The long-running squabble between Amazon and HBO appears to be over. Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery have returned HBO Max to Prime Video Channels in the US. Pay $15 per month and you’ll have access to House of the Dragon and other shows from within Prime Video — you won’t have to manage separate apps or subscriptions. This will also provide access to the unified HBO Max and Discovery+ service (possibly called “Max”) when it goes live in 2023. Discovery+ has been on Channels since 2021.
Warner Bros. Discovery strategy chief Bruce Campbell characterized the launch as a simple matter of growth. It makes HBO Max available to “as broad an audience as possible” without compromising the company’s understanding of customer data, he said. Amazon VP Cem Sibay, meanwhile, saw this as fulfilling Prime Video’s goal of offering the “best and widest” mix of premium content.
HBO Max launched in May 2020 without support for Amazon devices due largely to differing stances on how viewers should use the service. At the time, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar wanted HBO Max to be available as a dedicated app on Fire TV devices rather than going through Prime Video Channels. This theoretically gave Warner more control over subscriber data that could improve recommendations and attract more users. Amazon unsurprisingly balked, as Channels support would both enable the largest possible viewership and give the online retailer more control over the experience.
HBO Max came to Fire TV months later, only to leave in 2021 as part of a broader exit for HBO as a whole. The decision cost WarnerMedia five million customers that quarter, and was seen as a short-term sacrifice that would ultimately pay off. HBO, HBO Max and Discovery now have a combined 94.5 million subscribers. While the return to Prime Video Channels doesn’t necessarily represent a full-fledged change in strategy, it suggests Warner Bros. Discovery is no longer afraid of losing full control over its subscriber base.