Update April 30: In an escalation of events, the YouTube TV channel has now been removed from the Roku store. The development mainly affects YouTube TV subscribers who had yet to download the app, but further indicates a deal between Google and Roku is no closer to being reached. End of update.
Update April 26: YouTube TV has since responded on social media denying many of the allegations made by Roku. In a Twitter thread, YouTube TV says that negotiations are still continuing and that it regrets some people have received the message from Roku. The statement also accuses the claims in the email of being “baseless” and used as a negotiation tactic. While the comments from YouTube do make it clear that it doesn’t plan on removing its app from the Roku platform, it also does highlight that an agreement has yet to be reached. End of update.
Roku has started sending out emails to users warning of the possibility that YouTube TV could be removed from the platform. Similar to issues that have affected Fox Sports RSNs and AT&T TV, the issue revolved around the inability for the two companies to agree a support deal. In this case, however, Roku explains the deal can’t be agreed on, due to the privacy of the user.
Roku is a popular platform for those looking to stream live TV and on demand content over the internet. Along with Amazon’s Fire TV, it is one of the main ways many in the United States stream video at home. Similarly, YouTube TV is also a hugely popular service. Along with Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV is understood to be providing live TV channels to more than three million in the U.S. Due to this, the suggestion that the YouTube TV channel could be removed from Roku has the potential to affect a significant number of users.
Roku platform users have started receiving an email from Roku stating there is a possibility that YouTube TV device support will be removed. The email specifically points to negotiations having broken down between Roku and Google, suggesting if a deal is not eventually done, YouTube TV will be removed.
At the moment, the email does not state when support could end up being lost. However, if the dispute is not settled and YouTube TV device support does end up being removed, then current subscribers will be left in a position where they need to either switch live TV streaming services or switch streaming players.
The Roku and YouTube TV dispute
According to the email, Roku says YouTube TV is attempting to demand anticompetitive requirements that could harm Roku users. Specifically, Roku states Google wants to manipulate search results and impact data usage. Roku doesn’t go into specifics here, but in a separate report by Axios, the outlet states some of the demands focus on the standard YouTube app, with the suggestion being that Google wants YouTube content to get preferential treatment compared to other services. This includes a dedicated YouTube search results row and the more prominent placement of YouTube search results.
The email goes on to state that protecting user data is important to Roku and that due to the demands, it is unable to agree to the requested changes. While the dispute continues, Roku says it is “committed to reaching an agreement” and is urging platform users to reach out to Google and request a deal to be agreed that doesn’t impact on user privacy. It is worth keeping in mind that all of the information here has come from Roku, with a statement from Google having yet to be released.