HBO Max tvOS Update Breaks Several Key Features, Degrading Experience Significantly

3 Jun

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UPDATE: We’ve spoken to people with knowledge of the situation and they say that HBO is aware of ‘some’ issues with player controls and are working with Apple to resolve them. The same goes for the problem with forced HDR. Our contact also said they are working on a fix forissues surrounding Universal Search which is an issue we weren’t aware of before and can add to that long list below!

We’ve asked about a timeline and anything more we hear will be posted here. What’s not clear still is why HBO moved away from Apple standard player UI.


The quality of tvOS apps from major streaming services has had a chequered past, to say the least, and HBO has had a strange history.

HBO was previously available as an Apple TV Channel, meaning native playback within the Apple TV app and, of course, things like skipping back 15 seconds with the Siri Remote, being able to ask Siri “What did she say?” and much more.

With the launch of HBO Max, HBO stopped supporting TV Channels and required the use of their new HBO Max app. The app, while not perfect, still allowed for a good playback experience, including the features mentioned above.

The new timeline UI & Billy Porter in an episode of ‘That Damn Michael Che’ on HBO Max
The new timeline UI & Billy Porter in an episode of ‘That Damn Michael Che’ on HBO Max

That tale took another turn this week with the release of an update to the tvOS app, 50.30.0.

This new version, while seemingly containing no updates to the gallery UI, has replaced the standard tvOS playback UI with HBO’s own version. There are already A LOT of issues, so much so it’s easier to make a list:

No support for “What did she say?”
No support for skipping back/forward 15 seconds using the new Siri Remote D-Pad or the edge of the old Siri remote’s trackpad.
No support for touching the D-pad/trackpad to bring up the timeline UI while playing.
The ‘next episode’ pop-up that appears at the end of an episode can’t be removed and pressing back/menu as before kicks you out to the main menu.
Almost all Siri commands don’t work (only, it seems, “skip ahead X minutes”).
Turning on/off subtitles requires pressing pause, swiping down then across to subtitles, pressing again then scrolling to your desired option, pressing yet again then resuming playback. Before, you could swipe down, select your choice, then swipe up again - the standard tvOS way.
Everything SDR - which is most of HBO Max, except for the new release films - is now ‘forced’ into HDR, meaning the brightness is a bit burnt out and colours are way too saturated. You can’t turn this off.
Pausing and then scrubbing forward and back has a massive bug, and the timestamp needle flies off in either direction with no way to slow it down until it hits the start or end.

The bottom line is, the viewing experience in the HBO Max app is now horrifically bad and almost unusable unless you’re planning just to play and pause. If you need to do anything else, don’t get your hopes up.

Ironically, the notes for the update are “A smoother streaming experience is waiting for you with a focus on bug fixes and performance improvements”.

We’ve reached out to HBO to try and get some clarity on this and will update if we hear anything back. In the meantime, feel free to send your complaints to @HBOMaxHelp on Twitter or via an online form here.

Have you experienced these problems with the HBO Max update? Let us know on Twitter.

‍Jonathan Reed
Jonathan, ScreenTimes’ Contributing Editor has been lucky enough to work on Apple products his whole life, ever since his Dad brought home a Mac Performa aged 11 (him, not his Dad). Apple is just engrained in his life, especially nowadays, as a graphic designer. His nerdy enthusiasm for Apple is only matched by his love of TV and film. Whether a buzz-worthy new show or blockbuster, a small cult show or an indie film, he’ll watch it. So Apple TV meets right in the middle of that Venn diagram! He also writes on his personal site, He lives in London and is writing his own bio in the third person.