Why streaming devices and streaming networks are fighting over your eyeballs 

When Wonder Woman 1984 opens in theaters on Christmas Day, most HBO Max subscribers will be able to watch the movie at home. Focus on more: Currently, this HBO Max subscriber group does not include those who use a Roku device to watch streaming TV.

Indeed, Roku, which dominates the US market for streaming devices, and AT & T’s WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, do not have an agreement to put the new service on streaming boxes, sticks and music. Roku televisions. If the two companies fail to strike a deal quickly, they are unlikely to have anything in place for the holiday season, according to people who work at both companies.

Call it the collateral damage of streaming wars, which give you a huge amount of choice over what and where you can watch it – but also force you to make sure that the device and streaming service you want. use work well together. .

So on the one hand you can now choose between streaming TV packages that have just about everything or “Thin bundles” that omit things like sports; you can also sign up for services like Disney + because you want to see The Mandalorian then easily unsubscribe when you’re done. On the flip side, you can’t watch Peacock, Comcast’s new streaming service, on Amazon’s Fire TV, or Apple TV + on Google devices – at least without doing some work beyond pointing and clocking. click.

It’s not like the good old days of cable TV where programmers and distributors also periodically fought, but they never asked you if your TV worked with their set-top box. Instead, both sides see it as a way to define new terms: Who controls how the streaming video gets to you? How is the money you spend on this video divided? What about the money advertisers spend trying to reach you?

Because this is all new – and because everyone thinks it’s going to change a lot in the years to come – you’re probably going to see this kind of melee happen periodically. Even if Roku and HBO Max hit it off in the near future, this deal is unlikely to be long term, meaning they could end up in a fight again in a year or two.

There are also a lot of people caught in the middle of these skirmishes. HBO Max, for example, has around 9 million users; Roku has 46 million users, giving it roughly 30% of the streaming device market.

While this can console frustrated HBO Max subscribers, they’re not alone. Currently, anyone who wants to watch Peacock cannot watch him on Amazon devices. It’s a big group of people: Peacock has at least 15 million subscribers, and Amazon’s Fire ecosystem is the second most popular streaming technology in the United States.

Peacock is trying to strike a deal with Amazon, and maybe that will happen before the holidays too. These things are moving targets: Peacock, which launched last spring, didn’t get a deal to land on Roku devices until September. HBO Max, which launched in May, didn’t get an Amazon deal until mid-November.

While your streaming plans won’t be interrupted by these two fights, it’s worth understanding the backstory. They are fundamentally about the money, of course. But their variations shed light on how businesses envision making money with you, the viewer.

In the case of Comcast’s Peacock and Amazon, the main issue seems to be who will have direct contact with the viewer, as well as access to their viewing habits and other valuable data. (Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, owner of this site.)

In the past, Amazon has been able to sell access to HBO and other streaming services through its offering of “channels” in its Prime Video hub – which meant billing controlled by Amazon and all other touchpoints with clients of programmers.

But more and more, programmers want that control back. They want to distribute their own apps on Amazon’s Fire TV app store. They’re also okay with giving Amazon a cut in the revenue they get from subscriptions, but they want a direct line to their viewer.

You can see how it went with the new agreement that WarnerMedia and Amazon have made to get HBO Max on Amazon devices. While neither company will publicly comment on the terms, people familiar with the negotiations say the deal essentially ends a previous deal that allowed Amazon to sell HBO subscriptions on its own. Instead, WarnerMedia will use its own HBO Max app, which is available on the Amazon Fire TV App Store. The distinction shouldn’t matter much to you, the person who wants to air the new season of. Succession. It meant enough for Amazon and WarnerMedia to fight over it for months.

When it comes to HBO Max and Roku, it’s a bit more difficult to analyze the dispute. People I’ve spoken to on both sides seem frustrated. But the main points of negotiation that Roku has with its partners are well known: Roku wants a share of every subscription dollar that consumers spend on its platform; he wants to be able to sell advertising on ad-supported services on his platform, and in some cases he wants programmers’ shows or movies that he can stream on his own Roku-branded service. (As part of its new deal with Comcast, for example, Roku can run the media company’s NBC News Now show live on its free Roku channel.)

Industry officials say Roku, which has seen a steady increase in user numbers in recent years, has been increasingly aggressive about the terms it asks for. Scott Rosenberg, a senior vice president who handles programming deals for Roku, says that’s not the case. He says companies that work with Roku benefit because Roku benefits when they are doing well.

“Partners who have a growth mindset, who seize the opportunity, see huge growth,” Rosenberg told me. The old cable distributors, he says, “were toll takers” who made the same amount of money regardless of what you watched. “They were not particularly encouraged to drive [a programmer’s] Success.”

Roku and Amazon dominate streaming TV, but they’re not the only ones leading to conflict. You can access Netflix on Apple’s Apple TV box, for example, but not on Apple’s Apple TV app, because Netflix doesn’t want Apple to have access to its data or customers. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in 2019, “Apple is a big company. We want people to watch our shows on our services. Apple, meanwhile, has no Apple TV app available on most devices running Android software from Google.

There is a flip side to all of this: You can say, with a straight face, that television is better than it has ever been. In the old days, you were unlikely to lose the channels you loved due to a dispute between programmers and distributors, but you had no choice which channels you paid for. Now you do, and it’s awesome.

And just because a programmer and a TV distributor disagree doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. It just means that you should look for workarounds, which can range from watch on your laptop at stream a show to your phone and stream it to your TV to buy an additional gadget compatible with the programmer of your choice and plug it in this in your TV.

This is what I do, with an old Apple TV box, so that we can watch HBO Max on our Roku TV. It is not ideal. But it will allow us to watch Wonder Woman.