HBO Max, when it arrived two weeks ago as an amped-up app to stream HBO with a lot of extra programming, also brought confusion about how the new streaming service fits in with the company’s two existing apps.
In a move intended to simplify matters, HBO’s parent company — AT&T‘s WarnerMedia — said Friday that it will retire its HBO Go app as of July 31 now that the HBO Max app is “widely distributed.” The HBO Now app will stay the same except the app will simply be renamed solely HBO.
HBO Go is the network’s first streaming app that lets regular HBO pay-TV subscribers watch over the internet. HBO Now is the channel’s stand-alone streaming app that lets people subscribe to and stream HBO without any other pay-TV bundles.
When the changes are complete, the company will have two streaming apps — HBO Max and HBO — rather than its current three.
But getting rid of HBO Go raises questions for people who rely on that app. The company’s plan to sunset HBO Go is based on the premise that HBO Max is “widely distributed” as a replacement for it, but HBO Max is missing on crucial devices: Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV. Roku or Amazon Fire TV together represent an eye-popping 70% of the streaming devices in the US.
WarnerMedia has so far failed to secure deals with Roku and Amazon to support HBO Max. Once HBO Go is retired, anyone who uses HBO Go on a Roku or Fire TV to stream HBO programming is out of luck. To watch on TVs, these HBO pay-TV subscribers will need to watch HBO through their pay-TV provider on their televisions, if possible, without a streaming alternative.
“The large majority of HBO Go usage occurs on platforms with whom we have HBO Max deals currently in place,” and HBO Max spokeswoman said. “While we don’t yet have a distribution deal with Amazon or Roku, we remain committed to making HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers as possible.”
Neither Roku nor Amazon immediately responded to messages seeking comment.
HBO Max is one of the final entrants in the so-called streaming wars, a seven-month window when media giants and tech titans have been releasing a raft of new streaming services to take on Netflix. These competitive battles — pitting rookies like HBO Max, Disney Plus and NBCUniversal’s Peacock against heavyweights like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — have spurred huge corporations to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the hope of shaping the future of television.