Roku is no longer carrying the YouTube TV app in its devices’ channel store, as protracted negotiations with Google over alleged search manipulation demands heat up.

Roku TV and media streamer owners who already subscribe to YouTube TV through their equipment will be able to continue using the app and service, but at least for now any users who had been considering a jump to the live TV streaming service will have to look to another streaming platform device or a different service like Hulu Plus or Sling TV.

Also, the dispute has no impact on access to the traditional YouTube consumer-generated video app.

“We are disappointed that Google has allowed our agreement for the distribution of YouTube TV to expire. Roku has not asked for one dollar of additional financial consideration from Google to renew YouTube TV,” Roku said in a statement Friday.

Roku warned customers using YouTube TV this week that the potential for a blackout of live TV streaming service on Roku platforms was a possibility, as negoitations between the two companies had bogged down. Roku alleged that Google was using its monopoly like advantages in contract negotiations to demand unfair terms.

Roku said the dispute is not over money, but alleges Google has demanded the manipulation of search results inside the Roku service. It also allegedly wants access to streaming data on Roku users.

Some of the charges Roku makes aren’t new. Google often has been accused by YouTube content providers and web site administrators of manipulating search engine algorithms to favor listings of certain channels and web sites over others for a variety of reasons determined by Google.

Google controls the world’s most dominantly used internet search engine of the same name as well as the world’s primary user-generated video service — YouTube.

YouTube TV, on the other hand, is an over-the-top subscription-based live multichannel TV service established to offer cord-cutters and others a more affordable streaming-based alternative to traditional pay-TV services. However, as YouTube TV’s subscriber base has grown, so have its fees (along with those of its competitors).

Until the YouTube TV app is reinstated in the channel store, Roku carries a number of alternative live OTT streaming services including: Sling TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, AT&T TV, Fubo TV, Philo and others. Subscribers are free to switch between services from month to month.

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At the end of Oct. 2020, YouTube TV was ranked second among live streaming TV services in the U.S. with 3 million subscribers, trailing Hulu Plus Live TV, which reported 4 million subscribers as of February 2021.

“Because our contract has expired, we have removed YouTube TV from our channel store,” Roku’s statment said Friday. “To continue to provide our users with a great streaming experience, we are taking the extra step to continue to offer existing subscribers access to YouTube TV on the Roku platform unless Google takes actions that require the full removal of the channel. Because of Google’s conduct, new subscriptions will not be available going forward until an agreement is reached.”

In a statement Google said: “We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers. 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.”

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By Greg Tarr

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