AT&T is possibly doing a fantastic job of severely wounding their new service…
Is HBO digging itself in deeper?
AT&T dug itself into an even deeper hole this past week in June, announcing that it was going to sunset HBO Go (its OTT product for MVPD subscribers) on July 31, 2020 and renaming HBO Now (its OTT product for everyone else) HBO.
Why it matters
If you havent been following along, AT&T is in a battle with Roku and Amazon over what essentially boils down to an old school carriage deal.
Amazon and Roku want the new HBO Max app to be a part of their channel stores (the way Now was) so that they can continue to integrate HBO shows into Amazon Prime and The Roku Channel, while reaping sizable percentages of subscription fees, eventual ad revenue and data.
AT&T, OTOH, wants to send everyone directly to the HBO Max app where they will handle all subscriptions, curate the user experience and create a more tangible brand.
Clearly they are hoping that sunsetting Go will put pressure on the two platforms to come to the table, given that around two-thirds to three-quarters of Gos 35 million subscribers will no longer have an HBO app of any kind as of July 31.
A quick look at any of the various promoted tweets and/or Facebook posts about HBO Max reveals that consumers are blaming HBO and not Roku or Amazon for the hang up, many going as far as to call the new app a fraud because its not available on those two platforms.
Which, as weve noted, is kind of an NSS moment.
When, say, Dish and CBS get into one of the formers frequent carriage fee beefs, consumers get that the disagreement is about money and Dish will claim they are fighting to keep costs down and save their subscribers money.
In this case, however, AT&Ts argument is not nearly as simple.
AT&T: We want you to subscribe directly from us so we can keep all the subscription fees.
CONSUMER: But its easier if I subscribe through Amazon or Roku because that way I can keep track of all my subscriptions and dont have to keep creating new passwords every time I try a new app.
AT&T: We want to make sure you use the beautifully designed app weve created for you.
CONSUMER: Wait? You mean if Amazon and Roku get their way I wont be able to use the HBO Max app?
AT&T: Well no, but it seems that most of you dont like going to the app and prefer to watch via the Channel Store and we dont want that.
CONSUMER: Why do you want to make my life more difficult?
AT&T: We want to be able to own all the data about your viewing habits and not share it with Amazon and Roku.
CONSUMER: WTF! Youre tracking my viewing habits? What else are you tracking?
So not an easy argument to win, though if we’ve learned anything over the past several years, its that even seemingly unpopular opinions can be spun to a certain segment of the audience and its possible that AT&T can convince their Go subscribers to put pressure on Amazon and Roku to carry the app.
Possible, but not likely.
Oh, and P.S., while most people will not realize that Now is now just HBO, the likely thought process will be Oh, they changed the logo. I wonder if that means I just got that new app they launched or not. It looks the same as the old one.
So, there’s that too.
What you need to do about it
If youre AT&T, you need to be realistic about your situation. Hardcore fans will watch on their laptops or figure out the hack to download Max onto Amazon Fire TV, but everyone else is going to be blaming you for this, not Roku and Amazon.
Unless, of course, you want to try and run some sort of marketing or social media campaign to get viewers to pressure Roku and Amazon, but theres no guarantee that will work.
Remember too, that are seven other Flixes out there, six of which are on Roku and Amazon (Peacocks fate is still up in the air.) And all those Now subscribers might not be all that bothered that they cant watch Harry Potter movies or the new Perry Mason (which is getting very good reviews, but still, its one series) and thus not be particularly chuffed about not being able to get Max.
Thus, divide and conquer may be your best strategy and if it were us, wed go with Roku first as they are smaller.
Unless, of course, the Google rumors prove to be true, at which point youre back to square one.
If youre everyone else, get your popcorn. Were just in the first 15 minutes of this movie and there are bound to be many more plot twists along the way.