HBO Max hasn’t been available on Roku devices since the new streaming service launched at the end of May, but with Roku soon adding support for Apple AirPlay 2 to many of its 4K devices and TVs, there will be a workaround.
People with an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, Mac) will be able to use AirPlay 2 to stream HBO Max on their Roku devices even though an official app is not yet live, the company confirmed to The Verge. AirPlay 2 support is supposed to roll out by the end of the year to most recent 4K Roku players and Roku TVs, so it’s possible Roku and HBO parent company, WarnerMedia, could reach a deal before then, making the AirPlay workaround unnecessary.
If they don’t, however, using AirPlay 2 will be one of the only options Roku owners will have to watch HBO Max. This isn’t the first time that people have found workarounds (like using Chromecast, or screen mirroring) to rectify situations where an app they want to use isn’t available on their chosen set-top box. On Fire TV, for instance, users can sideload the Android TV version of HBO Max by following an easy step-by-step guide.
Still, it’s an increasingly frustrating ordeal for people with HBO Max subscriptions (HBO Now and HBO Go customers got a free upgrade at launch) and Roku devices. Not long after HBO Max launched, the company sunset its HBO Go app (which cable HBO customers could use for free), and moved HBO Now customers over to a newly rebranded HBO app. If you’re confused, it’s understandable — the whole situation is confusing!
Both Roku and WarnerMedia have been caught up in negotiations for months trying to find a deal that works for both parties. Tony Goncalves, head of HBO Max, told The Verge that WarnerMedia was looking for a “fair” deal at the time of HBO Max’s launch, and said that hadn’t been brought to the table yet.
“I’m hopeful that, ultimately, we’ll get there.”
“Disney Plus and Netflix and Hulu and these other apps are on those platforms,” Goncalves said. “There’s a certain business model that exists. We just want the same one. I’m hopeful that, ultimately, we’ll get there, and we’ll get there with the consumer in mind. But we just didn’t get there on day one.”
HBO Max wasn’t the only app unavailable at launch on Roku. NBCUniversal and Roku spent months trying to figure out a deal over NBCUniversal’s Peacock that was fair to both parties. The companies came to a standstill over the percentage of ad inventory Roku would get from NBCUniversal. It wasn’t until the two companies entered a blackout period — in which a content provider like NBCUniversal threatens to, or actually does, pull programming to try and speed up negotiations — that they reached a deal and Peacock became available to stream on Roku.
As more streaming services launch, and potentially run into similar licensing disputes, having a workaround like AirPlay 2 support will at least make it slightly less infuriating than having absolutely no way to watch a service you pay for on a device you own.