HBO is ending HBO Go, renaming HBO Now since HBO Max is live
Roku and Fire TV customers who rely on HBO Go to watch on their TVs won't have a dedicated HBO app unless the companies reach a deal.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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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.
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 it will be renamed simply 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 standalone 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, people who rely on HBO Go to stream HBO programming with a Roku or Fire TV won't have a simple app to do it. To watch on TVs, these HBO pay TV subscribers will need to watch HBO through their cable, satellite or other input, or through their pay TV operator's own app, if one exists.
"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."
Roku declined to make any public statements on the matter. Amazon didn't respond to messages seeking comment.
Watch this: HBO Max: How to get it
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.