Roku, WarnerMedia clinch deal for HBO Max

After months of negotiations, Roku and WarnerMedia have finally struck a deal to distribute HBO Max on Roku players and Roku TVs.

HBO Max will debut on Roku devices on December 17, more than a week ahead of the premiere of WarnerMedia's Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max and in theaters on December 25. WarnerMedia also plans to release its full 20201 movie slate simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced, though it was labeled "mutually beneficial" in a statement today from Scott Rosenberg, SVP of Roku's fast-growing Platforms business.

A reported sticking point has been WarnerMedia's reluctance to sell HBO Max subscriptions through The Roku Channel, Roku's aggregation platform for both ad-based and subscription-based streaming services. The new deal also comes together as AT&T-owned WarnerMedia prepares to introduce a less-expensive, ad-supported version of HBO Max in 2021.

It appears that both sides figured out something that worked financially for the subscription- and coming advertising-supported form of HBO Max. Per today's announcement, Roku users can get to the new HBO Max channel by searching for it directly or locating it in the "New and Notable" and "Movies & TV" categories of the Roku channel store. HBO Max will also use Roku Pay, a streamlined way to pay for subscriptions on Roku streaming devices. For Roku users who already subscribe to HBO through a Roku device, the channel will auto-update to HBO Max.

The deal with Roku fills a big gap in support for major streaming platforms for HBO Max, which launched nationally on May 27. At last count, HBO Max had about 12.6 million activations through direct sales to consumers and via cable operators and other pay-TV partners, up from the 8.6 million activations procured through the end of Q3 2020.

Roku ended Q3 2020 with 46 million active accounts, just below the 50 million active global users for Fire TV reported this week by Amazon. HBO Max is also being rolled out this week to Comcast X1 and Flex boxes, and just today introduced an app for the new Sony PlayStation 5 gaming console.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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