While conceding he's unfamiliar with the finer details, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos predicts his company will eventually come to terms with AT&T and WarnerMedia and offer app support for the new HBO Max service.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) used the House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on Big Tech to try and get a handle, on behalf of consumers he said, on when the HBO Max app would be available on Amazon's Fire TV.
He asked Bezos about his role as a gatekeeper. He said he understood negotiations were ongoing, but that Amazon was asking not just for money but content from HBO sibling Warner Media.
He asked if it was fair for Amazon to use its gatekeeper status in the streaming device market to promote its position as a competitor in the video streaming market.
Bezos said he was not familiar with the details of the negotiation but predicted they would come to an agreement and suggested it was a case of two large companies doing what large companies do when negotiating.
Raskin said the issue extended to smaller companies in a less advantageous position with respect to negotiating with Amazon. He asked Bezos to speak to the general proposition of whether it was OK, company size notwithstanding, to negotiate not just for financial terms to be part of Fire, but also to extract leverage in getting content with them.
Bezos said that, in general, when companies are negotiating they aren't just talking about the money that will change hands but what they are getting in exchange for the amount of money. He called that fundamental business.
The HBO Max app currently isn't support by the two biggest connected TV device platforms, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. In fact, Amazon's deal to support WarnerMedia's legacy HBO Now app expires.
Raskin said that, from the outside, it could look like a structural conflict of interest, using control over access to obtain leverage over creative content they want.
Bezos said he could imagine scenarios where it would be inappropriate and ones where it would not be, and that he would get back to the congressman.
Raskin said the committee was trying to make sure that the money and power amassed by the "cyber barons" of this century is not used against Democracy and human rights abroad or the interests of a free market at home.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.