Roku and WarnerMedia have reached an agreement for the distribution of the HBO Max on the Roku platform — nearly seven months after the streaming service launched.
HBO Max will be live on Roku effective tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 17, the companies announced. The deal gives the streaming service coverage on all major over-the-top platforms.
This will end a long and quite unnecessary conflict that Roku should have resolved on day one when HBO Max launched. They had to make this deal, regardless whatever spin is put on it. HBO has been around forever and has quality streaming content, especially with the plan to day-and-date release all 17 theatrical movies in 2021 on HBO Max.
Glad to see this get done. Thank you HBO Max and Roku!
Recently, we couldn’t pass up buying a 65″ Onn Roku-powered Smart TV from Walmart for $238 USD. Our family bought four of them at that price (one for each son + us). There are some crazy good deals going on for TVs, for those looking to upsize, replace or add to an additional room. We’re not active TV buyers, having last bought a TV almost 10 years ago (our last set was a good one, what can we say?). Our 3D TV is still doing well and we’ll use that in another room.
Anyway, Roku OS 9.4 has offered up some additional features, including themes with custom sounds and beta support for voice search — a feature we use frequently on Chromecast TV.
Roku OS 9.4 offers up some interesting new features, but some of those will depend on what kind of Roku device you’re using. Overall, Roku is promising improved performance across devices, including faster startup times, load times for top channels, and more. And the company’s various streaming devices and smart TVs will also get access to updated theme packs to add a bit more variety to your menus and home screen. Those theme packs showed up in version 9.3, but this update adds some sound effects to enhance the experience.
Despite having a Roku smart TV (first ever for us, btw, our son has had one for awhile) and having a separate Roku 3 device, we have been using the new Chromecast TV lately instead. Like that it seems to do a little better job searching across all streaming platforms, like JustWatch.com. It’s not quite as effective as that tool and a part of me roots for Roku to get it together.
Roku should have had comprehensive multi-platform streaming voice search working a long time ago. I think they got a little too tied up in advertising and selling viewer eyeballs and less focused on improving the technology. This is dangerous in the tech sector if you take your eye off innovating too much, somebody else comes in and pulls the rug beneath your business (and later buys you out).
The other part of Roku that bugs me is not cutting a deal with HBO Max yet.
The news earlier today that HBO Max and Amazon finally reached a deal for their Fire tablets and sticks is encouraging..
Sure, we can blame WarnerMedia/HBO, but Roku should have gotten the deal done for their customers. If you visit the Roku support forums you’ll see many others with this same perspective. If you develop your business plan as an aggregator, your job is to work with as many streamers as possible. I can understand limiting some types of content, perhaps the hardcore adult stuff needs to be segregated into password protected areas and for legal reasons, but there is no reason not to have a major mainstream streaming channel like HBO Max not working on day one. Here we are many months later and still no functionality, save for a small few workarounds. Unacceptable.
Going to try and keep happy thoughts on this one that Roku gets this done very soon. WarnerMedia seemed fairly confident it would happen by year end. That’s going to be here soon…
WarnerMedia has been steadfast believing that a deal would get done by the end of 2020 with Amazon Fire and Roku. Good to see that Amazon has inked a deal first and their Fire TV and stick users will be able to stream HBO Max starting Tuesday November 17, 2020.
The companies announced this morning HBO Max would begin to roll out to Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, Fire TV Edition smart TVs, and Fire tablets on Tuesday, November 17. This will expand HBO Max’s potential reach to “tens of millions” of Amazon device customers, WarnerMedia said.
And yes, we’re aware there are some workarounds, like using Apple Air2Play and casting from an iPhone or Tablet, but there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts to make that work. Roku needs to ink a real deal and fire up the HBO Max app that we all know is already made and waiting to be activated on Roku.
Despite whatever this means for Roku, it’s good news and we’ll take it. HBO Max should have been available from the start on Amazon and Roku, but one down, one to go.
Apparently, Comcast’s threat to pull 45+ channels from Roku was enough ammunition to get Roku back to the bargaining table. Roku customers were already setting the community section ablaze with complaints about missing streaming channels.
…that advantage breaks down when its demands are too steep to get high-profile services like HBO Max and Peacock to sign up. The company may be overplaying its hand here, and a number of its customers are frustrated at not having access to the apps, especially Peacock, which is free.
Good news, in the final moments a deal was reached and there’s already a Peacock app, albeit a private channel as of this writing, available on Roku. The app will switch to public soon, but you can access it by following the instructions linked below.
To add the channel, start by signing up for a Peacock subscription. Then, login to your Roku account andclick here to navigate to the Peacock Roku channel. If you’re prompted to enter a code, enter PEACOCK. The channel will be installed on your Roku device and you’ll be able to sign into your Peacock account to start streaming.
It’s been a little while since checking on the status of HBO Max and Peacock making a deal with Roku.
No deals have been cut yet, which would be the biggest and good news, but for those who want a recap on the history, here’s where all three sides appear to stand as of this writing. We will even slip in some bonus coverage on DC Universe at the end.
So far, Roku is refusing to cede ground on deal terms to add WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCU’s Peacock to its popular streaming platform. Roku’s standard ask is 20% of subscription fees and 30% of ad inventory on partner channels. That ad split has been a nonstarter for Peacock, which is loading 5 minutes (or fewer) of advertising per hour. WarnerMedia, meanwhile, wants to retire the legacy HBO service sold through The Roku Channel to have HBO Max available as a standalone app, at which Roku has balked.
If these numbers are accurate, and we cannot independently verify, they do seem business adverse for HBO Max and Peacock. They’re great for Roku, of course, if they can cut this kind of deal.
What do you, friendly readers, think of these terms? Are they fair and reasonable? Should HBO Max and Peacock pay to access the playing field Roku and Amazon have developed (reportedly 70% of all streamers use Roku or the Amazon Fire stick).
The most positive news we’ve seen come about since the launch of both platforms, is the belief that the Q4 2020 holiday season would put the most pressure on a deal. It remains to be seen just how much of a holiday season there will be in light of the pandemic, but subscribers can keep hoping that someday HBO Max and Peacock will be on Roku and Amazon Fire stick.
Just speculation on our part, but we believe HBO Max is more poised to cut a deal before Peacock, bearing Comcast has their own network of Cable, albeit they are battle scarred with the reduction of cable TV subscribers cutting chords and going to streaming. Comcast isn’t as likely to want to cut as deep into their nascent streaming efforts as WarnerMedia would likely be with HBO Max, since they are consolidating and even offering to offload some of their subsidiary projects like Crunchyroll:
WarnerMedia is looking to offload Crunchyroll, its anime subscription-streaming service — with an asking price of at least $1 billion — as parent company AT&T seeks to pay down debt, sources tell Variety. One of the potential buyers is Sony Pictures Entertainment, which operates the competing Funimation service.
Perhaps we’re in the shrinking tiny minority that wants to see DC Universe land on solid ground (it’s a weak movie and TV streaming service, admittedly), at least with it’s excellent comics-only subscription service, but Jim Lee remains the most optimistic public speaker (see: Jim Lee on DC Universe: “It’s definitely not going away”).
Our guess is that September 12, 2020 for the second leg of DC FanDome we’ll hear more about what’s happening. Hopefully that’s when we’ll find out Harley Quinn the animated series is renewed for season 3.
Somewhat ironically, DC Universe is and has been available on Roku. Crunchyroll, too.
When you think about having more stuff plugged into your TV — and you aren’t a hardcore techno nerd (like me!) — vs. buying a smart TV which has the stuff built-in aesthetically it’s a no brainer: buy the smart TV.
And that’s exactly what most people are doing.
Smart TV adoption is up to 54% in the U.S., according to Parks Associates, vs. 47% a year ago. Meanwhile, U.S. adoption of HDMI-connected streaming devices from brands like Roku, Amazon and Apple has only reached around 42%.
This is the Roku trojan horse: start out as the default. It’s the same strategy for Microsoft Windows on PCs and it’s replaying the narrative in the streaming world. Roku needs to get their UI at the very least as an option in as many TV sets as possible.
And, to date, they have.
Here’s another thing to consider: how often do people buy new television sets? It’s been something like 10 years since we bought ours. It’s getting near time for us to buy a 4K TV. Or maybe we skip 4K and go straight to 8K. We just love our existing 3D TV not to want to trade up.
When did you buy your last TV?
I think buying a TV, unless you want to stay bleeding edge of tech, is about as frequent as buying a new car. In our case, we buy cars only when we have to — when the repair bills don’t make sense or when the car outright craps out. TVs aren’t quite the same, but we remain very loyal to our older 3D HDTV.
In 2014 Chinese electronics manufacturer, TCL, didn’t think that much about sharing in the value of including Roku with their TVs. Their 2014 deal astonishingly included $0 for them to include that with their TVs.
Now that they have over a quarter of all the smart TV market, TCL wants in on the Roku market.
Sensing a missed opportunity, TCL has been working with other TV software providers to capture more customer revenue. In March 2020, the company announced a target of “profit from value-added Internet services exceeding 50%,” sending Roku’s shares down 5%.
For those who haven’t been following the kerfuffle, Roku and Amazon for their popular Fire stick believe they have the upper hand being that they serve as gateways to some 70% of the streaming households. HBO Max and Peacock feel they deserve to get the same treatment as Netflix, despite HBO roots as starting as an add-on premium service and Peacock being new. I left out Quibi, but they also aren’t on Roku or Amazon Fire stick.
Why do I think Roku will cave? Because they need HBO more than the reverse. HBO has been making original content since the 70s, long before anybody even knew what Roku was.
As for Peacock? They are big enough to go it alone for awhile. I’d think it’s more likely they cut a deal with Roku before HBO.
Quibi? Dart throw, it’s anybody’s guess where they land. My opinion only, but I don’t think Quibi is even in the discussion a couple years from now. Somebody bigger will likely buy them (Apple, perhaps) for their originals and creative pipeline, axe the nonsensical 10 minute clips and the company will be a historic footnote.
Back to this TCL deal. This is bad news for Roku. They cut a very smart deal in 2014, but doesn’t sound like they can benefit the same way from that any longer.
If you needed any more proof that “free” sells in the streaming space, Peacock, the only major contender streaming service that offers a free version already has 10+ million subscribers.
More than 10 million households have signed up for Peacock, the new streaming service from Comcast’s NBCUniversal. The media giant shared the update in its second-quarter earnings release, and management had much more to say about the early results during the accompanying conference call.
“Not only are more people signing up than we projected, but they are watching more frequently and engaging much longer than we projected,” Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, told analysts.
Speaking of earnings calls, Roku is scheduled to deliver theirs Wednesday 8/5, and some analysts are predicting — gasp — no profits.
The average estimate right now is for revenue to come in 25% stronger in Q2 2020 than it did in Q2 2019. Despite this sales growth, however, analysts predict that Roku’s losses will only increase — more than quintuple, in fact, to a loss of $0.51 per diluted share.
I probably shouldn’t get started on companies that don’t make profits being popular, but it concerns customers. This week Sprint is going the way of the dinosaur, as it was gobbled up by another company. Maybe that will be the future for Roku someday.
(this gets me thinking about who might want to buy them … hmm)
Something I used to do from time to time on my tech blog: ask people how they use their home screens on their desktop and laptop computers.
It was illuminating learning what other apps were being used and how they were organized. Sometimes I’d learn about useful apps and programs I didn’t even realize existed.
In the streaming channels world we live in today, July 2020, especially under the You Know What times, maybe your setup is better than ours? Always curious to look at how others are watching streaming channels, how much they are using a particular service, app, interface, etc. It could be personal preference, it could also provide unseen or little known benefits to others. Sharing, in this regard, is helpful and good.
Here’s how our setup at home currently works. I’m not saying it’s the best for others or even us, but it’s what we’re doing in July 2020.
We currently have three ways to access streaming channels through the TV: Roku (both attached device Roku 3 and a Roku-powered TV), Xfinity Flex and Chromecast.
We also have game systems hooked up to the TV: Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The Playstation and Xbox both have ways to watch streaming channels, but we don’t use those devices as portals very often or not at all.
The majority of streaming we do is through the Roku 3 box attached to the TV. I’d put the number at 80%. The other 20% would be mostly Chromecast for HBO Max and a small amount for Flex and Peacock. Less than 5% would be Peacock. If HBO Max was on ROKU, we’d probably be 90-95%+ Roku for watching streaming on TV.
A year from now? Who knows. Maybe some killer new way to watch streaming channels will be available that overtakes Roku in convenience and usability. Right now? They are king of the hill in our home.
We have paid subscriptions as of this writing to: Netflix (monthly), Amazon Prime Video (annual), Disney+ (annual), DC Universe (monthly), HBO Max (monthly), hulu (monthly, just restarted a couple days ago), CBS All Access (monthly), Shudder (monthly, but canceled and access ends soon). We used a free trial (my son, actually) for AppletTV+ to watch Greyhound, but that week ends soon and we’re not renewing. Quibi we did the free 90 day trial but didn’t renew.
I think that covers the major streaming services. We don’t have TV, not Sling TV, Hulu TV, YouTubeTV, etc. None of them. The only live TV programming we can access are local channels through locast (a Roku channel) and if any of the premium channels provide live TV channels (some do, like CBS All Access). We do watch some live horse racing through TVG (Roku channel), have an account, but don’t pay for a subscription.
Really the only live TV I miss are occasional news programs, some special live programming and some sporting events. I used to love the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirectTV when we could access that, but that’s been many years ago. I probably will be more interested in live TV when the presidential race begins in the fall. Might consider adding on TV coverage for a couple months during this time if we can’t get through locast.
We rotate around paid subscriptions, including to premium add-on channels like Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, but are subscribed to none of these at the moment. HBO used to be in that mix, but right now we’re with HBO Max and have quite a bit we want to watch there, so we’ll be keeping that awhile. Since we are Xfinity internet customers, we have a free Flex box and get the $4.99/month Peacock streaming service available at no additional monthly charge.
Roku 3 attached to HDMI
Amazon Prime Video
HBO Now (for portion of HBO content)
CBS All Access
Google Play Movies & TV
Classic Movies & TV
The order is how often we watch the various channels, with perhaps the exception of Spotify for music. Don’t really “watch” that, but when listening to music through the TV that’s used more than some of the others above it.
Xfinity Flex – Peacock
There are applications for the Xfinity Flex box to stream other channels, but currently we only use Flex to watch Peacock. We could use this as an alternative box to Roku, and I’m sure that’s what Xfinity/Comcast is hoping we’ll do, but that’s not what’s happening.
It’s just easier and force of habit to switch the input and go back to Roku. It would probably take less than 15 minutes to hook up all our accounts through Flex, and probably someday we’ll be inspired to do that, but the reality is once you have all your logins setup with one service, do you really want to take the time and input them through another service?
This is a fairly new service we picked up in May as a means to be able to access HBO Max. I like the service, but honestly, it still feels a bit unwieldy using this over Roku. I prefer having one menu and a remote over using my phone as a remote. Am not saying using the phone isn’t a good idea, but definitely not my wife has any interest in using the phone to cast to TV — she wants to use the remote — and I’m in the same boat.
Also, I realize there are ways to use Chromecast with third party services to have a menu and user interface on the TV. We haven’t explored any of those, but I know they exist.
In our case, it wouldn’t make much sense to have three different services with menus with most/all the same underlying streaming services.
Anyway, let’s look at how the apps on my Samsung Note 10+ phone are arranged. They aren’t 100% in the order of most watched (HBO Max is the most watched streaming app for us through Chromecast, not Netflix), but the order of the icons is what is being used as of this writing.
Amazon Prime Video
CBS All Access
Shudder (subscription expires end of July 2020)
Quibi (not currently subscribed)
Peacock (not being used)
Regal’s app doesn’t have any streaming, it’s used for our unlimited monthly pass, currently in hiatus since the theaters are closed. They are still saying on their website that they will reopen on July 31, but I think chances are at best a coin flip this will actually happen. If they do reopen, we plan to visit the theaters again.
Even though I have apps installed for Chromecasting, HBO Max is the only app I use. When I made a video about using Chromecast last month, someone commented that it was bad timing buying a Chromecast when there was a new version coming out soon. The point was I wanted to watch HBO Max on launch day, May 15, not in the future. NVidia Shield Pro was another device the commenter recommended.
Since buying the Chromecast Ultra, I did more investigation and found another device of interest that included a Roku-like menu option, 4K support (although reviews say it is very sluggish for the price), games, remote and cost about the same as the Chromecast Ultra. I don’t know how good or bad it is, but I like the feature set, it’s called: Xiaomi Mi Box S.
I might pick one of those up and give it a try in place of Chromecast since it seems to give me everything I’m looking for: a remote (with voice control), a Roku-like menu, Chromecast. It does have some sound limitations though (no Dolby Atmos).
I also haven’t mentioned the Amazon Fire Stick. Because HBO Max isn’t on that, it doesn’t check all of our boxes.
As for Nvidia Shield Pro? That badboy retails for $200 and seems more gaming-focused than streaming service oriented, but since it was recommended by somebody watching our video, I might research that more as well.
One Technical Solution To Fit All
Bottom line is we’d like one device that has all the features we use (remote, menu, voice search is bonus, though we don’t use that often) and most importantly all the streaming services we subscribe to. Peacock is available as an app, but haven’t set it up yet. Is the experience as good as going through the Flex box? Don’t know. HBO Max is available for Chromecast, but it’s not as friendly as clicking an icon on the TV and watching, which is what we want.
What are you using to watch streaming channels on your TV?
Your turn. I’m very curious how others are watching streaming channels on their TV.
This post will be repeated in the future because our subscriptions do change as well as the hardware used. Admittedly we’ve been using the Roku 3 pretty much since it came out and been very happy with it. What are you using? A Roku-powered TV? Chromecast? A gaming system(s)? Amazon Fire Stick? AppleTV? Cast from your computer to TV? Two cups and some string?
So many different ways to watch streaming channels on our television sets. What do you use most, why and what are your most watched streaming services?
This is 2020, not 1960. Technology exists to share info with the masses quickly, easily and gain feedback: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, a company blog post, etc.
We live in a social time where just about everything seems to find its way online. Why not release the deal terms being discussed “behind the scenes” that are impacting us — customers — so we can see who is being “reasonable” and who is being “greedy.”
I think given the amount of time behind the scenes that a deal between HBO Max, Peacock and Amazon (Fire) and Roku hasn’t been made suggests a more radical solution.
The standoffs, of course, revolve around money. More than that, the distribution disputes are about long-term strategic access to rapidly growing streaming-first audiences, as well as advertising inventory. One media company exec says Roku and Amazon are asking for “egregious” terms. On the other side, an insider at one of the over-the-top platform providers says they’re simply looking for “a reasonable share” of the value they create for partners — and adds that companies like WarnerMedia and NBCU are coming to the table with an “old TV mindset.”
Is it too much to ask for transparency in this day and age from the companies we do business with? So many times we’re like pawns on the chessboard while the real chess masters play their game behind some gigantic curtain.
I’ve written several posts about how this is stupid and hurting us, customers, at a time when neither side should want that:
(Site navigation tip: just use the search for “Roku” is how to quickly pull up these past posts)
If Roku and Amazon are asking for a reasonable deal and it’s HBO Max and/or Peacock that’s being greedy don’t subscribers have a right to decide if they want to support that?
I’m tired of companies claiming something without showing us any facts. Put up or shut up. Put the deal out there so we can see who’s being reasonable and who’s not.
You never know, maybe some of your customers can help you get over this impasse? Both sides digging in and not budging isn’t going to reach some compromise.
What do you think? Would you like to see the deal terms so that you can judge for yourself who’s responsible for not making this go through? How long should we all wait in the dark while they “work this deal out in private”? Sorry to be impatient, but sometimes you get things done when you try something different. Whatever both sides are doing doesn’t seem to be working.