The AT&T-owned HBO Max is scheduled to debut next week, but as of this morning, the new streaming service will not be available on arguably the two leading streaming devices, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV.
John Stankey, AT&T’s CEO, acknowledged last week at an industry conference that HBO Max would likely not be available on Fire TV at launch on May 27. He did not mention Roku, but the streaming device company quickly issued a statement saying it didn’t have a carriage deal for HBO Max, either.
“As the #1 streaming platform in the US with over 40 million active accounts that rely upon Roku to access their favorite programs and to discover new content, we are focused on entering into win-win distribution agreements with all new OTT services as part of their launch strategies,” Roku said. “While we don’t typically comment on specific deal terms or negotiations, the fact is that in this instance while we believe that HBO Max would benefit greatly from distribution on Roku at launch, we do not currently have an agreement in place.”
HBO Max, which will cost $14.99 a month, will include the programming available from HBO as well as non-HBO shows and movies such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, South Park, Wonder Woman, The Wizard of Oz and The Matrix.
AT&T is betting heavily that HBO Max will generate millions of subscribers, and help the company attract business for other AT&T services such as AT&T TV, DIRECTV and its telecommunications offerings.
But without Roku and Fire TV, it’s hard to see HBO Max becoming a flagship product, much less one that would encourage consumers to bundle it with other AT&T services.
AT&T’s HBO Max web site is mum about the absence of both Roku and Fire TV, choosing instead to post a vague statement that the streamer will be widely available at launch.
“HBO Max will be available on many popular devices: phones, tablets, Mac and PC browsers, streaming media players and game consoles. Check back here once HBO Max is available in May,” the site reads.
Both Roku and Amazon present unique challenges for AT&T which desperately needs their participation.
Amazon, which features a Channels store on its web site, has been aggressive in seeking advertising revenue and other perks from streamers looking for carriage. Roku has a similar business called The Roku Channel which offers a mix of streaming services and marketing ties.
Both will likely want HBO Max to give up some control, and additional revenue, to be included in those ‘walled gardens.’
In addition, AT&T and Roku are involved in a five-month carriage dispute over the AT&T TV app. Roku removed it from its Channel store last January and the companies have yet to reveal why. (The app is still available in Roku user lineups if it was downloaded prior to the dispute.)
Update: Roku has returned the AT&T TV app to its Channel store.
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— Phillip Swann