Google is Pulling YouTube from Roku

Posted on October 23, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Music + Videos, YouTube with 42 Comments

After Roku complained publicly about Google abusing its market power, Google said it would pull YouTube from Roku’s devices.

“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,” a post to Roku’s corporate blog notes. “​This is unfortunately the case Roku and numerous other independent companies now face with Google, which is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and more than 30 State Attorneys General for violating competition laws.”

At issue is Google’s demands to Roku, which first went public in April when Roku alerted its customers that they may lose access to YouTube on their streaming boxes because negotiations with Google had stalled. Now, however, Roku has provided more details about what Google demanded, and as a result, Google says it will pull the YouTube app from Roku on December 9. At that time, no new users will be able to access the service from Roku devices, but existing app installs will continue to work.

As for the now-failed negotiations, Roku says that Google demanded that it provide YouTube with preferential search results over other content providers. Additionally, Google demanded “search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms.”

Roku’s concerns are not about money, the firm claims. Instead, it simply wants Google to stop trying to interfere with its neutral search features, which apply to all content providers on its platform. “Roku does not earn a single dollar from YouTube’s ad-supported video sharing service today, whereas Google makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the YouTube app on Roku,” Roku says.

Roku provided a quick update after Google announced that it would pull YouTube from Roku.

“While not surprising, this kind of blatant retaliation and monopoly conduct is likely why the U.S. Department of Justice and 30 State Attorneys General are investigating Google for violating fair competition laws,” a Roku statement notes.  “Google’s actions are designed to stifle competition and harm consumers which is why there is broad bipartisan support in Congress today to rein in monopoly abuses. We will continue to try to keep YouTube (and YouTube TV) available for Roku customers, and [we] will provide updates as appropriate.”

“Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us,” a Google statement retorts.

Unfortunately for Google, it has publicly stated that it never asked Roku for special treatment, but CNBC has viewed an email between the two firms that seems to prove that Roku’s claims are correct. “A dedicated shelf for [YouTube] search results is a must,” Google explains to Roku in that email.

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Comments (42)

42 responses to “Google is Pulling YouTube from Roku”

  1. bschnatt

    I think Roku should be more concerned with the fact that a ton of their recent devices keep experiencing periodic audio drop-outs. I recently bought a Roku TV and the only way to (mostly) eliminate this problem is to switch to plain PCM (stereo) audio. This has been an on-going problem for at least a year, and Roku is either unwilling or unable to fix it. I'm going to switch back to my Fire Stick 4K and I will never buy a Roku device again...

    • jaredthegeek

      Roku does not build any TV's. You TV is a Hisense or TCL or other brand with Roku integrated.

    • ggolcher

      Whataboutism


      Roku-integrated devices may have issues, but that in no way detracts from the validity of Roku's stance in this issue.

      • bschnatt

        Yes, I agree they have a valid issue here, but they're crying about a dog running around their front yard trampling roses while their house is on fire. If people are having major fundamental problems with their devices, they're not going to be thinking of what apps they can run - they're going to be thinking of switching to alternative devices like Fire Sticks...

        • Bart

          You're comparing Apples to googles here. @ggolcher is right. One has simply nothing to do with the other.

          • bschnatt

            All I'm saying is that Roku has their priorities out of whack. They should have fixed this hardware issue a year ago. Instead, they get pissy about some slight from Google. Both are issues they need to deal with, but the hardware issue is the squeaky wheel that needs their undivided attention. They can continue down this road if they want, but THIS passenger is jumping out of the car...

            • jim_vernon

              Bud, it's not their issue to fix. Talk to TCL or Hisense about it.

              • mihalko

                Agreed, bschnatt is bat schnatt crazy. I have two Roku devices and none of them have sound issues. He is blaming another company's hardware for his problems and is intentionally distracting from the real issue, Google's monopoly and the unethical use of their position.


                I wonder if bat schnatt works for Google?

            • Bart

              What is good hardware without good software/services and vice versa?

            • Sprtfan

              Why would you think this is an either or situation? I doubt they are pulling resources from the team that makes the hardware to go after Google for a completely unrelated issue.

              • bschnatt

                And yet the same people who are going after Google are (apparently) ignoring the audio issue. Saying these are separate issues doesn't absolve management from handling both issues. If management can't adequately handle all of their problems, they either need to make way for better management or reorder their priorities. It sounds to me like they'd rather focus on ordering the right size yacht than handle what is clearly a real problem. That's all I'm going to say. You're welcome...

  2. yaddamaster

    Google, like Facebook, must be broken up.


    In the meantime, I've been avoiding youtube whenever I can and trying other services like rumble.

  3. harmjr

    I hope Roku wins this battle. Ive just added another Roku on my old dumb TV and it's given it a new life.


    Compared to fire tv it's such a great device.

    • david.thunderbird

      I bought a Fancypants ROKU, never figured how to operate it simply, so it sits idle while I fumble with a Firestick almost simply. Yep, simple minds look for simple things.

  4. jthurlow

    I guess they are dusting off the old playbook they used when blocking the Microsoft YouTube app on Windows Phone, at the time neither Microsoft or any regulators went after them for it so they may figure there is no risk from blocking their app on another platform. Whatever the outcome of the antitrust action, one thing they do risk is getting their own customers caught in the crossfire. Many of the podcasts I watch are on YouTube but I use a podcast app to download them partly because YouTube made sure it was not possible to do so directly from them when I used Windows Phone and the podcast app habit has stuck after Windows Phone has gone making me less likely to be a YouTube Premium customer. Will any Roku customers discover they don't miss YouTube after all and perhaps spend more time with TikTok or some other service?

    • nbplopes

      It’s not the same. Windows Phone solution was never a popular device. Microsoft brand simply obfuscated this fact.

      • SvenJ

        You may have forgotten that MS built a very nice YouTube app and Google quashed it. It wasn't that Google didn't want to make the effort for a limited market, they actively prevented MS from serving it.

        • JerryH

          And the reason they quashed that app was quite different. If you will recall, the MS built app did not maintain all of the advertising and all of the information collection that Google requires. It actually did violate the terms of service, which is why Microsoft did not fight back on that.


          In this instance it just seems that Google is insisting that Roku make YouTube a first class citizen and move every other app to second class.

  5. mikegalos

    This is textbook Abuse of Monopoly Power.

  6. nbplopes

    Crazy. Google reaction is one of an abuser.

  7. tnthorne

    All Roku has to do is put a browser on its devices so user's can go to YouTube.com. This doesn't have to hurt Roku at all. Not that it matters to me, I've had a TCL Roku TV for five years now and never once opened the YouTube app. I gave up on YouTube once the ads became intrusive.

  8. richfrantz

    Hardly ever watch YouTube on my Roku. No loss for me. Love my Roku though.

  9. SYNERDATA

    Oh how I like my Fire TV.

  10. sbaeder

    There seems to be some confusion above on YouTube TV vs YouTube But either way, I just don't understand the issue of needing an APP when you should be able to use any internet browser (and if necessary fake out the information back about which browser it actually is) to access content that is available on any ordinary PC...


    Can someone clue me in why there is all this fuss about the APP being available or not?

  11. retcable

    Recently, YouTube has become completely ridiculous with their ads. I tried watching a 30 minute video last night and the thing was interrupted 9 times with 2-ad breaks. NINE times!!! That is beyond ridiculous, and half the time one ad would play and the screen would just go black for what would have been the second ad, or sometimes the first ad would not play at all.

  12. mike2thel73

    ALL OF YOU ARE WRONG.


    All the companies previously mentioned are all abusers.....Microsoft, Google, Amazon....Roku is making more and more ad revenue every year trying to be like Google.


    Roku's hardware has been stale for years. The only thing they have going for them is their app centric interface which I prefer over fire tv/Android TV's melting pot of apps, contents, ads, etc. But the bigger issue in the room is all of the issues Roku has had with content companies during the past few years.....Newscorp (Fox), Comcast (NBC), Time Warner (HBO), and now Google (YouTube)


    Years ago this was not possible because Roku was just a simple low key consumer electronics company trying to make money off it's hardware.


    Now that the market has matured and Roku for the most part has continued to stay @ #1 for smart tv platforms, IMHO it's Roku trying to go against it's frienemies and assert it's dominance for more favorable terms.


    It's easy to hate on Google whether it's the amount of money they make, or the data privacy issue, or their hypocrisy when it comes to regulating YouTube content but for me it's also easy to recognize that Roku wants to be just like them in a lot of ways.


    This is just another day in the tech/media industry trying to divide and conquer when the truth is, it's all BS.


    I love YouTube and it won't be hard for me to ditch Roku knowing how familiar and how likeable their interface is. Android tv minus the Amazon implementation isn't far off.






  13. Daekar

    This kind of thing is one reason why I have never embraced streaming devices like that. Cast from your phone or just run a PC's output to the TV, you'll almost never be at the mercy of nonsense like this.

  14. red.radar

    Most of the decent content on Youtube to which you would use a streaming device for is also listed on independent streaming platforms such as Patreon.


    Also live (streaming) tv has alternatives.

    • innitrichie

      Not really true. There's a ton of popular content distributed exclusively on YouTube. Almost all the YouTube channels I watch and follow, these people don't pump their content out anywhere else but YouTube.


      Usually the heavily produced stuff goes on YouTube, and the live streams get hosted on Twitch.


      Roku losing access to YouTube is a massive blow for them.

  15. sherlockholmes

    Google is such a nice company. As is Apple, Microsoft, Amazon .....

  16. scovious

    After Roku complained publicly about Google abusing its market power, Google abuses it's market power. The Irony.

  17. mestiphal

    Google also had a lot to do with the demise of the Windows Phone, never having a native youtube app for it, and always complaining about the aftermarket apps that were made.

  18. mefree

    And thus, proving their point.

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