least Game of Thrones should be available for every country. Right? Wrong. Things are never that simple. Many of HBO’s original shows were produced in association with other companies, so even HBO can’t decide alone what it does with that material.
The bad news for HBO fans is that the company is not rushing to expand its availability to the whole planet. The primary market is, of course, the US. Then starting on November 2021, it grew to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Spain, and Andorra. And this year should see the list grow by fifteen more countries.
An unusual feature in HBO’s expansion strategy is that some of the world’s most important markets, such as Germany, France, or the UK, still don’t get service from the Max platform.
As you can see, the US is not the only country in which HBO MAx operates. Does that mean you don’t need a VPN if you live in Spain or Andorra? Well, yes, if all you want is to get access, your geo-location will give it to you. But remember that, because copyright distribution deals, the catalog available in every country is different. The land which gets the largest (and best) video library in HBO MAx is the US. So if you want to unleash HBO’s full potential, you need to be able to unlock the US catalog. And you need a VPN to do that.
What else will a VPN help me with besides unblocking HBO Max US?
This article focuses on a top-notch VPN’s ability to bypass the geo-location blocks in HBO Max. The demand for this use case exploded over the last couple of years because of the demand for home entertainment the Covid-19 pandemic brought about. And it works, as you will see as soon as you try it.
However, VPNs are one of the most versatile and powerful tools on the Internet, and having a premium VPN service will give you many more benefits.
So let’s see briefly what a VPN is and what it will do for you.
A VPN is a network that will perform two essential tasks. First, it will spoof your IP address. All the traffic between your device and the rest of the world will go through a VPN server.
The servers on the other side will think that you are connecting from the VPN server, and they will see its IP address as yours. In fact, this is the trick that enables the unblocking of HBO Max or any other video streaming platform. As you connect from a US-based server in your VPN’s network, HBO Max sees you as a US-based client, thus giving you the entire US catalog.
The second trick that every VPN must always do for you is to encrypt all of your incoming and outgoing traffic. Good encryption turns a stream of meaningful data into a seemingly random stream of white noise. Thus, no external observer can figure out what is happening with your traffic unless they access the decryption keys. So, are you worried about government surveillance? Your ISP likes to throttle video streamers and torrenters? Have you been a victim of those hackers that are always lurking around the world’s WiFi public hotspots? The encryption a VPN gives you will make all those problems go away.
So a VPN will increase your digital security, anonymity, and privacy. If you are familiar with Snowden’s revelations, you’ll immediately see how this is an excellent advantage for you.
Encryption and IP masking are the two things that every VPN is supposed to do. It’s the definition of a VPN, more or less. But the best VPNs (like the ones we’ll recommend and describe in the next section) will do so much more for you!
For instance, NordVPN has a feature called obfuscation. It takes all your traffic and, besides the encryption and IP spoofing, it makes it look like HTTPS traffic. So any third-party tracking your activities will think that you’re simply exchanging traffic with a secured HTTP website, which is becoming the standard type of website. In reality, you could be doing anything, from using the BitTorrent network to streaming your favorite Game of Thrones episode.
The most critical consequence of HTTPS spoofing is letting you evade all kinds of censorship. The world’s most intrusive governments (some of which forbid VPNs) won’t be able to stop you from using any website you want in the world because they won’t know you’re doing it. Obfuscated VPN traffic is the very thing that allows you to bypass the Great Firewall of China or the VPN restrictions in the UAE.
We could keep going telling you about the wonders of having a good VPN. But that’s beyond the scope of this guide. Also, we’ve written extensively about such subjects on this website, so if you browse around a little, you’ll find plenty of relevant information if you want to learn more.
The bottom line is this: in this day and age, having a VPN is not a luxury but a fundamental necessity for every digital denizen. It will make your life better in ways you can’t even begin to imagine, and unblocking HBO Max’s complete catalog is not even the tip of the iceberg. Get a VPN. It will be hard for you to be wrong.
The best VPNs for HBO Max in 2022
Unblocking HBO Max needs a VPN, as we’ve mentioned repeatedly already. The thing about the VPN market is that it’s exploded over the last few years, and there are many options out there.
Not every option will work, though. This task needs a VPN whose server connections are highly stable and very fast, to begin with — let alone that you need an option that offers enough servers in the US so that you can always find open slots for you. And you won’t’ find these features from every provider, even if they have excellent reputations.
Keep in mind that different VPNs have different priorities. Some of the best world’s VPNs can’t manage video streams regarding security and privacy. The increased security they offer (additional encryption layers, for instance) comes at the cost of transfer speeds. Thus they can’t support an HD video stream. But, again, we’re talking about some of the best options in the industry. These are not bad services; they’re merely the wrong tool for the job.
Finding out the best VPNs for video streaming that will still keep you safe and do everything great VPNs should do is a labor-intensive process that takes a lot of expertise, time, and resources. But you don’t need to do it! It’s our job to do the work in your stead. So we’ve tested many VPNs, and we will tell you the best three ones for HBO Max.
The very best VPN globally and the best option for HBO Max.
NordVPN is our go-to VPN for many tasks. In our weekly re-evaluations of many VPNs for different purposes, we mostly conclude that NordVPN is the best option. Unlocking HBO Max is not the exception.
You can get the HBO Max US catalog with NordVPN for sure. Still, this VPN unlocks almost every video streaming service in existence. So if you also want to get the best from Netflix, Disney Plus, Fox Sports Go, BBC iPlayer, or any other video streaming platform, this provider is the way to go.
The SmartPlay feature in NordVPN allows you to get geo-blocked material without using the VPN’s app. Just add the DNS addresses to your account page, and that’s it. It’s so powerful. But we’d still advise you to use the full VPN server connection to get encryption and obfuscation on your video traffic. Some ISPs observe their users’ habits and throttle accounts that stream a lot of video content. It would be better for you to prevent that.
NordVPN features the NordLynx tunneling protocol, the fastest in the industry (it’s based on WireGuard). This VPN’s high speeds and stability make it better suited for video tasks than most of the rest.
Still unsure about using NordVPN? You can try it risk-free with its money-back guarantee, so you can use the service for a month before you decide to commit for the long term. As far as we’re concerned, you can’t go wrong with this vendor.
An old favorite still holds its own with HBO Max.
Almost no other VPN has gathered the excellent reputation associated with ExpressVPN. That’s because it’s been around for a very long time, and it’s always provided a service at the industry’s vanguard, very high quality indeed.
While NordVPN is the service that gets all the hype lately, ExpressVPN has been every reviewer’s darling for years.
ExpressVPN’s server network is not as extensive as NordVPN’s, but it’s still quite large, and it has plenty of servers in the US, which is the critical element of HBO Max unlocking. The server speeds are also very high (they can give you up to 75 to 80% of your baseline ISP’s speeds), and the connections are also stable.
Also, as with NordVPN, ExpressVPN has many additional features besides robust encryption and IP spoofing that make its service unique in the market. You could find that you decided to join this VPN to use HBO Max but that you will keep the service for years because it’s so helpful in so many other ways.
The best budget VPN unblocks HBO Max as well.
SurfShark is a relatively new VPN provider. However, it offers a surprisingly top-notch set of features comparable with those in NordVPN or ExpressVPN for a fraction of the cost. Thus, it’s been an industry disruptor for the last few months.
Its ease of use also makes it among the perfect VPNs for HBO Max. Just join the network, pick any server in the US, Latin America, or the Caribbean, and you’ll get all the HBO MAx catalog. Also, like our previous two picks, this VPN unlocks many other platforms such as Netflix or Hulu, so you’ll have plenty of entertainment choices besides HBO Max.
Surfshark’s features also include a Smart DNS feature (like NordVPN does) so you can spoof your IP address even without using a VPN server. But like in the previous case, we do not suggest using it alone because your traffic remains unencrypted.
How to watch HBO Max on different devices
The premium VPN of your choice will unlock HBO Max on any device you want. So you can enjoy that new HBO show you want to see with your friends and family on your smart TV or your smartphone as you travel or conduct your ordinary business.
HBO Max on Mobile Devices ( Apple or Android)
So if you can’t use a TV or a console, your tablet or your smartphone are enough for you to access HBO Max. Any mobile device will do the trick. Your VPN vendor provides software to download and install on your device. You can often find those apps in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store with a simple search.
Here’s what to do, step by step:
- Set your phone and app store location to the United States.
- Find your VPN app. Download and install it. NordVPN is the best option as far as we’ve seen, but the other two options will work as well.
- Sign up for a new Google or a new Apple ID account depending on your mobile device. This new account must have the US as your country of residence.
- Switch your device to your new US-based account.
- Search the HBO Max app. Install it.
- Sign up for an HBO Max Account. Follow the verification procedure. Or sign in if you already have an account with HBO Max.
- You’re done! Watch all the HBO Max you want!
Those steps will also work in iPads, Android tablets, or Amazon Fire devices.
Watch HBO Max on your desktop
You can also quickly access HBO Max from your Chrome OS, macOS, or Windows computer.
- Download, install and set up your VPN’s software.
- Launch the app. Connect to the VPN network through a US-based server.
- Create an HBO Max account and enjoy the shows!
HBO Max on a Fire TV Stick
The general procedure is almost the same if you want to unlock HBO Max on your Fire TV stick. First, go to the app store and find your VPN app. Install it. Set up your VPN credentials and connect to a server in the US.
Once you’re connected with a US IP address, please search for the HBO Max app in the app store and install it. Then, create a US-based HBO account and log into it.
From this moment on, you should be able to enjoy HBO Max on your Firestick. The procedure is the same if you have an Xfinity Xflex, a Chromecast, or a Roku device.
HBO Max on smart TVs
This will work on Samsung TVs, Amazon Fire TVs, Android TVs, and Apple TVs.
Like in the previous cases, you get your VPN app installed in your Smart TV, set up an account, and join the VPN network through a US-based server. Once that’s done, you download the HBO Max app, sign up (as if you were in the US) and start watching HBO Max!
There’s a more sophisticated method: if you install your VPN into your router, then every device whose Internet comes from that router will be in the VPN automatically. Thus even those devices that do not support apps (like Play Station 4, 5, Xbox One, and more) will be able to use the HBO Max service without problems. We explained setting up your VPN in a router in this article here, which is a more elaborate process, of course. However, NordVPN and ExpressVPN support that option, and their knowledge base will tell you everything you need to know so you can make this work.
Watching HBO from wherever you are
The United Kingdom
HBO’s distribution rights in the United Kingdom are in the hands of Sky Atlantic. But sometimes, it takes a while for the content to become available there. Also, HBO Max is unavailable in the UK so you won’t get any of the Warner Brothers material.
So if you are a UK HBO aficionado, everything boils down to this: you can only get the latest HBO content in a timely way if you can access the US catalog, and the only way to do that is with a VPN that boasts US servers.
HBO Max doesn’t serve Canada. A VPN will allow you to join and watch the service, but you could have a problem with your payment method — the HBO payments system could reject Canadian bank cards.
This issue goes away if you pay your membership through Android and Apple devices because HBO doesn’t manage those payments directly.
Sky distributes HBO to Germany and Italy. Then there’s HBO Europe in Sweden, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Portugal, Poland, Norway, Montenegro, Macedonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Bulgaria. VPNs are the only way to access HBO if you are anywhere else in the continent.
Mexican HBO enthusiasts are probably the luckiest outside the US. HBO Max became officially available in Mexico one year after its US launch. As a result, every Mexican HBO Go account became an HBO Max one, and the entire US catalog is available too.
Binge and Foxtel include HBO in Australia. However, it’s hard to avoid web spoilers because of the time difference. At any rate, you can’t get HBO Max at all in Australia unless you use a VPN in Australia.
Paying for HBO Max if you’re not in the US
If you sign up for HBO Max on the website, you will have to pay for your subscription using a domestic (US) payment method. But you don’t need to be discouraged; there are other ways to do this.
Suppose that you already have your VPN app installed and a US HBO Max account ready to go. All that is left is to pay for your subscription. So here’s what you do: you pay for your subscription using Google Pay, for instance, so that you can pay with any paying card or with Paypal. The same goes for Apple devices.
And there’s another method: you can pay for an HBO Max account with a digital gift card. You can buy them at Amazon US, which allows you to pay for your purchases in various ways not limited to American-based cards.
Fix to HBO Max not working with VPN
First of all, don’t panic. Minor issues arise all the time with HBO MAx connections, even with the very best VPNs.
If you are using a VPN but still can’t enjoy your HBO Max subscription, you picked a lousy VPN for this task or are using an inconsistent server. You can fix either issue by subscribing to a top-notch VPN (NordVPN or ExpressVPN, for instance) and picking a different server in the network.
Another frequent issue has to do with your browser’s cache. If it’s already full of cookies and other things that give away your actual location, then you have to clear your cache before HBO Max recognizes you as a US-based user.
Upon any irregularity, your first action should be to delete all cookies, clear the cache and reboot your operating system.
If, even after trying all those things, the problem persists, then go to your VPN’s vendor customer service. The three VPNs in our list have excellent customer service platforms that will get your problem solved quickly.
So what is the big deal about HBO Max, anyway?
Before 2020 HBO had two streaming services: HBO Go and HBO Now. In that year, it merged both into a new product, HBO Max, which has all the HBO content in the US (or abroad if you know how to mask your IP, of course).
The HBO original content is viral worldwide, and that alone would make this platform a big player in the video streaming industry. However, the platform includes the whole Warner Brother Catalog (which means you get Friends, the Looney Toons) and much other excellent content.
HBO Max and HBO GO, what is the difference?
HBO Go is an online app for users who already have HBO in their cable package. The content in both HBO Go, and HBO Now is the same.
The difference is that HBO Now allows other people, without a cable service or with a cable service without premium channels (like HBO) to see HBO’s content paying for a subscription.
The Internet has no borders. So why should your digital life have any?
Oh, ok, we are exaggerating a little. Different countries have different policies about Internet access and what you should and could do or not do online. And many service providers (in the video streaming business and others) have different services for different countries.
But the question holds: a VPN gives you a digital VISA to be wherever you want in the world at the click of a button. So why not use it?
Also, a VPN will make your digital life safer, more anonymous, and enhance your privacy. And it’s so cheap (one of your suggested providers gives you the complete service for fewer than 3 USD monthly!). So why should you miss out on the benefits of a VPN? There’s no good reason why.
And, when all is said and done, that VPN will grant you access to all the HBO Max content you ever wanted from anywhere you are in the world.