AT&T and its WarnerMedia division launched their much hyped new streaming service, HBO Max, this morning, but did so without securing app support for the two biggest streaming video device ecosystems, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
On both a global and domestic basis, Roku and Amazon Fire TV control more than 50% of connected TVs, whether it be through devices like streaming boxes or dongles, or native integration through smart TVs.
Approaching its launch, AT&T conceded it was far from reaching terms with Amazon, which has quickly grown the Prime Channels component of its Prime Video empire with help from the legacy HBO Now app. AT&T was reportedly reluctant to let Amazon dis-aggregate HBO Max content into the Prime Video app in the same way it has for HBO Now, and that has been the crux of the impasse, analysts say.
Roku also operates a copy-cat version of Prime Channels, but it was reported that AT&T was much further along in negotiating an extraction for HBO Max, whereby the new app would be used directly by consumers, not vetted through Roku’s app. But an agreement apparently wasn’t reached by launch day.
As it is, the $14.99-a-month HBO Max will be streamable on all Apple and Google devices. That means virtually any smart phone or tablet powered by iOS for Android. In the living room, subscribers can use their Apple TV device, a Google Chromecast dongle, a smart TV or set-top powered by Android TV, or simply Google Chrome on a personal computer.
HBO Max is also supported by the major gaming consoles, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, as well as Samsung smart TVs manufactured prom 2016-2020 support the app.
TiVo, meanwhile, said the HBO Max app is compatible with its new TiVo Stream 4K device.
Despite being limited from consumer OTT devices that control more than half of U.S. streaming living rooms, HBO Max is well distributed in the pay TV industry, allowing users to sign up directly for the SVOD platform via cable TV services including Charter Spectrum, Cox, Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink branded systems, WideOpenWest (WOW!), Atlantic Broadband, RCN and MCTV.
Users of AT&T pay TV services, of course, can do the same—these include AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now, DirecTV and U-verse. Verizon Fios TV subscribers can also sign up directly.
UPDATE: The No. 1 U.S. cable company will also be part of the list, with Comcast announcing an integration deal for its X1 and Flex platforms. The technical execution of that integration, however, is still pending.
AT&T/WarnerMedia said those signing up for HBO Max through these pay TV services can download the HBO Max app and use it “on supported devices” or “via desktop.” It wasn’t clear how many of its pay TV partners provide consumer premises equipment that will play the HBO Max app.
How many pay TV subscribers, and potential users in general, will seek to sign up for HBO Max only to find it won’t work on the Roku or Fire TV device they use to stream their video?
John Stankey, AT&T’s incoming CEO and former head of WarnerMedia, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box earlier Wednesday. He spoke about the impasses that will keep HBO Max out of 80 million OTT homes.
“Roku and Amazon at this point have elected to not be distributors,” he said. “We must be doing something right if somebody believes we are now starting to be more in conflict with their business, so I don’t necessarily take that as a bad sign.”
Notably, HBO Max also launched without support for 4K video.
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