Starting last month, some Roku users were finally able to stream HBO Max on their devices, but the process is still hard to navigate. Roku and HBO's parent company, WarnerMedia, still stalemate over the new streaming app's capabilities. Until they agree, customers are relying on some well-known workarounds for the process.
Roku is one of the two most popular companies for streaming hardware in the U.S. and Amazon Fire TV. Both companies are in a deadlock with WarnerMedia, not wanting to cut HBO Max a deal similar to Netflix, Hulu and other streamers. Instead, they want to continue treating it like a TV channel, as HBO itself has been treated up until now. Thankfully, they finally provided a work-around with the latest Roku update.
Many customers are still relying on other devices to stream HBO Max, including video game consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Google Chromecast is also a solid option, allowing you to "cast" HBO Max from your mobile device or computer onto the big screen.
Aside from those options, Roku customers can now "cast" HBO Max as well — depending on how new their device is. Here is a look at the latest developments in the tumultuous relationship between Roku and HBO Max.
Roku Ultra & Roku Streambar
Roku customers can now stream HBO Max, but only if they have the Roku Ultra or the new Roku Streambar. These two new 4K devices were released in October, and they come loaded with the new Roku OS 9.4. This operating system allows you to download the apps Apple AirPlay 2 or Apple HomeKit, both of which can be used to display video from Apple devices like iPhones on the TV screen.
While this option is exciting for some users, it still has serious limitations. It requires customers to buy the latest Roku devices since older or cheaper Roku players won't support AirPlay or HomeKit — even if they have Roku OS 9.4. They also require that customers have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or other compatible devices to stream from. Overall, the Chromecast remains a more versatile option if you plan to take this route.prevnext
The Apple AirPlay 2 app allows users to cast media from an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer. This can be frustrating for customers with non-Apple phones, as the media will not play from any other operating system. It is also frustrating for those who may have an iPhone and have a Roku device, but not one new enough for this feature.prevnext
The Apple HomeKit app is a bit more versatile — it allows you to cast media from an iPhone, iPad, Mac computer, Apple Watch or even a HomePod. Users can control their whole TV experience with Siri voice commands, which can cut back on frustrating time typing with a TV remote.prevnext
Meanwhile, these highly specific options have not worked for everyone, even customers with all of the required hardware. On the Roku customer forum, there are long threads of users trying to help each other work out bugs between their Roku devices, Apple devices and the required apps. A report by The Streamable also noted some of these issues, though it speculated that these were highly specific technical glitches for those users.prevnext
While Roku has provided this work-around for "casting" HBO Max, it is still pushing its new HBO channel — a re-branding of the previous HBO Now streaming app. Here, customers can log watch HBO content as long as they have a valid login, filling in at least some of the gaps in the content. Sadly, this only applies to HBO network content, not the wide array of WarnerMedia content available on HBO Max.prevnext
The ongoing negotiations between Roku and WarnerMedia are at a stalemate, with neither side willing to budge on its bottom line. According to a report by Variety, the issue is that Roku wants to cut a deal where HBO Max is treated as a cable channel, whereas WarnerMedia wants it to be treated more like a streaming service. Roku reportedly relies heavily on its "Roku channels" and other "platform" features for its profit, despite the ubiquity of its hardware. Both companies have said that they hope a resolution will come soon, but so far there is no sign of a compromise in either direction.prevnext
Finally, it's worth noting that while HBO Max remains on the outside, Roku has finally cut a deal with WarnerMedia's other streaming app, Peacock. Back in September, Roku added a Peacock app to its store, allowing users to watch at the free subscription level, or more premium options.
"We are pleased Roku recognizes the value in making NBCUniversal's incredible family of apps and programming, including Peacock, available to all of their users across the country," said an NBCUniversal spokesperson in a press release at the time.0comments
"Audience demand for compelling content is fueling a surging shift to streaming for a majority of American households today," added Roku's vice president of content acquisition, Tedd Cittadine. "We're focused on delivering the kind of high-quality news and entertainment content Roku users want and love and we're excited to welcome Peacock's world-class programming to America's #1 TV streaming platform and help NBCUniversal build a bigger fan base through our industry-leading, audience development tools."
Many fans hope a similar deal for HBO Max is on the way, but in the meantime, they will have to take advantage of the AirPlay and HomeKit workarounds listed above.prev