Q. Is there any hope that HBO Max will be on Roku and Fire TV anytime soon? I would like to subscribe and I would if it was on one of them. What are your thoughts? — Stella, Carson City, California.
Stella, since HBO Max launched on May 27, the streaming service has not been available on the nation’s two leading streaming devices, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV. While the regular HBO is on both devices, HBO Max is not, and it’s obviously hurting AT&T’s effort to make the latter an industry leader. (HBO Max is an expanded version of the regular HBO with added programming from services such as Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.)
Jason Kilar, CEO of Warner Media, which oversees HBO Max for AT&T, was asked about the fee fight in an August interview with Bloomberg News. He suggested that Roku and Amazon will likely capitulate to their demands during the holiday season because they risk losing device sales to rivals such as Apple TV 4K. (Apple TV 4K does carry HBO Max.)
However, thanks to Amazon’s Prime Day sale, and the culture’s insistence on celebrating Christmas earlier every year, the holiday sales period is underway. And HBO Max is still not on Roku and Fire TV.
You could argue that AT&T could be close to a deal with either behind closed doors. But something AT&T CEO John Stankey said yesterday would suggest the gap between the companies has not narrowed.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference yesterday, Stankey blasted companies that are unfairly flexing their marketing muscle to create bottlenecks between programmers and their potential audiences. The executive did not name names, but it seems clear that he was talking about Roku and Amazon.
“Where the bottlenecks are sometimes occurring are in these commercial agreements,” Mr. Stankey said virtually at the event. “We should ask ourselves, is that friction somebody really feeling their oats and maybe having market power above and beyond what’s reasonable for innovation?”
Stankey is a industry veteran who’s known for choosing his words carefully. He likely would not fire the proverbial shot across the bow at Roku and Amazon during a major financial conference if he thought a deal was close. Stankey wanted to send a message, and hopefully, increase pressure on the two device makers to get on board.
So, Stella, I don’t foresee an imminent deal between HBO Max and Amazon and Roku.
Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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Featured image: Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing, coming to HBO and HBO Max this Sunday.