Jason Kilar tells TheWrap he wants their new streaming service to be “treated just like Netflix or Hulu”
HBO Max remains off of the two most-used streaming platforms in the country more than two months after its launch. On Friday, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar gave an update as to why.
“I think it’s important that when you enter into a partnership or enter into an agreement for distribution, it has to be a contract that actually works for both parties,” Kilar told TheWrap. “For me, that comes down to pure economics, which really is what our focus is — which is to be treated just like Netflix or Hulu are treated.”
The impasse between WarnerMedia and Roku and Amazon Fire TV is indicative of the evolving fight between those who make the content and those who distribute it. Carriage disputes between programmers and distributors are nothing new. TV providers such as Dish and Comcast have routinely engaged in a war of words — and sometimes have dropped channels — with providers like Disney and CBS.
Between the two of them, Roku and Fire TV have roughly 80 million active users — combining to make up 70% of the overall streaming player industry. Both started as streaming device makers but now get the bulk of their revenue by handling streaming subscriptions, for a cut of the revenue. And in Amazon Fire TV’s case, it houses the viewing inside its own platform, giving them access to user data, which has become a very important currency in the streaming era. Both have current relationships with WarnerMedia too: HBO Now and the former HBO Go have been available on both platforms for years.
But the main difference here is that WarnerMedia, following Disney’s lead with Disney+, wants all viewing for HBO Max to be done through its own platform. That’s been a major sticking point, as well as figuring out the advertising revenue breakdown; HBO Max plans to roll out an ad-supported version next year.
HBO Max garnered 4.1 million subscribers after its first full month since launching. Kilar is optimistic that a deal will be reached between WarnerMedia and those two companies eventually, arguing it’s in the best interest for everyone to be partners.
“We all recognize that the world is better for each of us if HBO Max is on their devices. Because over time, there will be less consumers that want to buy those devices if they can’t get ‘Game of Thrones’ or DC Universe on a Fire device or on a Roku box, so clearly it’s in the interest of the device maker to have HBO max on their device. And it’s also in our interest to be on those devices too, because we want to be able to reach all customers.”
For its part, Roku CEO Anthony Wood said during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday that he believes the two will come to an agreement eventually — NBCUniversal’s Peacock has had similar issues with carriage — pointing out that it’s more important to cut the right deal, not the first one.
“We’re not always first when it comes to adding new services to our platforms. It’s important to us that we establish a win-win-win relationship,” Wood said. “That economic model with our content distribution partners as well as our advertisers is what funds our business… It’s important we get that right.”