New Roku YouTube app ultimatum as Google threatens streamer purgatory

Chris Davies - Oct 21, 2021, 12:25pm CDT
New Roku YouTube app ultimatum as Google threatens streamer purgatory

Dwindling signs of a deal between Roku and Google will leave new Roku streaming devices without YouTube and YouTube TV access from early December, it’s been revealed, as the on-demand contact fallout continues to bite. Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store back in May, amid contentious accusations from both it and Google about unreasonable licensing demands.

“Since April, we have been working to renew our partnership with Google to continue to offer YouTube TV to our shared customers,” Roku said in a new blog post, “and we made a commitment to keep the YouTube TV service available to existing YouTube TV users while we attempt to resolve our concerns.”

However, those negotiations haven’t been productive, it seems. Roku argues that the issue isn’t one of money, but about Google’s demands for visibility on its devices.

“First, Google continues to interfere with Roku’s independent search results,” the company explains, “requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers.” At the same time, Roku says, Google is also “demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms.”

Roku’s warning to users is that Google could simply opt to remove the YouTube functionality from the platform altogether. From Google’s perspective, though, that’s not quite how it’s panning out.

“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,” Google told Axios in a statement. “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.”

In short, those already using the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on their Roku device shouldn’t need to worry about them suddenly being deleted from the menu. If you buy a new Roku streamer, though, as things stand now you won’t be able to install the YouTube apps onto it.

Google, Roku argues, “makes hundreds of millions of dollars” from its YouTube app on Roku devices.

The losers in all this, of course, are Roku owners or potential owners. While the company has added a bunch of new, original shows to its platform in recent months, and a set of new live streaming TV channels, access to YouTube is undoubtedly seen as table-stakes for any set-top box.


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