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HBO Max might have Friends, but Amazon and Roku aren't yet among them

AT&T is preparing to launch its biggest streaming video effort to date: HBO Max, replete with a massive WarnerMedia content library that includes the hit TV show Friends. However, neither Amazon nor Roku – two of the biggest video platforms in the market – are planning to distribute HBO Max.

This, according to analysts, represents a major obstacle to AT&T's ambitions in the space.

"It will be pretty tough for them to meet their ambitious subscription goals without the two biggest streaming video platforms, Roku and Amazon Fire, on board," said analyst Alan Breznick, the cable and video practice leader for Light Reading. "They're going to have to find ways to get those two key players on board, whatever it takes."

In an appearance at an investor conference earlier this week, AT&T's incoming CEO John Stankey said that HBO Max would be available "across a broad cross-section of distributors," with the notable exception of the Amazon Fire app store. Amazon counts roughly 40 million active users for its Fire TV platform.

However, after Stankey made his comments, Roku issued this unprompted statement: "As the #1 streaming platform in the US with over 40 million active accounts that rely upon Roku to access their favorite programs and to discover new content, we are focused on entering into win-win distribution agreements with all new OTT services as part of their launch strategies," the company wrote. "While we don't typically comment on specific deal terms or negotiations, the fact is that in this instance while we believe that HBOMax would benefit greatly from distribution on Roku at launch, we do not currently have an agreement in place."

An AT&T representative declined to comment on Roku's statement.

To be clear, AT&T still has a few days to reach an agreement with Amazon, Roku and others prior to its planned May 27 launch of HBO Max. After all, the company has already reached distribution deals with the likes of Charter Communications, Apple and Google.

HBO Max promises to deliver roughly 10,000 hours of library content and basically double the amount of content delivered on AT&T's legacy HBO service. AT&T hopes that HBO Max will bring in 75 million to 90 million subscribers worldwide (including 50 million in the US) by 2025. As Variety noted, AT&T has pledged to plow $4 billion into HBO Max over the next three years.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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