Roku Is Losing YouTube As War With Google Rages On

Roku Is Losing YouTube As War With Google Rages On
Photo: Patrick Sison, AP

Addressing its long-running feud with Google publicly for the first time on Thursday, Roku said in a blog post that it had yet to reach a renewed distribution agreement with the search behemoth, which could lead to both the Google-owned YouTube and YouTube TV apps disappearing from the streaming platform indefinitely as a result.

While neither company has given much insight into the sticking points in their ongoing distribution negotiations thus far, Roku accused Google in the blog post of making anti-competitive demands, including requiring that Roku surface YouTube over other content providers and insisting that the streaming platform provide enhanced search, voice and data features.

“​Recently we have seen a disturbing trend that threatens the vibrant and competitive TV streaming ecosystem,” Roku wrote in the post. “Rather than embracing a mutually beneficial partnership approach, some Big Tech enterprises are using their market power to extend control over independent businesses, like Roku, to benefit their broader business objectives at the expense of the consumer, putting a fair and open competitive streaming marketplace at risk.”

Google, for its part, flatly denies Roku’s version of events, claiming in a statement that its only interest during the ongoing negotiations has been to extend the deal currently in place and accusing the streaming platform of stonewalling during talks:

Since our negotiations with Roku earlier this year, we’ve continued to work with them to find a resolution that benefits our mutual users. Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us. Since we haven’t been able to continue our conversations in good faith, our partnership for all new Roku devices will unfortunately end on December 9. We are, however, giving Roku the ability to continue distributing both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure they are not impacted.

As Roku notes in its own blog post, it has endeavoured to keep YouTube TV’s services available to existing customers in the months since negotiations stalled in April, and Google’s statement seems to confirm that such an arrangement will continue to apply to current users going forward. But beginning Dec. 9, new Roku users hoping to use the massively popular standard YouTube app — the second-most used app across connected TV devices — will be out of luck, just as they currently are if they want to download YouTube TV.

Roku and Google’s failure to reach an agreement on a distribution deal mirrors the similar dustups that are happening with increasing regularity between streaming TV providers and programmers, including — ironically — a contract dispute that’s currently simmering between YouTube TV and NBC Universal. Although many users rushed to cut the cord to avoid the hassle and drama of programming blackouts, the increasingly frequent spats between distributors and programmers in the streaming world have once again opened consumers up to the hassles of the traditional TV landscape.