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Roku war with Google boils over — and YouTube could disappear for these users

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

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 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. Apparently if a new deal can’t be agreed upon before then, Google will stop Roku from offering YouTube to any new customers.

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 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.

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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. 

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.