Roku and YouTube End Their Dumb Feud

Roku and YouTube End Their Dumb Feud
Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE / Contributor, Getty Images

Roku and Google have signed a multi-year extension deal for both YouTube and YouTube TV on the streaming platform, effectively skirting a December contract deadline that, had it expired, would have seen YouTube removed from Roku’s app store.

“Roku and Google have agreed to a multi-year extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV,” a Roku spokesperson said in a statement. “This agreement represents a positive development for our shared customers, making both YouTube and YouTube TV available for all streamers on the Roku platform.”

Roku had first sent up a flare to customers about its simmering feud with Google back in April, when the platform claimed in a note to users that Google had made anti-competitive demands during negotiations around the stalled carriage agreement. Those demands had allegedly included that Roku make sure that Google’s properties were prioritised in its search results, as well as requesting that the platform create a separate search results row for YouTube within its smart TV interface. Shortly after the feud between the two companies became public, the YouTube TV app was discretely removed from Roku’s app store.

Although Google has consistently publicly denied Roku’s claims, calling their statements about requests for preferential treatment “baseless,” emails from Google to Roku uncovered by CNBC did read, in part: “YouTube Position: A dedicated shelf for YT search results is a must.”

In October, after five months of YouTube TV missing from the app store, Roku issued an update, informing customers that although only new YouTube and YouTube TV users had been affected by the app’s removal, existing users would also be affected if a distribution deal with Google was not reached by the looming Dec. 9 deadline.

“​Recently we have seen a disturbing trend that threatens the vibrant and competitive TV streaming ecosystem,” Roku wrote in a blog post at the time. “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.”

The multi-year nature of the new deal is nice for customers, who now won’t have to listen to platforms feuding and threatening to take away the apps that they probably cut the cord to use in the first place for at least a little while. But big blowout carriage disputes are becoming more and more common, which means this time of relative peace probably won’t last very long.