Earlier today, WarnerMedia revealed that they will release all of Warner Bros.' 2021 theatrical releases on HBO Max. The films will still get theatrical releases when and where available, but will be available on HBO Max the same day and will remain there for 30 days before going to digital sales platforms like Fandango and iTunes. This raises a question for a lot of viewers: when getting hyped about the HBO Max announcement, how does the streamer's lack of availability on Roku figure in? Roku remains the most popular single hardware used to connect to various streaming services on a TV screen, and still doesn't have HBO Max.
For quite a while, reports have suggested that Roku and WarnerMedia couldn't come to a deal in terms of profitsharing. It seems likely that WarnerMedia, knowing that today's move was a distinct possibility in a post-pandemic landscape, held off on making a deal with Roku for that reason.
Not because they don't want to be on Roku, but because Roku has more power in negotiations than most of the apps with which they do business., HBO Max is now in a much better negotiating position than it was 24 hours ago. Most viewers don't actually care that much about financial squabbling between massive corporations, and just want their services to work the way they want them to work. Given Roku's popularity and market penetration, that has meant up to this point that when asked to "pick a side," a lot of fans would say HBO Max was being unreasonable and needed to come to the table with Roku to serve the customers.
An announcement this big, which suddenly makes HBO Max a sought-after service in a way it hadn't been for many consumers before, likely was something they wanted to have made public before going into negotiations. It recontextualizes what consumers are going to feel like they "need" the most and gives them an opportunity to negotiate on a more even footing with Roku.
With such a big, important slate coming from Warners next year, it's virtually impossible to imagine a world where they don't come to a deal with Roku and other significant players in the market. Yes, you can use third-party apps to trick your Roku into doing what you want, but that isn't the same thing as just being able to press a button and get started -- especially for less tech-savvy users, who might be rushing to get HBO Max installed ahead of the Wonder Woman release. While it's impossible to know what to expect from the two companies who have thus far struggled to come to terms, it's likely that WarnerMedia is going to come to the table with a more coherent sense of what they want and need, now that the decision has been made public and everyone's cards can be laid out on the table.