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While HBO Max launched all the way back near the end of May (Fine, it was only a little over three months ago, but it feels like a super long time.), those of us who like to get our streaming subscriptions through a Roku device attached to our TV are still out of luck when it comes to being able to binge Friends to our hearts content. You can't get HBO Max through Roku yet, and the same can be said for folks who'd like to watch NBCUniversal's Peacock service, which launched a little over a month ago. Now, Roku's head honcho is speaking out about the dispute that's angered many users.
Roku's founder and CEO, Anthony Wood, recently spoke to Variety about the issue that his company is having with both NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia (which owns HBO Max) when it comes to the efforts to work out a deal for the new streamers to be added to the popular platform. While it was already obvious that Roku and HBO Max were butting their figurative heads together by early June, Wood has now opened up about the problem that has kept Roku from being able to line up Peacock and HBO Max for their users, and said:
Our platform is open to these services on very reasonable terms. . . . All of their main competitors are available on the Roku platform. Fair and reasonable content distribution deals are how we finance the low-cost easy-to-use Roku platform that consumers use to access these services on their TVs.
The "reasonable terms" to which Anthony Wood referred is, likely, mostly due to money in both cases, specifically with regards to the percentage that Roku would get from each streamer for subscription fees and ad inventory. Roku's standard deal is to take 20 percent of subscription fees and 30 percent of ad inventory from the streamers it partners with, but Peacock is unhappy with those terms, because the streamer only has five minutes or less of advertising each hour.
For HBO Max's part, it's said that the company would like to eliminate the legacy HBO streamer that has been sold through The Roku Channel, so that HBO would only be accessible through its own, standalone app, which those at Roku are not happy about.
Wood also noted that Roku's typical distribution deals for content suppliers hasn't changed over the company's many years in business, but it also doesn't change for specific streaming services, no matter how many subscribers it might bring to Roku. This seems to be the issue from the perspective of Tony Goncalves, who's the CEO of AT&T’s Otter Media division, which is the group that’s directly in charge of HBO Max.
In early June, Goncalves noted that the standoff with the decision-makers at Roku was because the platform didn't take into account the automatic value which would be added by HBO Max. His thought was that even though, technically, the streamer was new, it was offering up content from an already very well-known and loved channel, and said that they had "30-plus million existing subscribers that have already gone in their pocket and voted to subscribe to a product, and we’re making that product better...We just want to be treated fairly."
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like anyone is going to budge on this anytime soon. So, the big question now, is whether or not all of the annoyed Roku customers will get really pissy about this battle and walk away. I, for one, love my Roku and being able to access all my streaming services in one place, and while I'd like to try out HBO Max and Peacock, I'm certainly not so in love with the idea of either service (right now) to throw my streaming baby out with its streaming bathwater.
In fact, not being able to access either service on my Roku is a large part of what's kept me from subscribing so far, but that might change for myself and a lot of people as these streamers continue to develop intriguing content. I mean, we all need more to watch, right?
Be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest on the Peacock / Roku / HBO Max showdown and everything else in TV, movies and pop culture. But, for what to watch in the coming weeks, check out our guide to fall TV!