Roku, YouTube TV Tiff Grows
The battle over YouTube TV between Roku and Google continues to get uglier.
Carriage of the live over-the-top streaming service app in the Roku app store was blocked April 30th for new YouTube TV subscriptions on Roku devices, following a breakdown in carriage renewal negotiations.
Existing YouTube TV subscribers running the Roku OS platform were allowed to continue to use the pre-installed app and service, at least temporarily.
Putting the possible long-term ability in doubt, however, Google announced last week a work-around that will enable Roku YouTube TV users to continue using the service if Roku denies access to it entirely, even by existing subscribers.
“Today, we’re introducing a new feature that gives you access to YouTube TV from within the YouTube app, making it easier to enjoy all the content you love,” Google announced to Roku users. “Existing members can easily access YouTube TV by clicking on `Go to YouTube TV’ in the main YouTube app. This update will be available to all YouTube TV members on Roku over the next few days, and we will expand to as many devices as we can over time”.
The development emerged just days following Roku’s decision not to renew its app carriage for the live linear OTT YouTube TV service, effectively ending the ability for Roku users’ to begin a new YouTube TV subscription through the Roku TV or Roku streaming media player user interface.
Existing subscribers were not impacted, but Roku reminded that Google’s new work-around tab is still available only for legacy YouTube TV subscribers, and does not permit new YouTube TV activations.
Google’s end-around maneuver gives it the ability to hold on to YouTube TV subscribers on Roku as the disconnect in carriage negotiations continues, leaving lingering doubt that grandfathered access to YouTube TV service will be available long term.
Roku announced that it had decided not to renew carriage of the YouTube TV app in the Roku app store for new takers over a disagreement with various allegedly unusual demands by Google. Roku said the giant corporation was alleged leveraging monopolistic power. Among the demands was alleged use of Roku search data collected by Roku from its users to facilitate and improve program search and recommendation features.
Roku implied that Google might allegedly pull its uber-popular regular YouTube service from Roku if Google didn’t get access to the viewer data and that Roku create an area for dedicated preferential search results on the Roku interface.
Roku alleged that Google was also looking to block search results from other streaming content providers while using the YouTube app on Roku’s system.
“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,” Roku stated. “Roku is not asking Google for a single additional dollar in value. We simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumer search results, inflate the cost of our products and violate established industry data practices.”
YouTube denied Roku’s allegations, saying: “We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results.”
“Google’s actions are the clear conduct of an unchecked monopolist bent on crushing fair competition and harming consumer choice,” according to a Roku statement. “The bundling announcement by YouTube highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, Attorneys General and regulatory bodies around the world are investigating.”
Roku reminded that the new feature in YouTube is for current YouTube TV subscribers and new subscriptions to YouTube TV are still not available on the Roku platform.
Meanwhile, Roku released its Q1 2021 financial results, showing the Roku OS, The Roku Channel free ad-supported streaming service and Roku user based around the world continues to grow users and profitability for the company.
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By Greg Tarr
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