Anyone looking on the Roku store for the YouTube TV app will likely not find it indefinitely as Google and Roku clash on policies regarding search results, competition, data usage, and more.
Roku players and TVs that already have the app downloaded, however, will still be able to use the app. We’re not sure how updates to the YouTube TV app will handled as this removal from the Roku Store has just happened.
It seems Google is demanding more than what Roku is willing to give up, such as alleged user data the YouTube TV app would ask for which Roku calls “unfair and anticompetitive requirements.”
Roku told Deadline they only asked four simple commitments of Google: “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.”
Roku followed up with an email to customers:
Dear Roku Customer,
We are disappointed to share the news that Google has chosen to let the YouTube TV contract expire.
While this news is unfortunate, we wanted to let you know that we are taking an extra step to ensure existing Roku users like yourself retain access to YouTube TV while we work to reach an agreement.
We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements that would allow for the manipulation of your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.
Our commitment is to always put your interests first and therefore we will continue to offer existing users access to YouTube TV unless Google takes actions that require the full removal of the channel. New subscribers will not be allowed at this time. It is also important that you do not delete the YouTube TV app as it will not be available for download to Roku devices.
We remain committed to reaching a good-faith agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, honors your desired search preferences and protects your data. We hope to update you soon.
Update 1: YouTube responded to Roku and its customers via a blog post.
“Despite our best efforts to come to an agreement in the best interests of our mutual users, Roku terminated our deal in bad faith amidst our negotiation. Unfortunately, Roku has often engaged in this tactic with other streaming providers,” said YouTube.
The dispute seems to be more about integration of YouTube and not YouTube TV. Google claims Roku is trying to “renegotiate a separate deal” for the YouTube app (which doesn’t expire until December ’21), and in doing so restricting what Roku users would be able to experience including open source video codecs.
“Our agreements with partners have technical requirements to ensure a high quality experience on YouTube. Roku requested exceptions that would break the YouTube experience and limit our ability to update YouTube in order to fix issues or add new features,” said YouTube.
The YouTube response mentions 4k HDR and 8k video, the latter of which is not yet supported on Roku devices. And, even although Roku TVs with 8k resolution are expected this year, the Roku software and/or media player would have to support the higher resolution format.
Update 2 (May 7, 2021): YouTube is adding a “Go to YouTube TV” selection on devices that will allow users to still access YouTube TV on Roku devices.
The dagger in Google’s announcement can be found midway through their blog post where they elude to the possibility of compeletly bypassing the use of a Roku player to watch YouTube TV by offering a “free” streaming device to subscribers.
“We’re also in discussions with other partners to secure free streaming devices in case YouTube TV members face any access issues on Roku,” said The YouTube Team.
Would that mean free Chromecasts for YouTube TV subscribers? That’s one way to retain and acquire new subscribers!
Roku responded to the “bundling” of the two YouTube platforms calling Google a monopoly:
“Google’s actions are the clear conduct of an unchecked monopolist bent on crushing fair competition and harming consumer choice. The bundling announcement by YouTube highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, Attorney Generals and regulatory bodies around the world are investigating. Roku has not asked for one additional dollar in financial value from YouTubeTV. We have simply asked Google to stop their anticompetitive behavior of manipulating user search results to their unique financial benefit and to stop demanding access to sensitive data that no other partner on our platform receives today.”