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HBO Max Chief Believes Service Not ‘Locked Out of Living Rooms’ Despite Not Having a Deal With Roku & Fire TV

Stephanie Sengwe

HBO Max’s negotiations with Roku and Amazon Fire TV have been longwinded. The streaming service has been trying to come to mutually beneficial agreements with both companies since before its launch on May 27 and still, five months later, nothing has come of it. When HBO Max couldn’t strike a deal with either company prior to launching, many assumed the streamer’s subscriber numbers would be affected, however, the top brass at AT&T and WarnerMedia has said their numbers have been better than they expected.

In an interview with Decider, head of HBO Max, Andy Forssell also doubled down on the sentiment, saying that though they are not on Roku or Fire TVs, users with those devices also have other ways to access the service.

“A lot of those households also have an Apple TV or other device, so we’re not blocked out of those living rooms,” Forssell stated. “In some cases, we are. We’ve already exceeded our goals for 2020, and we’re very happy with the outcomes thus far even without those devices. Expanding distribution to those devices will help us accelerate the growth of the service.”

Forssell also vaguely addressed the fact that though the company struck a deal with Comcast to bring HBO Max to Xfinity X1 or Xfinity Flex, it still hasn’t been made available on those platforms. On the subject, the HBO Max exec simply stated, “We’re working on that, and I see daily reports on the progress. I can’t talk publicly about dates, but we’re going to get that app out very soon.”

Forssell was also quite tight-lipped about the fate of “Tenet.” The huge blockbuster which came out earlier this year, was affected by the shuttering of movie theaters due to the pandemic. Now, industry insiders are wondering if the Christopher Nolan film will have a PVOD bow or it will go straight to HBO Max.

“This has been a title-by-title discussion. ‘The Witches’ was supposed to be a theatrical release and is now available only on HBO Max. Studios are holding some titles because the think it’s worth holding, and it’s a complex decision for other titles,” Forssell stated.

“I can’t announce it now, but there is a defined timeline for that. Christopher Nolan has been pretty involved in that, but I can’t talk any more about it. ‘Tenet’ is a phenomenal film, and it was a testing point for the theatrical window where it’s done really, really well. In this environment, decisions aren’t final until you execute, but we have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Forssell also doubled down on the announcement that the ad-supported tier of HBO Max will be launching in the first quarter of 2020. On pricing, however, he hinted that perhaps the service would still be on the higher end of the margin, as they are bringing premium content.

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