Old School TV Gatekeepers (AT&T, Comcast), Struggle With Modern Streaming Gatekeepers (Amazon, Roku)
from the meet-the-new-boss... dept
In years past, incumbent broadband and television giants like Comcast and AT&T enjoyed life from a comfortable position of dominance. If you want to subscribe to broadband, such companies are often your only option. If you wanted to subscribe to television service, you were required to rent a locked down, highly proprietary cable box courtesy of the industry’s cable hardware monopoly. Want to have your cable channel in a conspicuous position in the lineup? You could also expect headaches.
As such, it’s interesting to watch how these giants of yesterday are now struggling to adapt to a new era in which their interests are not the end all, be all of negotiations.
As AT&T tries to reverse the tide of TV customer defections, it has turned to the launch of yet another streaming service: HBO Max. But the company’s efforts haven’t gone as planned, with the service unavailable on two of the most dominant TV streaming hardware platforms (Roku and Amazon) due to contract disputes. AT&T, a government pampered giant that traditionally enjoys playing the role of the politically powerful bully (remember net neutrality?), hasn’t been able to break this logjam despite HBO Max having launched a month ago:
“But streaming is an entirely new battlefield, with platforms like Roku and Fire TV becoming the main distributors. And legacy media companies like WarnerMedia and Disney are streaming newcomers with everyone seeking to challenge Netflix. None of the three companies would comment on the state of talks or say what the current impasse is over. Analysts agree that it probably harms HBO Max as it seeks to find its footing more than Roku and Amazon, which have built their businesses and subscriber bases over the past few years.”
Comcast, despite all of its money, political influence, and power, is running into the same problem. The company’s upcoming new streaming service, Peacock, also won’t be launching on Roku (39% market share) or Amazon (30% market share) streaming hardware. It’s a disadvantaged position AT&T and Comcast certainly aren’t quite used to:
“Combined, Roku and Amazon have around 70 percent of the streaming TV-specific hardware market. Both companies have leveraged their market dominance to try to secure distribution deals on terms that are favorable to them. Those deals include data-sharing agreements and the right to sell subscriptions to streaming services to viewers natively through Roku and Amazon?s operating system, according to individuals familiar with the matter.”
There are different negotiations hangups for both AT&T and Verizon. The AT&T and Roku standoff purportedly centers around AT&T being unwilling to let Roku customers who’ve already paid for HBO via Roku (who gets a cut) access AT&T’s HBO Max app (read: AT&T doesn’t want middlemen getting a cut). The Roku and Comcast standoff, in contrast, allegedly is focused on a dispute over advertising and access to viewer tracking data. In both instances, dominant monopolists are now being forced to compromise as they attempt to pivot to disruption… and at least so far, it’s not going particularly well.