HBO Max was launched last week without Roku support and integration, and new numbers from several research companies show how problematic the new streaming service could be.
Roku dominates the display time among the streaming boxes. According to Conviva research, the company has 44 percent of the display time. That's more than twice its biggest competitor, Amazon Fire TV, which holds about 19 percent of the airtime. According to the company's official comments, Roku has extended its display time by approximately 50 percent over the previous year.
The time spent watching content on connected TVs like Roku and Amazon Fire TV increased dramatically during the pandemic. According to a new report, Nielsen data in March showed that 76 percent of US households had at least one device connected. By March 30, total hours spent on these devices increased "81 percent year over year" to nearly 4 billion hours of content a week.
While things have slowed down a bit now, streaming boxes still see high usage figures, as shown in the following Nielsen table:
Nielsen's weekly results show how many hours of content are streamed each week on connected TVs in the United States
At the time of this writing, HBO Max is not on Roku. WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, is aware that the service would benefit greatly from Roku. "It's really important to be available on the platforms through which consumers access these new networks," Tony Goncalves, director of HBO Max, told The Verge in an interview. Goncalves added that he is "hopeful that we will eventually get there and that we will get there with the consumer in mind."
If you're on Roku, WarnerMedia can find new subscribers to HBO Max, similar to Roku that Disney Plus seemed to help launch last year. In February, Anthony Wood, CEO of Roku, explicitly described the Roku integration of Disney Plus as "an important part" of Disney, which reached 26.5 million subscribers in the fourth quarter.
HBO Max must be on Roku's platform to compete with Disney Plus and others
There are a few reasons why HBO Max is more difficult to access Roku, and probably how much the Roku subscription fee will be. Another glaring problem appears to be WarnerMedia's earlier distribution agreements with Roku for the HBO network (similar to Amazon when HBO is available on Amazon channels). People can sign up for HBO through the Roku channel. But what happens to the millions of customers who currently subscribe to HBO through Roku Channel if HBO Max isn't offered on the same street?
When WarnerMedia signed a contract with Apple to broadcast HBO Max, HBO removed Apple TV Channels. Only then could customers who had subscribed to HBO via Apple Channels upgrade to HBO Max, which was available as a new app, free of charge.
WarnerMedia is likely to want to do the same with Roku and HBO Max. HBO Max lands on Roku, but HBO is removed from the Roku channels. It's a tricky tug of war between companies that want to benefit as much as possible from a partnership.
In public, WarnerMedia strives to install HBO Max on as many platforms as possible to reach 100 percent of potential subscribers. Andy Forssell, Executive Vice President and General Manager of WarnerMedia's direct-to-consumer products, told CNET that HBO Max apps designed for both Amazon and Roku are ready – they're just waiting for signed agreements .