Roku has removed the YouTube TV app from its platform, making good on a warning earlier this week that it would do so amid a distribution dispute with Google.
Current YouTube TV subscribers will continue to have access to the app on their Roku devices, but new subscribers won't be able to sign up. The main YouTube app is not affected.
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It's a clash of the titans. Google is, well, Google. YouTube TV is one of the top live TV services and best cable TV alternatives, with more than three million users. Roku is the leader in streaming platforms, running on one-third of all smart TVs in North America and boasting over 50 million active accounts at the end of 2020.
They are competitors, since Google has its own streaming device in the Chromecast and streaming platform in Google TV.
A big part of the dispute is Roku's charge that Google is engaging in anticompetitive practices. Roku said that Google demanded preferential treatment of the YouTube TV and YouTube apps, the manipulation of consumer search results and access to data not available to other companies.
Both Roku and YouTube TV have expressed "disappointment" with the other. Roku sent Tom's Guide a statement saying: "We are disappointed that Google has allowed our agreement for the distribution of YouTube TV to expire. Roku has not asked for one dollar of additional financial consideration from Google to renew YouTube TV."
Earlier this week, YouTube TV said: "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."
The Roku vs Google fight is reminiscent of carriage disputes between cable providers and networks. Cable users may remember times when they tried to click on a channel and saw a message that Such-and-Such Media Company was being difficult (i.e. wanted more money from the cable company). Now, the battles have shifted to streaming.
Roku has been involved in distribution disputes before, most notably with Fox in 2020 (opens in new tab). The two companies reached an agreement to keep Fox apps on Roku devices just in time for the Super Bowl. Roku also lagged behind in adding the HBO Max app to its platform.