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WarnerMedia CEO puts pressure on Amazon to carry HBO Max by holidays

WarnerMedia CEO puts pressure on Amazon to carry HBO Max by holidays


The next few months are important for hardware sellers

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HBO Max WarnerMedia Investor Day Presentation
Presley Ann/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

As disputes between Amazon and WarnerMedia over HBO Max continue, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is putting pressure on the tech giant to make an agreement by the holidays.

In a long interview with Bloomberg, one of several Kilar did following a massive reorganization at WarnerMedia last week, Kilar spoke about Amazon’s business model. He argued that the company’s issues with HBO Max that seem contradictory to Amazon’s principle belief. If Amazon “were truly focused just on the consumers,” bringing up specifically those with Fire devices, “HBO Max would be on Fire devices.”

“The consumer wants it,” Kilar said.

Kilar wouldn’t go into reasons as to why the disputes haven’t been resolved yet — HBO Max came out at the end of April, and there’s still nothing set in stone — Kilar argued that Amazon would have to put the streamer on its devices by the holidays. Customers who want to have HBO Max on their streaming devices will look for alternatives when it comes time to purchase devices, including Google Chromecast and Apple TV, where HBO Max is currently available. “As we head into the fourth quarter, when gift giving happens, it becomes a more material situation for a seller of hardware,” Kilar argued.

Amazon and WarnerMedia’s relationship has become tenuous over the last few months. As part of WarnerMedia’s mainlining of its various streaming platforms, the company announced it would sunset its HBO Go app on August 1st. WarnerMedia also announced that its HBO Now app would simply become HBO. There were originally no plans for Amazon to carry HBO Now on Fire TV devices as of August 1st, but late last month, WarnerMedia and Amazon reached an agreement that allowed HBO Now customers to use the newly renamed HBO app. As part of the agreement, Amazon also told customers that they “can continue watching HBO content on Amazon devices with an HBO subscription via Prime Video Channels,” according to Variety.

It’s a mess. Kilar and his WarnerMedia team would like nothing more than to have HBO Max on Fire TV devices and push people to the new streaming service. Amazon, as a major aggregator, would also like to offer HBO Max on its platform. The situation is a reverse carriage dispute: aggregators like Amazon believe they have the upper hand because of their dominance in living rooms worldwide, but content providers like WarnerMedia believe that consumers will jump ship to other aggregator devices in the long run in search of their exclusive content. Hence, the ongoing stalemate.

So what are they really fighting over? Amazon (and Roku, the other unnamed player in this situation) wants more control over how HBO Max is distributed. For example, WarnerMedia reportedly wants HBO Max offered as a standalone app, like Disney Plus currently is on Fire TV devices. This gives WarnerMedia more ownership over a number of things, including user data. Amazon reportedly wants HBO Max as part of its Channels ecosystem, which lets customers subscribe to streaming apps through Amazon itself, which they can then stream on Fire TV. Finally, and most obviously, there are also reported disagreements over the percentage of a cut Amazon (and Roku) would get from signups to HBO Max.

While WarnerMedia and Amazon continue their disputes, the people who suffer the most are consumers who just want to watch Perry Mason or HBO’s upcoming Lovecraft Country on their Fire TV stick. We’ll see if Kilar’s interview tour this past weekend is enough pressure to strike a deal.