Roku sent an email to its customers on Monday to inform them that a dispute with Google could lead to the YouTube TV service being removed from Roku devices. According to Roku, Google is attempting to push “unfair terms” on the company that would negatively impact customers, and Google has threatened to take its streaming TV service off of Roku’s platforms if the set-top box maker doesn’t agree to these new terms.
Typical carrier disputes revolve around money, but in this case, Roku appears to be more concerned about alleged anti-competitive demands from Google, including preferential treatment of its apps. It is worth noting that while Roku set-top boxes and Roku TVs carry Google’s apps, Roku is also a direct competitor, as its streaming boxes and sticks sit next to Chromecasts on store shelves, as do Roku OS TVs and Android TVs.
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Here is the full email that was sent to Roku customers on Monday:
Dear Roku Customer,
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. 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.
Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.
While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete. We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results.
Axios reports that Google has asked Roku to create a dedicated search results row for YouTube within its smart TV UI, give YouTube search results more prominent placement, block search results from other content providers when users are using the YouTube app, favor music results from YouTube when users search via voice command with the Roku remote, and put more expensive chip sets and memory cards in its hardware.
Google has yet to respond to these allegations, but this is shaping up to be yet another drawn-out battle that will do little more than hurt customers in the short term. Roku didn’t provide any timeline for the ongoing negotiations, but YouTube TV subscribers with Roku devices might want to start researching other services.
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