HBO Max is one of two remaining apps for streaming the programming of the premium cable network.

Angela Lang / CNET

HBO, the jewel in AT & T's $ 85 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia, revised its various apps on Saturday. What was three – HBO Go, HBO Now and the newer HBO Max with a large budget – are now reduced to just two: Max remains, and now a renamed app was simply called HBO. For a change AT&T claims would simplify things, streaming HBO is more complicated than ever, especially if you're a Roku or Amazon Fire TV user. And if your pay TV company doesn't have an upgrade offer for MaxYou are really stuck.

You are caught in the middle of a power struggle for the future of television.

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HBO max Launched at the end of May as the newer, larger streaming app of the premium cable network. With twice as many shows and films at the same price of $ 15 a month, it is supposed to essentially replace the company's earlier apps, HBO Go and HBO Now. HBO Go is the network's streaming app that regular pay TV HBO customers can watch over the Internet. And HBO Now is the station's standalone streaming option that allows users to stream HBO without pay TV bundles.

But now HBO Go is gone – and that brings some Roku and Amazon Fire TV User in a binding. Since HBO Max was unable to conclude distribution agreements with these two device manufacturers, Max is not available on the devices that are the country's most popular TV streaming devices. So everyone who currently streams HBO goes to one Roku or Fire TV remains in the lurch.

"It is essentially a new version of the centuries-old debate over whether content or distribution is king," Lightshed analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in a note after HBO Max announced its plan to shutdown Go and rename Now. "While the headline … is to remove consumer confusion about HBO branding and the app to use, the shift also increases the pressure on Amazon and Roku to get a deal for HBO Max."

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HBO Max started at the end of May.

Angela Lang / CNET

Streaming is more popular than ever during the Coronavirus pandemicThis reinforces the longstanding trend that people watch more of their video online. With all the attention that is given to the so-called streaming wars, the fiercest battle is not between the different streaming services, but between the most powerful TV app distributors and deep-pocketed media companies. Both sides are drawing their lines of battle to control the data and money generated by your streaming activity as they try to consolidate positions of power for the next era of television.

But in the meantime, get stuck and take splinters in the crossfire. This means you can't see all the top streaming services on all the top devices.

Power games

Roku and Amazon Fire TV products are the most common ways to stream on TV in the United States. Together, the two companies' streaming devices and smart TVs accounted for 70% of all streaming devices installed in the United States last year, reaching approximately 80 million active users between them.

But instead of serving as neutral platforms for apps, Roku and Amazon have been hot on their heels in discussions with new streaming services lately. And media companies are pushing back the sales terms with these device manufacturers and need to make their new services as profitable as possible after investing billions to build them.

The HBO Max hustle and bustle was not the first time that this tension between streaming services and device manufacturers became visible to the public. Earlier this year, a similar argument between Roku and Fox threatened to throw Fox’s apps off the Roku boxes just as these apps were supposed to stream the biggest TV event of the year: the Super Bowl. The day before the kick-off, Fox and Roku reached an agreement to make the apps work in time for the game.

But HBO Max wasn't the last instance of this kind of conflict either. After launching HBO Max without Roku and Amazon in May, NBCUniversals Peacock from Comcast was a repeat of the same standoff. Peacock launched nationwide on July 15, but like Max before, Peacock lacked the support of Roku and Fire TV as no deals could be made with these companies.

The heart of the conflict is of course money and control. Variety's Todd Spangler has summarized the details of her fight well.

Unfortunately for customers like you, nobody seems to be moving.

Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV

The Fire TV Stick from Amazon and the Streaming Stick from Roku are two of the company's cheapest options.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Even as the HBO Go expiration date approached, HBO Max said late Thursday that there was nothing new to report about the negotiations. "We continue to work hard to reach agreements with the few remaining distributors to provide HBO Max on platforms for customers," said a spokeswoman. Previously, HBO Max said it did Apps for Roku and Fire TV ready go; The only thing stopping you from using them are these offers.

Roku did not comment on the status of the talks, and Amazon did not respond to a message looking for a comment.

Last week, AT & T's CEO disguised Amazon because he kept HBO Max away from customers while he was silent about Roku.

"We have repeatedly tried to make HBO Max available to all customers with Amazon Fire devices, including customers who purchased HBO through Amazon," said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, referring to those who Pay HBO through Amazon Channels Subscribe to multiple video services through your Amazon account. "Unfortunately, Amazon has chosen an approach to treat HBO Max and its customers differently than how they treated other services and their customers."

On Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he believed the company would eventually reach an agreement with HBO Max when asked on Capitol Hill whether Amazon was abusing its market power.

When asked by a congressional member whether it was a conflict of interest for Amazon to keep services like Max away from Fire TV to get more favorable conditions, Bezos said: "There could be scenarios if we only speak abstractly where it is and could be inappropriate Scenarios where it would be a normal business and very appropriate. "

Easier … but more complicated

Two apps for streaming HBO will be available from Saturday. HBO Max continues to be AT & T's marquee streaming service. But Go has disappeared and Now has simply been renamed HBO. This is a headache for some people who have relied on Go on Roku and Fire TV or Firestick devices, and it also leaves some people paying for regular HBO from a TV provider that doesn't upgrade to HBO Max Has.

So what do you do when you rely on HBO Go to stream on a Roku or Fire TV?

If you're in this group, the good news is that you can unlock the renamed HBO app, but you'll need to jump through some tires first. AT&T pseudo-collapsed HBO Go and HBO Now together in the renamed HBO app. While this app doesn't include any additional originals, shows, or movies that you get with HBO Max, you can still stream regular HBO programs on Roku and Fire TV.

You shouldn't notice much of a difference for older HBO Now customers. You should be able to log in to the HBO app with the same credentials that you used for HBO Now.

However, for older HBO Go customers, you will need to update your HBO Max HBO account. Once you have registered an email address and password with HBO Max, you can use your HBO Max credentials to log in to the newly renamed HBO app on Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

In addition, Roku noted that people who pay for HBO through Comcast, charter or AT&T TV, HBO can also stream in the Comcast Xfinity Stream, Spectrum TV and AT&T TV apps. Amazon did not respond to comments.

But the complications don't end there. Unfortunately, not every regular HBO customer qualifies for this upgrade to Max. Most pay TV providers in the US have contracts with HBO Max that allow their regular HBO customers to unlock Max at no additional cost – but not everyone Pay TV provider does this. (CNET has an article that explains all the ways you can qualify for one Update to get these HBO Max credentials.)

This change in HBO's app offerings not only reinforces the leverage effect of AT&T in discussions with Roku and Amazon, but also helps the company with something else that it has to deal with: relatively few people who qualify for Max, make the effort to sign up for the newer service.

Out of more than 30 million HBO customers in the United States, many of whom qualify for Max at no additional cost 1.1 million have bothered to register with the new, bigger service. Several factors have complicated the demand for HBO Max so far, but Max's absence of the two most popular streaming TVs has certainly contributed to HBO customers' lack of interest. Now even people streaming with Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices have a new motivation to register with HBO Max, even if they can't see Max on their TVs.

Easy, right?


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