Apple AirPlay 2 support sneaks HBO Max onto Roku devices

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra (Roku)

The introduction of Apple AirPlay 2 support on some Roku devices provides another path for streaming HBO Max while the wait continues for a native app.

Roku is rolling out its OS 9.4 update, which will add AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support for certain 4K Roku devices including the Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar, Roku Smart Soundbar, Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Premiere. The company said AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are expected to roll out to supported 4K Roku TV models in the coming days.

“With Roku OS 9.4 now available on streaming players, we are adding all-new ways to navigate and control content-rich experiences on Roku devices as well as ensuring Roku devices provide a great entertainment experience for customers, regardless of what other technology products they prefer in their homes and particularly with the addition of Apple AirPlay and HomeKit,” said Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS at Roku, in a statement.

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HBO Max launched on May 27 and the service has yet to reach distribution deals with either Roku or Amazon, which together represent a large segment of the connected TV streaming device market. Roku users have already unearthed some other workarounds for streaming HBO Max on their Roku devices.

In September, Roku reached a distribution deal with Peacock, NBCUniversal’s ad-supported streaming service, approximately two months after its national launch.  A week before, AT&T CEO John Stankey told Bloomberg that he was optimistic that HBO Max would land on one of those platforms “in relatively short order.” He also suggested that a deal with one may force the hand of the holdout, since it would be hard to “be the Lone Ranger standing out there on its own.”

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar in August told Bloomberg that the fourth quarter could increase the pressure on device makers to make HBO Max deals so they have the same content lineup as their competitors.

“As we head into the fourth quarter, when gift giving happens, it becomes a more material situation for a seller of hardware. There are alternatives in Google Chromecast and Apple TV,” Kilar said.