discovery+ Now Available on Roku Channel; What Does It Mean for Unified HBO Max Service?
Just a few days after Warner Media and Discovery merged, one of Warner Bros. Discovery’s three streaming services finally became available via the Roku Channel. As of Tuesday, the hub for all of Discovery’s far-reaching lifestyle networks discovery+ is now available on the wholesale platform.
As the largest smart TV operating system in the United States, it certainly behooves any streaming service to be available on the Roku platform, but the timing does seem curious, especially as Warner Bros. Discovery execs have openly discussed bundling and then eventually merging discovery+ and HBO Max, to speak nothing of the new company's struggling streamer CNN+.
Reaching over 80 million people, the Roku Channel is a major distribution point for over 270 channels, but the executives at Warner Media — most of whom were not retained by the new company — had specifically opted to avoid such distribution hubs for HBO Max.
After nearly a year of haggling, last August, Warner Media pulled the streamer off of Amazon Channels, preferring to allow the service to stand on its own while also retaining all of the revenue and data collected from subscribers. When HBO completely removed itself from Amazon Channels, it was reported that Amazon was keeping upwards of 30% of subscription revenue every month, in addition to maintaining the data on all customers who signed up for and streamed HBO content via their platform. So, not only was HBO losing out on nearly 1/3 of its revenue through Amazon, but it was also giving away its data, an increasingly valuable commodity in a tech-based industry.
However, the move to deplatform from Amazon seems to have worked as according to at least one report, HBO Max has moved ahead of both Disney+ and Hulu to grab the third-largest streaming market share in the U.S., behind only Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
It is important to differentiate that being available on the Roku Channel and being available on Roku devices are two completely separate things. HBO Max, discovery+, and — as of earlier this week — CNN+ are all available on Roku smart TVs and streaming devices. Customers can download the individual apps and login to start streaming.
The benefit to being on the Roku Channel is that as opposed to relying on mostly existing customers searching for the app to download and add it to their Roku device, the Roku Channel helps get the streaming product in front of people who might not already be signed up, thus serving as a major discovery (no pun intended) tool to drive additional subscribers.
With former Discovery CEO David Zaslav now taking the reins of the unified company, the move to have discovery+ available via the Roku Channel raises questions about what the new company's strategy will be with their streaming services moving forward.
If this is a sign that the new Warner Bros. Discovery is open to partnering with wholesale distribution hubs like Roku Channel and potentially Amazon Channels, then a potentially merged discovery+/HBO Max/CNN+ service could certainly benefit from being in front of Roku’s growing customer base, but it also will create the financial and information entanglements that Warner Media was looking to avoid just eight months ago.
Of course, Warner Media no longer exists, and Zaslav is now running the show; so it would not be a huge surprise if his outlook on the matter differs greatly from that of former Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar. However, if a combined WBD streaming service does eventually come to fruition and Zaslav and company would prefer for it not to appear on wholesale distribution platforms, this could cause the same types of customer confusions that HBO Max’s departure from Amazon inspired in 2021.
discovery+ is a video streaming service that offers more than 55,000 episodes of 2,500+ current and classic shows from several popular TV brands including Discovery, Investigation Discovery, HGTV, TLC, Food Network, A&E, Lifetime and History.
The service primarily focuses on non-fiction programming or “reality” TV shows.
discovery+ is available with limited ads for $4.99 / month or ad-free for $6.99 / month.