HBO Max Strikes Distribution Deal With Amazon Fire TV

Streamer will expand to more than 40 million devices

hbo max logo on left and fire tv logo
WarnerMedia's all-purpose streamer had previously not been available on Amazon Fire or Fire TV devices. HBO Max, Amazon

HBO Max will be distributed to Amazon Fire TV users’ devices beginning Tuesday. It’s a milestone for the streamer, which had seen early growth somewhat tamped because it lacked major distribution deals.

HBO Max will be available nationwide on all Amazon devices, including Fire TV streaming devices, Fire TV Edition smart TVs and Fire tablets. Subscribers to HBO through Amazon Prime Video Channels can upgrade to HBO Max for no additional cost, adding a lucrative new user base for the service ahead of its 2021 ad-supported tier.

“We are very excited that Amazon customers will now be able to enjoy the best-in-class content that lives within HBO Max,” said Tony Goncalves, WarnerMedia’s head of sales and distribution, in a statement. “Our continued goal is to make HBO Max and its unparalleled content available to customers across all the devices they love.”

The deal marks the end of a months-long impasse between the two companies, which had prevented HBO Max’s availability on Amazon Fire TV. In January, Amazon Fire TV comprised more than 40 million users.

“We’ve worked closely with HBO for many years to bring their great content to Fire TV and to make it easier to discover and enjoy with features like search integration, Alexa and personalized recommendations,” said Marc Whitten, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, in a statement. “We are excited to continue that partnership with the launch of HBO Max to bring even more incredible content to customers on Fire TV.”

The distribution deal comes at a crucial moment for HBO Max. The streamer will look to increase its modest subscriber base going into the holiday season as more streaming devices are sold and become even more important customer-acquisition funnels for streamers.

Last month, WarnerMedia told investors that total domestic HBO and HBO Max subscribers combined had topped 38 million in the U.S. and that about 8 million subscribers had signed up for HBO Max directly. While that exceeds AT&T’s previously announced year-end target of 36 million combined subscribers for HBO and HBO Max, the growth of Max itself has faced some resistance, in part by Covid-19 related production challenges.

 “The customer acquisition game is an originals game, but the customer retention game is a library game,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said then. “Our library is performing incredibly strong relative to our customer base … but the pandemic put us in a tough spot in originals. We couldn’t finish a lot of the work we had underway, and it’s that stream of originals that allows you to grow that customer base. We’re well ahead of what our original plans are, but nonetheless, we know we probably could have done a lot better if we had the right lineup.”

It’s not just Covid-19, though. The company also suffered from some brand confusion after launching. It was also limited in availability, as HBO Max was not available on either Amazon Fire TV or Roku devices, two of the biggest connected TV and streaming device companies in terms of footprint. (HBO Max is still not available on Roku devices, which had 46 million active accounts in the most recent quarter.)  

Distribution issues like this one have grown to be even more important for new streamers and streaming platforms that often squabble over data sharing and increasingly lucrative advertising inventory. A standoff between NBCUniversal streamer Peacock and Roku ended in September after a months-long standoff when the companies struck a distribution deal.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.