HBO Max Lands Amazon Fire TV Carriage Deal, Ending Six-Month Drought


HBO Max has filled in a major gap in its distribution scheme, setting a deal with Amazon Fire TV to make the streaming service available in more than 40 million U.S. homes, starting Tuesday.

The WarnerMedia offering, which debuted May 27, had been activated by 8.6 million customers as of September 30. Most of those are current subscribers of HBO able to access HBO Max at no extra charge. While the early progress of the service has been subdued compared with that of rivals like Disney+, executives at AT&T and WarnerMedia say it is on track or even slightly ahead of internal five-year subscriber projections.

Along with Amazon, HBO Max has lacked a distribution deal on Roku, the other major gatekeeper of streaming with some 46 million active accounts. Those discussions as yet have not borne fruit.

Terms were not disclosed for the Amazon deal, which comes after months of saber-rattling. AT&T CEO John Stankey, in an online appearance last month at a Wall Street Journal conference, complained about “bottlenecks” in dealmaking with digital distributors. “We should ask ourselves, is that friction somebody really feeling their oats and maybe having market power above and beyond what’s reasonable for innovation?” he said.

Amazon has been known to draw a fairly firm line in negotiations with programmers and streamers. It reached an agreement with Disney to carry Disney+ just five days before the launch of the service last November.

As the current arrangement takes effect, the HBO app on Fire TV and Fire tablets will automatically update to become the HBO Max app. Customers will be able to log in using their existing HBO credentials. New customers can also subscribe to HBO Max directly in the app, which accomplishes a key goal of WarnerMedia to keep customers inside the app and therefore maintain more access to viewership data. All existing HBO Max customers – regardless of how they subscribe to the platform – will be able to access HBO Max via Fire TV and Fire tablet devices using their existing login.

Jason Kilar, a tech executive who was the founding CEO of Hulu and also worked at Amazon, took over as WarnerMedia’s CEO in May, shortly before the launch of HBO Max.

“We are very excited that Amazon customers will now be able to enjoy the best-in-class content that lives within HBO Max,” said Tony Goncalves, WarnerMedia’s sales and distribution chief. “Our continued goal is to make HBO Max and its unparalleled content available to customers across all the devices they love. Fire TV is a favorite among customers and we look forward to working with the Amazon team to engage and grow our existing subscriber base by showcasing all that HBO Max has to offer.”

Marc Whitten, VP of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the tech giant has “worked closely with HBO for many years to bring their great content to Fire TV and to make it easier to discover and enjoy with features like search integration, Alexa and personalized recommendations.” He added, “We are excited to continue that partnership with the launch of HBO Max.”

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