Cue the Dolly Parton.
Ok, so it’s not exactly the same reference — Dolly is singing about a lover entering her life and leaving with some arrogance — but it’s the song that jumped immediately into my head when I saw Peacock is a week away from their big launch and doesn’t yet have Roku or Amazon Fire support — just like HBO Max launched in May and still doesn’t.
It’s the latest example of brinkmanship between new streaming video services and the devices you use to watch them. Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices and smart TVs are incredibly popular, with a combined 70% of the streaming player market and roughly 80 million active users between them. But rather than act as neutral platforms offering up channels, companies like Roku and Amazon have grown more aggressive in their negotiations with new streaming services, leading to impasses that have kept high-profile services from launching on their devices.Peacock without Roku and Amazon Fire TV? Top exec is OK with that
What’s worse is the Peacock “top exec” doesn’t seem to be that concerned. This is 80+ million households, 80+ million potential customers (those you don’t already have with your Flex box) that you have to hope will reach you another way. Sigh.
One has to ask, is Peacock is following HBO Max’s lead and telling Roku and Amazon Fire they won’t play ball and cut them into their margins?
So HBO Max and Peacock are playing chicken with Amazon and Roku. Who will blink first? (I asked this question in a separate post here: Does HBO Max or Quibi Get To Amazon Fire and Roku first?)
While these people can’t get in the same room and work this out, the rest of us suffer out here through convoluted usability. Those who love using the Roku UI or Apple Fire TV are denied access to HBO Max, Quibi and, if they don’t work this out in the next week, Peacock.
Amazon I can see playing hard ball. They have always done things pretty much their own way — and quite successfully the vast majority of time in their core market. They focus on selling “stuff” and they do that extremely well. It’s often their sandbox and if you want to get in there with them, well, their rules. It’s their DNA. I fully expect we’ll see Amazon as a major studio force someday, just like we look at NBC and to a lesser extent HBO today. They are doing it their own way. Quibi? I don’t see them making it more than a couple years with their current direction. If they change, who knows, but you can’t just throw a bunch of money at a bad idea and make it a good business.
Roku? They aren’t a studio. They don’t produce anything except their Roku channel and their devices, which play other people’s “stuff.” Without other people’s creativity, their work, Roku has nothing to play. Amazon has done quite a bit for the creation of content, through their various book publishing models and through screenplays, movie and TV. Roku, at least to this writer’s knowledge, hasn’t done any of that.
So, I’m feeling less generous toward Roku. They are more leech-like in this scenario.
Again, when Roku first launched and nobody knew who the heck they were they would have done deals with both of these established companies in a heartbeat, even if it meant they got almost nothing in return. They forgot the people who got them where they are today — us. I get jaded by tech companies who forget their customers, except to use us against the content creators. “Look at the greedy studio, not wanting to get their movies and TV content on our platform for you.” That’s pretty rich.
Fast forward to some period of leadership in the streaming marketplace and the song has changed. Sing it, Dolly. At least you have it right. I shouldn’t end on a cliche, but it just fits too well.
What comes around goes around.