The ongoing dispute between Roku and Google has taken another turn. Back in April this dispute prevented Roku from offering the YouTube TV app to existing users, and now it seems Google has threatened (opens in new tab) to pull the main YouTube and YouTube TV apps.
While both companies are in talks to hammer out some sort of agreement regarding Roku and YouTube apps, the current agreement is set to expire on December 9 (so download YouTube to your Roku now). Apparently if a new deal can’t be agreed upon before then, Google will stop Roku from offering YouTube to any new customers.
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Roku is a company that prides itself on its independence. While it does own a number of its own services, historically the company has not been prone to favoring one service over another.
While there are exceptions to this, like pre-programmed buttons on the remote and heavy Roku Channel advertising, it’s not quite on the same level as the likes of Amazon whose Fire TV Sticks are constantly pushing you towards Amazon-owned services and content.
However, Roku has accused Google of trying to undermine this, alleging that Google has demanded Roku prioritize YouTube over content providers in search results. The company also claims Google discriminates against Roku by “demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms.“
Shortly after Roku posted the update, it claims Google sent a notification confirming that should a resolution not be reached new users won’t be able to download the YouTube app on Roku devices — a move Roku claims is retaliation for calling out Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices.
Roku says that it’s working hard to ensure users can get continued access to YouTube apps, though Google has denied (opens in new tab) the streamer’s version of events. According to the search giant it has “continued to work with them [sic] to find a resolution that benefits our mutual users”, and then accused Roku of making “unproductive and baseless claims” instead of working constructively with Google.
Yes. Here’s statement. Google just confirmed to me that’s correct. pic.twitter.com/gVW7mRp7ctOctober 21, 2021
This sort of dispute seems to happen all too often, particularly where YouTube is involved. The service was infamously unavailable on Amazon Fire TV devices for a long time, while Prime Video was similarly unavailable to use with Google-made devices like Chromecast.
Obviously, being one of the most popular streaming platforms in the world means losing YouTube is a big deal. While existing customers will still be able to access YouTube on Roku devices after the December 9 deadline, its newer customers won’t be so lucky.
We don’t have any insider information and it’s impossible to see how valid or accurate each company’s statements are. However, because Roku has plenty to lose by not offering YouTube, it wouldn’t make sense to mess Google around when trying to renew their agreement.
The whole thing is very bizarre, especially since I’d have thought this sort of partnership would be mutually beneficial to both Google and Roku. Roku gets to promote itself as having access to all the biggest streaming services, YouTube included, while Google has its service raking in ad money from yet another platform.
We’re just going to have to wait and see how this plays out, and hope it gets resolved — much like the negotiation issues that initially prevented Roku users from accessing HBO Max.
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