It’s been months since HBO Max and Peacock officially launched, and still, neither streaming service currently appears on the Roku platform (or Amazon, for that matter). The companies have said discussions about support were ongoing, but now we know why they’re still absent: Roku’s support fees are expensive as hell.
In a deep-dive report on Roku’s ascent to dominance in the streaming space, Variety reported Thursday that the streaming platform and hardware brand is asking for 30% of ad inventory and 20% of subscription costs from third-party streaming services hoping to find a home on Roku. In other words, Roku is making Apple-level demands of its channel partners — terms HBO Max and Peacock aren’t willing to agree to, clearly. Another point of contention in the discussions appears to be support for standalone apps, as opposed to subscriptions sold through the Roku Channel.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia told Gizmodo the company had no comment. A spokesperson for NBCUniversal, Peacock’s parent, said that “talks are ongoing.”
Roku didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Roku is among the most popular streaming platforms on the market, and for good reason. For one, its hardware is cheap and its OS is fairly easy to navigate. For another, it’s baked directly into many popular smart TVs, making it the default streaming option for a significant number of consumers who aren’t interested in purchasing an additional set-top box. And, while not my personal favourite, there’s plenty to like about Roku: It’s smart home compatible, it’s got an absolutely massive library, and it supports compatible mobile apps on both iOS and Android.
Still, taking cuts in these double-digit figures is honestly shocking. Even Apple’s walled garden taxation has won the company significant criticism in recent months. And while everybody involved here appears to believe their product is precious enough to pull off whatever demands are being made, I can’t help but wonder whether shelling out for access to Roku’s immense user base even makes sense when both HBO Max and Peacock can be streamed on devices other than TVs.
It was always clear the issue was money. But good god is that ever a sizable cut of the pie.