Q. I started watching Peacock on my Roku yesterday and I love it! So many good shows and movies. So now I’m thinking that Roku will add HBO Max, too? What do you think? — Charlene, Lusby, Maryland.
Charlene, you’re right. Roku yesterday started adding the NBC-owned Peacock after the device maker last week struck a new carriage deal with Comcast, which owns NBC. Peacock had not been on Roku since it launched nationwide in July.
The move has raised hopes that Roku will now sign a similar agreement for HBO Max, which is owned by AT&T. HBO Max, an expanded version of the regular HBO channel, has not been on Roku, arguably the nation’s most popular streaming device, since its launch on May 27.
But there are some differences as well as similarities to the two situations.
First, Comcast clearly used its considerable marketing muscle to force Roku to relent. The cable operator last week threatened to remove 11 NBC apps from Roku if the device maker didn’t add Peacock. Roku did not want to go into the fall, when viewing traditionally increases, without those popular apps. Amazon’s Fire TV and Apple TV 4K would get a competitive advantage at a critical time.
AT&T, which owns several channels, such as the Turner networks, CNN and the regular HBO channel, potentially has the assets to make a similar power play. But we don’t know if AT&T’s contract would permit it to do so now, or in the near future. The current agreement between AT&T and Roku may preclude pulling the apps before the carriage term expires, and we don’t know when that term expires.
Second, while we don’t know the financial terms of the Peacock-Roku deal, I suspect that considerably more money is in play with HBO. Peacock offers a free version as well as two pay versions, both under $10 a month. HBO Max, however, charges $14.99 a month in normal times (it’s now running a $11.99 a month promotion). There’s more potential revenue to argue about at the negotiating table, and that often triggers friction between the negotiators.
You could also argue that there’s less pressure on Roku to add HBO Max now because it just added Peacock. Fire TV, Roku’s top rival, hasn’t added Peacock yet so Roku has an advantage there. (Both Roku and Fire TV don’t have HBO Max.)
Bottom line: The Peacock-Roku deal could create a template for AT&T and Roku to reimagine their negotiations, if you will. But it’s unclear if the path taken by Comcast is open to AT&T at this point.
Charlene, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
Note: Featured image is Succession, which is on HBO.
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— Phillip Swann