It’s not often that tech CEOs are asked under oath about ongoing negotiations, but such a thing happened earlier this week, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was asked for an update on a key streaming deal.
Ever since the launch of HBO Max this past spring, subscribers who use Roku and Amazon Fire devices have complained that HBO parent company, AT&T’s Warner Media, has yet to reach a deal to put the new service on those streaming devices.
That subject came up Wednesday, when four major tech CEOs testified before a Congressional committee. Bezos was asked about the lack of a deal between Amazon and HBO.
Near the end of the marathon hearing, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland who is on the Judiciary Committee, asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about the topic.
“A lot of consumers want to know when the HBO Max app will be available on your Fire device, and I understand that negotiations are ongoing but that your company is not only asking for financial terms, but also for content from Warner Media. Is that right, and is that a fair way to proceed?,” Rep. Raskin asked Bezos in the hearing. “Is it fair to use your gatekeeper status role in the streaming device market to promote your position as a competitor in the video streaming market?”
The question appeared to be a reference to HBO potentially making some older seasons of its shows available on Amazon Prime Video, and those rights being a negotiating point in the talks to add HBO Max to the Fire devices.
“I’m not familiar with the details of those negotiations, as you said they’re underway right now,” Bezos, who was testifying remotely, said in reply. “I predict that the companies will eventually come to an agreement, and I think this is kind of two large companies negotiating agreements—kind of normal commerce.”
“Is it okay,” Raskin asked in response, “to negotiate not just for financial terms, in having someone be part of your Fire unit, but also to try to extract in that negotiation leverage when it comes to getting content from them?”
“In general, I think that when two companies are negotiating, you’re negotiating not just the amount of money that’s going to change hands, but what you’re going to get in exchange for that amount of money,” Bezos said. “That’s a very fundamental way that business works.”
Bezos ended the exchange by, as he and other executives did throughout the hearing, promising to provide the questioning member of Congress with information in the future.
Speaking of HBO streaming, Thursday is the final day that the HBO Go streaming app will function. The company announced on June 15 that it was discontinuing HBO Go at the end of July, and despite a push by Roku to reconsider.
As of this writing, the parties reached a deal for HBO Now subscribers on Amazon Fire to continue receiving the service—now called “HBO”—but no deal yet for HBO Max.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver. Image: Reuters