Roku Removes YouTube TV App as Carriage Dispute Heats Up

Sean Burch

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Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store on Friday, arguing that the Google-owned TV streaming app won’t be available “until an agreement is reached.” The distribution deal between the two sides expired on Friday, with Roku saying YouTube TV hasn’t demanded more money, but instead made several “anticompetitive” demands to keep the partnership going.

Roku’s decision means YouTube TV won’t be available for new customers to download. But existing YouTube TV customers who stream the service on Roku will still be able to use the app — and Roku warned those users in an email on Friday to not delete the app if they want to keep using it.

“We have only asked Google for four simple commitments,” Roku said in a statement. “First, not to manipulate consumer search results. Second, not to require access to data not available to anyone else. Third, not to leverage their YouTube monopoly to force Roku to accept hardware requirements that would increase consumer costs. Fourth, not to act in a discriminatory and anticompetitive manner against Roku.”

Reps for YouTube TV did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. Earlier in the week, YouTube TV claimed Roku has attempted to use its dominance of the streaming hardware market to play hardball.

“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,” a Google spokesperson said earlier this week. “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.”

YouTube TV’s removal from Roku isn’t ideal for either company from a business standpoint. Roku, which is set to report its Q1 performance next week, closed 2020 with 51.2 million active accounts. YouTube TV, meanwhile, is one of the more popular live TV streaming services on the market, along with Hulu’s TV streaming plan.

Similar carriage disagreements have become more common in recent years, though, as more TV viewing shifts toward streaming. Notably, NBCU’s Peacock streaming service was absent from Roku in the few months following its launch last year, as the two sides worked to hammer out an agreement.

Roku’s stock was down 2.15% in early trading on Friday to $349.15 per share.

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