New streaming services HBO Max and Peacock are both locked out of Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, in one of the most contentious battles in the ongoing "streaming wars." Warner Media launched two new streaming services this year, and competitors were swift to respond to the newcomers. According to a report by Variety, these companies may be at an impasse, and customers are the ones getting frustrated.
HBO Max launched in late May, while Peacock just recently went from an exclusive offering for certain cable packages to a worldwide streaming option. So far, neither service has managed to get an app up on either Roku or Fire TV — the two most popular streaming devices in the U.S. Sources close to the company say that it is beginning to look like they will never come to an agreement since Amazon Prime Video is a direct competitor on the streaming front.
This incompatibility is the culmination of a long-term chess game between massive media conglomerates. Amazon is in the unique position of controlling both the hardware for streaming and the apps that it carries. However, WarnerMedia believes it can wait for the company out until user outcry forces them to compromise. Both companies seem to disagree about who the users will blame for this issue.
An anonymous streaming executive told Variety that Roku and Amazon are asking for "egregious" terms to get WarnerMedia apps on their devices, while a source at one of the hardware companies said that they are simply asking for "a reasonable share" of the value they create for their partners. They also said that WarnerMedia is still approaching these negotiations with an "old TV mindset."
"Amazon and Roku are beginning to play hardball with a lot of these services," Parks Associates analyst Kristen Hanich said. "They're a lot more powerful than they were three years ago."
Since both HBO Max and Peacock are tied to their TV counterparts, they also threaten the profits Roku and Amazon make off of their existing TV analogs as well. So far, only Roku has agreed to host WarnerMedia's updated HBO app, which will replace HBO Now and HBO Go for existing customers. However, Amazon and Roku are both fighting back against WarnerMedia's attempts to remove HBO as a Prime Video Channel and a Roku Channel, respectively.
"They want to aggregate all this content into a central experience," an industry executive said. "But Netflix is never going to do that. Hulu is never going to do that. HBO did that early on, and now Amazon and Roku have a real problem because if HBO is not in their channels that model falls apart."
Analysts believe that the feud between these new streaming services and the companies that make streaming hardware has mostly hurt the services so far. HBO Max's lackluster sign-up numbers after launch have been attributed to its inaccessibility on most streaming devices. Users have had to turn to game consoles or screen-mirroring devices if they want to watch.
Still, WarnerMedia continues to indicate that it will reach an agreement with Amazon and Roku, and they say the same in all their public statements. In the meantime, fans continue to make noise about the spat on social media.