New HBO Max Drama As Amazon Rips It For “Choosing To Deny” 5M Customers

Amazon has taken aim at WarnerMedia parent AT&T for not enabling access to its just-launched subscription streaming app HBO Max via the tech giant’s Prime Video Channels platform.

“With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog. We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming though the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us.”

HBO Max has quickly piled up a number of distribution deals for HBO Max, which launched just after midnight on Wednesday. On launch day, it announced a pact with Comcast, leaving Roku and Amazon as the biggest remaining gaps to be filled.

Customer education is a key aspect to the $15-a-month Max proposition. While many current subscribers will be able to get it for free, AT&T is not immediately phasing out HBO Now, a stand-alone streaming version of HBO.

In 2014, which seems like a different planet given the current rush toward direct-to-consumer streaming, HBO’s then-parent Time Warner reached a lucrative licensing deal that included access to HBO Go, the streaming version of HBO available to pay-TV subscribers. That deal was followed by Amazon Channels access to HBO Now, which today accounts for about 50% of HBO’s total stand-alone subscriber tally, according to those watching the numbers.

Wall Street analysts like LightShed Partners’ Rich Greenfield have highlighted the growing tension between media and tech companies arises during the streaming boom over which party controls the customer experience and data. “With all of the content (both legacy HBO and new Max content) available within the new HBO Max interface,” Greenfield wrote in a recent blog post, “we suspect consumers will simply use the HBO Max app as their starting point. In essence, any Amazon channel store involvement is an interim step to full freedom one day, which will be made easier as HBO Max subs grow and HBO Max exclusive content expands. Obviously, this is not what Amazon wants.”

AT&T CEO John Stankey, a key architect of HBO Max during his time overseeing WarnerMedia, signaled the impasse with Amazon during an appearance this month at a Wall Street investor conference.

“We’re going to be in virtually all app stores, with one exception–we may not be in the Amazon Fire app store when all is said and done,” he said. Nevertheless, he added, “We feel really good about the distribution dynamic, the availability of the product.” Stankey continued, predicting a “strong day one” for the service.

HBO Max is the most recently launched of five well-funded new challengers to streaming incumbents like Netflix and Amazon. It joins new subscription offerings from Disney, Apple, NBCUniversal and Quibi.

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