HBO Max launches, but without Roku, Amazon Fire TV users

Here's why new streaming service isn't available on 2 most popular platforms
HBO Max set for May 27 launch, initial lineup announced
Posted at 10:20 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 22:20:49-04

HBO's newest venture in the on-demand video streaming service made its debut Wednesday, though more than 80 million television households are still without it.

That's because the new HBO Max is unavailable on the two largest streaming platforms -- Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Chris Willard, vice president of communications for HBO's parent company, AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, told USA Today that "there is no deal in place" to bring HBO Max to either platform.

HBO Max is everything that predecessor HBO Now -- HBO's standalone on-demand service for cord cutters -- has and then some. Priced at $14.99 per month, HBO Max (the moniker shares its name with Cinemax, HBO's sister linear premium subscription channel) features 10,000 hours of content, including all of HBO's current and legacy programming, plus a handful of originals like "Love Life," a romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick, in addition to an expansive catalog of films from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

Other notable programming includes the streaming rights to the hit NBC sitcom "Friends," every episode of "Sesame Street" dating back to 1969 and animated classics from the Looney Tunes collection.

HBO Max is being offered at no additional charge to DirecTV and AT&T TV customers. It can also be found via Apple and Google devices, Samsung smart TVs, and the top two video gaming consoles, Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One.

A deal was also reached Wednesday to bring HBO Max to Comcast's Xfinity customers who already subscribe to the linear channel.

So why not Roku or Fire TV? The simple reason has to do with carriage fees.

"With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon's Prime video channels," Amazon said in a statement. "Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog. We believe that if you're paying for HBO, you're entitled to the new programming through the method you're already using. That's just good customer service and that's a priority for us."

Roku issued a similar explanation.

"As the No. 1 streaming platform in the U.S., we believe that HBO Max would benefit greatly from the scale and content marketing capabilities available with distribution on our platform," Roku said in a statement. "We are focused on mutually positive distribution agreements with all new OTT services that will deliver a quality user experience to viewers in the more than 40 million households that choose Roku to access their favorite programs and discover new content. Unfortunately, we haven't reached agreement yet with HBO Max. While not on our platform today, we look forward to helping HBO Max in the future successfully scale their streaming business."

A retort from HBO provided some hope for those Roku and Fire TV users left in limbo, while also taking a shot at its competitors in the streaming wars.

"We are thrilled that HBO Max is widely available at launch to customers through a variety of devices and distribution partners, as well as HBOMax.com," a statement from HBO said. "Our goal is to make HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers globally as possible so they can enjoy beloved shows from HBO, the Warner Bros. movie and TV library and a diversity of hit programming exclusive to HBO Max. We look forward to reaching agreements with the few outstanding distribution partners left, including with Amazon and on par with how they provide customers access to Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu on Fire devices."

HBO Max is offering a free trial for the first seven days.