Roku May Lose YouTube TV

Posted on April 26, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Music + Videos with 25 Comments

Roku has alerted its customers that Google’s anticompetitive business practices may force it to remove YouTube TV on its streaming devices.

“We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku,” a Roku email notice reads. “Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users.”

Google has demanded that Roku provide its YouTube TV app with special search privileges that would prevent Roku devices from displaying search results that include content from other apps if the YouTube TV app is open. Roku, like other companies that make streaming devices—including Google, by the way—offers a search feature that spans compatible apps. Some companies prefer to keep their apps out of this aggregation. But this marks the first time, to my understanding, that an app maker has tried to prevent a streaming platform from aggregating the content from other apps.

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anticompetitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku statement explains further. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior, and congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”

“We are disappointed that Google has so far refused to accept our proposal to extend YouTube TV on Roku,” the Roku statement continues. “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. Google is already under fire from governments around the world for manipulating search results. It is outrageous that Google would now try to insist on manipulating Roku’s search results as well. We believe consumers stand to benefit from Google and Roku reaching a fair agreement that preserves consumers’ access to YouTube TV, protects user data, and promotes a competitive, free and open marketplace. We are committed to trying to achieve that goal.”

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (25)

25 responses to “Roku May Lose YouTube TV”

  1. glenn8878

    Okay, my YouTube habit will now be broken due to Google. Thanks Google. I already watch it way too much. I'll have to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime more than usual.

  2. compsciguy31415

    Definitely not cool. Reminds me of Microsoft strong-arming Dell back in the 90s. If I remember correctly, Dell wanted to offer Linux pre-installed on computers and MS threatened to remove them as a preferred vendor meaning that Dell would have to pay full price for a license.

  3. crunchyfrog

    Streaming is such a mess! I standardized on Roku for all of my streaming but I moved to T-Mobile's streaming service that does not support Roku so I moved to Android TV. Then I find that Apple's streaming service is not supported by Android TV AND T-Mobile announces they're shuttering their streaming service and are moving us to YouTube TV. So now I move back over to Roku and now I may lose YouTube TV on Roku.

    This is BS!

  4. nbplopes

    This is just another example how companies are all open and idealistic until they become big enough and proceed like thugs.

    I prefer consistency. I trust more a thug that as always been one than a deceiver.

  5. red.radar

    The behavior of big tech is getting rather brazen.

  6. IanYates82

    This reminds me of the Windows Phone achilles heel where a platform function (eg contacts) wants to control some aspects of how the app makers show their data to the user.

    It didn't work well for Windows Phone and I don't think it will work well here.

    It'd be good to get some actual clarity on what the issue at stake is here.

    Is it that if I'm in the YouTube app, and hit some search button on the remote, that Roku makes that search universal whereas Google wants the YouTube app to receive the "search" request and handle it itself?

    It'd be like the Windows key on your keyboard being used by one of your installed apps when that app is in focus, and when that app is not in focus, the Windows key working as you'd expect (open the start menu). It's a system-level key / function.

    I don't have a Roku but if the remote indicates the search button is a system-level function then it ought to remain that way. Having said that, if I did own a Roku, I'd probably like that search button being handled in a smart app-context-aware way - if I'm in the YouTube app it's probably because I want to search *in* YouTube.

    I do have a Google TV. It has a home button that works within the active app (eg, takes you back to the Netflix or Disney home screen), and then if hit again takes you back to the main Google TV screen. That works well and seems to strike a nice balance.

    Google TV also has the voice assistant button which I've rarely used but would be analogous to the "search" button on a Roku I guess... I'm fairly sure it's system-wide in context though. I'll have to try it when I get home tonight.

  7. Tiny

    I didn't get an e-mail from ROKU. I wonder if that might be because I don't have the Google App installed?

  8. jrzoomer

    My understanding is that Roku wants the search to bring up a worldwide search when you’re in an app? That’s pretty counterintuitive to me. It’s why I don’t use my TV’s voice search button which does this.

    If i open an app its because I want to watch something in that app, so let me find it (regardless of whether it is YouTube TV or other).

    Just my thoughts as a consumer (not an antitrust lawyer!).

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to jrzoomer:

      If I press the Roku search button, then I want Roku to tell me where something is. I expect it to run at a system level and work the same everywhere. Each app has its own in-app search function and they can handle that however they want. I'd like to see more apps implement an easily accessed voice search button within their app.

  9. Pbike908

    Yawn....I use YouTube TV as my main TV app. I have used Apple TV, Samsung TV, Roku, and FireStick. Fire TV is hands down the simplest interface to use. Just get a FireStick 4K and forget all this nonsense. The FireStick 4K on sale is cheaper than Roku, has a better interface, and Also a better remote.

    Roku has ZERO leverage here. No one is going to ditch YouTube TV if Roku kicks them off. They sill just buy a Fire TV device. I can't see how Roku is getting on their high horse about Google profiting off search as that is essentially Roku's business too, as Roku doesn't make money selling hardware.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to Pbike908:

      Roku is not kicking them off, Google is threatening to pull the app if Roku will not make special concessions to Google. As I understand it, if you're watching YouTube TV on Roku and you search for The Sopranos, Roku tell you that you can stream Sopranos on HBO Max. Google wants Roku to stop doing that.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Pbike908:

      This is Google pulling the app, not Roku kicking it off the platform.

      Google did the same a few months back with Sony, ISTR.

    • codymesh

      In reply to Pbike908:

      *Google does anti-competitive behaviour*

      comments here: yawn ....I use youtube TV

  10. mrlinux11

    Well the majority of my youtube viewing is done with ROKU.

  11. rm

    Google is Evil; another example for all to see.

  12. doon

    Under ordinary circumstances, I'd guess that Google is trying to force users off of Roku streaming devices and on to Google TVs. But this is Google, and they just don't give a damn about their hardware. At least their behavior indicates otherwise. And what a pain, I've used Roku successfully for years. Well, looks like I'll be scrapping my Roku devices and buying Google TVs.

  13. jgraebner

    Really not sure what to think on this. Some of Google's demands (the search results) sound unreasonable while I'm more sympathetic to their pushing for their service be limited to hardware that can run it well.

    All of the obvious issues with Google aside, Roku also tends to be an aggressive defender of their own interests and gets into these types of stand-offs constantly.

  14. jgraebner

    Since it seems like it isn't clear to everyone, this dispute is over YouTube TV, which is Google's cable-alternative for broadcast/cable networks, and not the regular YouTube app. Supposedly, the contract for the YouTube app isn't up for renegotiation at this point.

  15. truerock2

    I do not use Google for web search.

    I highly recommend that no one use Google.

    If you use Google you are harming yourself.

    By the way, Edge is my primary browser.

    I never use Chrome.

    I buy Samsung TVs. I use the built in Samsung apps until Samsung stops updating the apps - which is usually about 2 years. So, then I buy a Roku and attach that to the Samsung TV and stop using the Samsung apps. I own 5 Samsung TVs. The oldest Samsung TV I own is 8 years old. Four of my Samsung TVs have Rokus on them and we do not use the Samsung Apps on those TVs. My newest Samsung TV is less than a year old and we are still using the Samsung apps on it.

  16. yoshi

    Thankfully YouTube TV lost me when they cut NESN.

  17. Cdorf

    so would you say Roku is being.... Scroogled? Too Soon?

  18. nerdile

    There's no reason to feel bad for either party - they are both highly profitable. It's rent-seeking on both sides. It's the next generation of cable companies vs. channels/media companies - except we used to blame the cable companies because they generally had a clear monopoly in their area.

    These types of negotiations are common when the platform is closed, and the content provider is closed. Remember that Roku is also negotiating these same things with the other content services, and Google is doing the same with the other closed device platforms they're on. All participants in the value chain are trying to avoid being commoditized by the others, and trying to ensure that *their* customers get a consistent experience with their product.

    At the end of the day it's the customers who will lose out: the rents come from them in the form of higher prices (for the devices and the services), and diminished or inconsistent user experiences.