HBO Max launch day has arrived but Amazon, Roku and Comcast have yet to agree to distribution deals with the new streamer, so they won’t be along for the ride.
AT&T’s new subscription streaming service – priced at $14.99/month – combines all of HBO with a large library of licensed series and films along with original content.
Existing HBO Now direct-billed customers, as well as those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum and Verizon Fios Internet will get instant access to HBO Max today at no extra cost, with the HBO Now app automatically updating to the HBO Max app on supported devices.
Current HBO subscribers who get their service and are direct-billed through AT&T, AT&T TV, DirecTV, U-Verse TV, Cox, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios TV and some independent cable providers like WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, RCN and MCTV, among others, now also have access to HBO Max at no extra cost. Those customers can log into HBO Max using their existing provider’s username and password.
New subscribers can sign up for HBO Max directly through HBOMax.com or through AT&T, DirecTV, U-Verse TV, Apple, Cox, Google Play, Hulu, Optimum, Samsung Smart TV, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios, YouTube TV, and select independent cable providers through the NCTC agreement.
The service can be accessed via Android, iOS, Android TV including Sony Android TVs (2016 models and later), Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices, Chromebooks, PCs, Macs, select Samsung Smart TVs (models 2016-2020), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
However, Comcast users won’t be able to access or subscribe to HBO Max through their Xfinity X1 or Flex devices, and HBO Max won’t be available on Amazon Fire TV or Roku devices. Dish Network users also won’t have direct access to HBO Max, since the satellite provider and the premium network have been at odds over carriage for more than a year now.
Comcast ended the most recent quarter with 29.5 million total customer relationships. Roku ended the most recent quarter with nearly 40 million active users and in January, Amazon Fire TV said it had 40 million active users, a figure that has likely grown since. Even with some potential overlap between users on those platforms, it still represents a major addressable market that HBO Max won’t be able to reach. It also could negatively impact HBO's subscriber base who came to HBO Now through Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Roku Channel.
"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. 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," said an Amazon spokesperson.
It’s a launch strategy that runs the risk of alienating millions of HBO, HBO Now and would-be HBO Max subscribers. But it’s also one that may be crucial to AT&T’s long-term plans for HBO Max.
When incoming AT&T CEO John Stankey last year pitched HBO Max for distributors, he described how pay TV providers and other platforms would still get to participate in monthly revenue sharing for the service, like they did with traditional HBO. He also pointed toward all the user data that will be generated through the HBO Max platform. He said that data will be integrated with Xandr, AT&T’s advanced advertising and analytics business (which has been merged with WarnerMedia), where it will be anonymized, aggregated and visualized on a nationwide basis. He said that will help with monetization once HBO Max’s ad-supported offerings begin rolling out in 2021.
On platforms like Amazon Channels and the Roku Channel, HBO doesn’t get full access to the user data when subscribers sign up for its service.
This article was updated to include a statement from Amazon.