HBO Max is here, unless you rely on Roku or Fire TV (like many households do). Yes, while (May 27) is day 1 for HBO Max the streaming service didn't meet the standard that Disney Plus set, and is missing from top streaming devices, as the Apple TV (seen above) is one of the few OTT boxes with HBO Max.
As recently as last week, we saw reports that WarnerMedia (HBO's parent company) and Roku were still "racing to hammer out" the deal to get the HBO Max app on Roku TVs, sticks and boxes. It's rumored that Roku's piece of the subscription fees pie is the sticking point.
- The best streaming services around
- How to figure out if you get HBO Max for free
- Starting soon: How to watch SpaceX Crew Dragon launch
The lack of an HBO Max app on Roku is less shocking than the absence of an Amazon Fire TV app because AT&T CEO John Stankey warned investors that "it looks like we may not be in the Amazon Fire app store when all of this is said and done."
Via email, an Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement to Tom's Guide, blaming HBO Max's parent company AT&T (which owns WarnerMedia): "With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog."
In a statement reported by Newsweek (opens in new tab), Roku didn't explain what they're demanding, but basically said that HBO Max gets so much from their platform that they can wait: "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."
The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) reports that Amazon and WarnerMedia are "at loggerheads over where the content will reside and who will have access to user data."
That statement is just meant to be about launch day availability, as it followed his claim that the company expected HBO Max to be "in virtually all app stores" at launch. That didn't age well.
Wondering how big of a deal this is? In 2019, market research firm Parks Associates said that Roku has 39% of the installed base of streaming media players in the United States, with Amazon Fire TV trailing behind at 30%. That means that somewhere around 69% of streaming media devices in households around the US do not have access to HBO Max.
- Feel like your content is restricted? Open it up with the best Fire Stick VPN
No HBO Max on Roku and Fire TV frustrations
Ryan Penagos, Marvel's AgentM (opens in new tab) tried to test it out, but the lack of a Roku app was part of the impediments in his way: "No roku app and Xbox one app just errors out before downloading. Oh well." Tweeter @crazyduckzxc (opens in new tab) went so far as to side-load HBO Max onto his Fire TV ... but it didn't work that well, as they had to plug in a mouse to navigate the interface.
#HBOMax So update on my HBO MAX fire tv sideloading adventure pic.twitter.com/0E3WzzEntJMay 27, 2020
User @thelovelypossum nailed the issue on the head, simply saying "The fact that HBO Max isn’t on Roku or Fire TV is a huge L." Twitter user @drake_aca vented about how frustrating it feels to pre-order the service when it isn't on his Roku: "so I maybe did that discounted preorder for literally no reason? I'm never going to be the person who watches TV on my laptop. If I'm on a computer I feel like I'm working, I just want to watch TV on my TV."
This could all be fixed relatively soon, so we'll keep you up to date.