Where is my HBO Max? Here's why Roku and Fire TV users don't get the upgrade

If you're using a Roku or Fire TV, don't expect to see HBO Max anytime soon. Because of back-room deals (or lack thereof), users of the most popular streaming boxes are out of luck.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Like many of you, I've been looking forward to HBO Max for months. This is HBO's wildly expanded service, containing much of the Warner catalog of movies and television.

CNET: HBO Max is live: Here's everything to know

Like many of you, I've been subject to daily (sometimes hourly) ads offering a discount if I pre-order. But since I'm a very long-time user of HBO Now, I held fast, confident that I'd get HBO Max as soon as it came out. After all, even HBO's own explainer said, "Current HBO NOW subscribers (billed directly by HBO) will also get access to HBO Max at launch at no additional cost."

Like many of you (okay, some of you, probably), I checked my Roku channel offerings at midnight last night, at 6am this morning, and again just a few hours ago, searching for the new HBO Max app tile to proudly incorporate on my Roku TV.

And, like many of you are sure to be when you read the rest of this article, I was gobsmacked to discover that I won't be getting HBO Max any time soon.

That's right. If you're a Roku or Amazon Fire TV user, no HBO Max for you!

Wait. What?!?

The money quote comes in a statement reported today in USA Today:

Asked about the Roku/Amazon absence, "We don't have an update to share," said Chris Willard, vice president of communications for AT&T's WarnerMedia. "As of now, there is no deal in place. If that changes we'll let you know."

There. Is. No. Deal. In. Place. Are you serious?

So, a little backstory on the corporate machinations of television. There's always a deal for something. This is why cable TV is dying. Because, finally, users who were locked into their one available cable provider were able to cut the cord and buy and watch what they want.

Five years ago, I wrote about just that fact when HBO Now first became available. With HBO available separately from cable packages, the tie to those old cable bundles was severed.

But now, apparently, unless Roku and Amazon get on board, Roku and Fire TV are not going to see all the additional HBO Max programming. The viewing apps are not being made available.

There's multiple levels of idiocy here. From consumers' point of view, this is an out-and-out misrepresentation. HBO's own promotion said current HBO Now subscribers will get HBO Max. There's a bit of weasel-wording there, in that the explainer actually says "Current HBO NOW subscribers (billed directly by HBO)". So HBO Now subscribers billed through all the other deals are maybe able to get HBO Max. What. The. F?

We don't care how we're billed. It's all HBO to us. If HBO Now is moving to HBO Max, then we expect our HBO Now to move to HBO Max. Period.

But there's also a level of corporate idiocy here. This could have been a triumph for WarnerMedia. The content offering is nearly as large as Disney+. In the quest for subscribers, having a consistent answer for all your users is what creates stickiness. It shouldn't matter whether a viewer uses a Roku or an Apple TV. It shouldn't matter whether the service is viewed on a phone or a tablet. As long as there's a subscription to the cloud service, it should be available.

But HBO's overlords are still steeped in the pre-internet, pre-cloud mindset. And so rather than an audience overjoyed to have access to all those classic Warner movies and TV shows, they've created an audience baffled, confused, and peeved.

As consumers, we're somewhat trapped in the corporate machinations of companies who provide streaming services. But we're not nearly as locked in as when cable was king. We can now pick and choose our subscriptions. We can even buy entire series in a block from Amazon or iTunes.

We have choice, and it's not like I'm going to give up on my Roku TV. But I, and many other Roku and Fire TV users might give up on HBO, especially since Game of Thrones is complete and Disney+ has enough content to keep us in classic animated movies through the entire summer season.

Summer is coming. You know nothing, HBO.

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