Thursday, December 17, 2020, 10:57 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
HBO Max is live on Roku devices, a day after Roku and WarnerMedia came to terms on an agreement. The HBO Max app can be downloaded from the Roku channel store and users can subscribe to HBO Max, which costs $15 per month. Roku users already subscribing to HBO will be automatically upgraded to HBO Max and can use their existing login information.
The Roku-WarnerMedia deal comes after a months-long stalemate between the companies and while terms were not disclosed, it makes lots of sense for both. For HBO Max, Roku’s estimated 46 million active users were a huge hole in its addressable audience. Missing Roku’s user base would have meant that promotions like “Wonder Woman 1984” coming on Christmas Day to HBO Max (and theaters) would have been under-optimized.
Perhaps more importantly, Roku’s users would have been missed heading into 2021 as Warner Bros. full film slate comes to HBO Max. It’s the boldest move that any studio has made to embrace streaming and also to mitigate ongoing theatrical limitations due to Covid. Whether the lift in HBO Max subscribers will be enough to offset the reduced box office will be closely monitored in 2021. Certainly being able to target Roku users will be a meaningful positive.
For Roku, closing the HBO Max deal is also beneficial in a number of ways. In the important holiday season, it puts Roku on a competitive footing with other devices where HBO Max is already available. For existing Roku users it’s a plus for the user experience, eliminating potential disappointment as the reality of missing out on Wonder Woman 1984 comes into focus. Like other devices, Roku will benefit from the huge marketing push HBO Max will make in ’21 related to the Warner Bros. films.
The deal also helps quiet the narrative that device providers are taking on too strong a gatekeeper role in determining what streaming services will be available.
More broadly, HBO Max on Roku adds momentum to streaming video’s virtuous cycle. As more high quality content is available more widely, more people will subscribe as they recognize the benefits. This in turn means more investment will be made in great content that can be streamed. And so on.