PSA: Roku owners should download YouTube right now

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K plugged into an HDMI port
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

I'll make this clear: Roku owners should download the YouTube app right now (or, at least, before Thursday, Dec. 9). Why then? That's the big doomsday day for the talks between Roku and Google, whose spat has bubbled over from one app to another, and could lead to YouTube being pulled from Roku's app store. You might not use YouTube on your TV now, but you could very easily see a want for it later.

Roku announced this news on October 21, in a press release (opens in new tab) that was updated to say "Google notified us that, unless we reach agreement on renewal terms prior to the expiration of our current agreement, we will not be able to offer YouTube on the Roku platform for new users." 

Why is this happening? For the same reason it always does. Companies are disagreeing over sharing money and data, and we as the customer (as always) are the ones who will suffer. 

It all started with Roku booting the YouTube TV app from the Roku Channel Store (which meant only those who had already downloaded it could use it), while it accused Google of anti-competitive practices and demands of preferential treatment and more data than they'd normally get. YouTube argued these claims were baseless, while CNBC (opens in new tab), though, reports that it saw a 2019 email from Google to Roku asking for preferential treatment in search results. For more details, check out my previous story on this.

Of course, there's a chance that the two parties will resolve this before Dec. 9, but we're not holding our breath to expect a "Kumbaya" moment where Google and Roku hold hands and put this in the past. These companies would probably love to put this problem behind them and get back to making money, but they also seemingly have different terms for which they want to profit.

Because while the YouTube app may leave the Roku Channel Store, the app will still work if you download it now. And that means you'll be able to keep the YouTube TV access (where you can watch the Celtics vs Lakers live stream). From your Roku, this is a pretty simple process. 

How to download YouTube onto your Roku

  1. Click the Home button on your remote.
  2. Click on Streaming Channels button on the home screen.
  3. Search "YouTube."
  4. Select it from the results.
  5. Click Add Channel.

How to download YouTube onto your Roku from your phone or computer

You can even grab the YouTube app when you're away from your computer, via a web browser, provided you're signed in with your Roku account. 

Visit this page (opens in new tab) and click "+ Add Channel."

But, honestly, I'd go double-check that this worked on Wednesday (Dec. 8).

Outlook

While Roku makes our top pick in the best streaming devices, that ranking is in danger right now. If YouTube is booted from the Roku Channel Store, I don't think I'll be recommending its devices with as much confidence. Yes, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is stellar, but the Chromecast with Google TV is also great, and doesn't have any missing app problems.

Stay tuned, readers. And, again, download YouTube on your Roku right now.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.