Warner Bros Discovery and Amazon have struck a new distribution deal for HBO Max, returning the streaming service to Prime Video Channels.

The agreement undoes a key mission for preceding corporate entity WarnerMedia, which launched HBO Max in 2020, two years before merging with Discovery. Former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who had a long exec stint at Amazon early in his career, made it a central goal of his tenure to secure distribution for HBO Max as a stand-alone app within Amazon as opposed to being featured as part of Channels. WarnerMedia’s then-parent, AT&T, also championed Kilar’s strategy, with CEO John Stankey publicly antagonizing Amazon for its strong-arm tactics. The tussle wound up delaying HBO Max’s availability on Amazon for months, costing the nascent streaming operation access to key new subscribers as it hit the market.

The length of the new deal was not specified in the official announcement, but sources familiar with the agreement said it was for five years.

Discovery+, which is due to be merged with HBO Max in the spring of 2023, has been on Prime Video Channels since its launch in 2021.

Under the Channels setup, Prime members can sign up for HBO Max for $14.99 per month. As with Apple and Google, Amazon’s massive scale enables it to rack up a larger number of subscriptions for its partners with Channels, but the sticking point can be how subscription revenue and customer data are shared by the parties. Earlier in the streaming era, programmers have been willing to surrender a certain amount of proceeds and data in the name of attaining scale, calculating that it is worth the tradeoff. Kilar’s conviction was that building a true direct-to-consumer business requires control of a great amount of consumer data in order to fine-tune a streaming service’s algorithms and customer acquisition capabilities.

“We strive to offer customers the best and widest selection of premium content available for their everyday viewing experience,” Prime Video VP Cem Sibay said. “Now with the addition of HBO Max again, customers can easily add this subscription and enjoy even more award-winning and fan favorite entertainment on Prime Video.”

JB Perrette, CEO and President, Global Streaming and Games for Warner Bros. Discovery and Bruce Campbell, the company’s Chief Revenue and Strategy Officer, both helped hammer out the new deal. WBD “is committed to making HBO Max available to as broad an audience as possible while also advancing our data-driven approach to understanding our customers and best serving their viewing interests,” Campbell said. Along with Amazon, Perrette added, WBD shares a “common goal is to delight customers with great content and continue to collaborate and innovate so we can best serve our subscribers.” 


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