Roku Is Feuding With Google Over YouTube TV’s Fate

Roku Is Feuding With Google Over YouTube TV’s Fate
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Roku is publicly duking it out with Google, a feud that could see the YouTube TV live television app disappear from the streaming platform.

In an email sent to YouTube TV customers this morning, Roku told its users that negotiations between the two companies and a failure to reach an agreement could see a loss of support for the live streaming service. Ultimately, the company told users, Google had proposed terms characterised as “unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.”

The issue will not affect the normal YouTube app. It would, however, severely impact YouTube TV subscribers who use the app as their primary app for live television. In a statement, a Roku spokesperson said negotiations to resolve the issue are being held up by terms that would ultimately see cost increases fall to consumers.

“We recently learned that Google may revoke consumers’ access to YouTube TV on Roku,” a Roku spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users. Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behaviour and Congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the platform “is not asking Google for a single additional dollar in value,” but stated that Roku “simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumer search results, inflate the cost of our products and violate established industry data practices.”

A YouTube spokesperson meanwhile, said it is engaging in conversations with Roku on reaching an agreement, but characterised Roku’s statements about the discussions as inaccurate.

“We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers,” the YouTube spokesperson told Gizmodo. “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. 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.”

Basically, this whole thing is a mess and each company is effectively pointing the finger at the other. It’s not totally uncommon for services to duke it out in this manner, and as Google noted, it’s certainly not new for Roku. But it does create a sticky situation for consumers who’ve already purchased streaming devices with the expectation that they will support the apps and services that they choose to subscribe to.

YouTube TV may be a single app, but considering Roku was also way behind in support for HBO Max and Peacock for quite some time, this is starting to feel like a familiar tune.