Roku sent an email to it users on April 26 warning them that an ongoing dispute between Roku and Google could result in the removal of the YouTube TV channel from the Roku platform. Today, Roku itself has taken the decision to pull the YouTube TV app from its channel store, effectively denying it to any Roku user who wants to add it to their streaming device. It also prevents any Roku users from creating a new subscription to the Google-owned live TV streaming service. Those who already have the YouTube TV channel on their Roku device or Roku TV are unaffected by today’s move.
“We are disappointed that Google has allowed our agreement for the distribution of YouTube TV to expire,” A Roku spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Roku has not asked for one dollar of additional financial consideration from Google to renew YouTube TV.”
The statement goes on to say that Roku asked Google for four contractual commitments: No manipulation of consumer search results, no access to data not available to anyone else, no forcing Roku to accept hardware requirements that would increase its consumer costs by leveraging Google’s YouTube monopoly, and no acting in a discriminatory and anticompetitive manner against Roku.
After the initial email Roku sent to its users, a Google spokesperson responded to some of Roku’s comments, saying: “We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers. Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations. We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high-quality and consistent experience for our viewers.”
The spokesperson also noted that “we have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”
Digital Trends has reached out to Google for its reaction to Roku’s decision to pull the YouTube TV app from its channel store, and we’ll update this story when and if we hear back.
The initial report of the dispute came from Axios, which enumerated Roku’s claimed demands from Google:
- Roku must create a dedicated search results row for YouTube within the Roku interface and give YouTube search results a more prominent placement.
- Roku must block search results from other streaming content providers while users are using the YouTube app on Roku’s system.
- Roku favors YouTube music results from voice commands made on the Roku remote while the YouTube app is open, even if the user’s music preference is set to default to another music app, like Pandora.
A possible further stipulation, according to the report, is that Roku must use certain chipsets or memory cards that would result in increased prices for its hardware. Now that Google sells its Chromecast with Google TV for $50, a price that undercuts all but two of Roku’s products (the Roku Express and Express 4K), this could, in theory, wipe out the price advantage that Roku enjoys on its least expensive devices.
“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anticompetitive, and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson told Axios.
This isn’t the first time that Roku has experienced contractual friction with one of its streaming service partners. Over the past few years, the company has had disputes with HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and, in 2020, it had to craft a last-minute deal with Fox in order to give its users a way to stream the 2020 Super Bowl.
We’ve pointed out that these disputes likely helped Amazon’s Fire TV platform achieve big growth in 2019 and 2020, stealing market share from Roku.
Earlier this year, Roku acquired the rights to now-defunct Quibi’s content, which Roku has renamed Roku Originals.