Nearly six months after HBO Max’s launch, Roku still doesn’t have a deal to distribute the WarnerMedia streamer. But now Roku has added a feature to many of its 4K devices that provides a new workaround to watch HBO Max.
Roku is releasing the OS 9.4 update for select 4K-enabled models of its streaming devices, soundbars and TVs, which among other enhancements provides support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.
With AirPlay 2, Roku customers can stream, control and share content directly from their iPhone, iPad or Mac to play back on a supported Roku device — meaning you can use the HBO Max app for Apple devices to “cast” content directly to Roku players.
There are a couple of other workaround to watch HBO Max on Rokus (as well as Amazon’s Fire TV) but, for now, there’s still no native app for the Roku platform. A key sticking point in the deal talks: Roku wants to continue to sell HBO as a channel, while WarnerMedia wants HBO Max to be a discrete app in the same way Roku distributes Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and other services.
Apple’s HomeKit, meanwhile, lets customers control their Roku device with their voice using the Home app and Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch or HomePod.
According to Roku, AirPlay 2 is supported on the following models: Roku Ultra (4800x, 4670x, 4661x, 4662x, 4660x, 4640x); Roku Premiere (4630x, 4620x, 3920x); Roku Streaming Stick Plus (3811x, 3810x); Roku Streambar (9102x); and Roku Smart Soundbar (9101x, 9100x). Some users reported that they’ve already received the Roku OS 9.4 update in the past few days.
On third-party Roku TVs (models Axxxx, Cxxxx, CxxGB and 7xxxx), support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit is expected to roll out in phases with Roku OS 9.4 in the coming months.
“With Roku OS 9.4 now available on streaming players, we are adding all-new ways to navigate and control content-rich experiences on Roku devices,” said Ilya Asnis, senior VP of Roku OS, as well as “ensuring Roku devices provide a great entertainment experience for customers, regardless of what other technology products they prefer in their homes and particularly with the addition of Apple AirPlay and HomeKit.”
Roku previously announced plans to add AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to select 4K devices in late September, as part of its 2020 holiday product lineup.
In addition to AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support, Roku OS 9.4 features a live TV channel guide on Roku TVs; provides hints for Roku Voice; adds updated theme packs with sound effects; and improves overall performance, according to the company.