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YouTube TV app removed from Roku channel store (Update: Google fires back)

Update: Google has now issued a statement. As expected, it thinks Roku is being the unreasonable one.

Published onApril 30, 2021

Roku Premiere device 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Roku has removed YouTube TV from its channel store after negotiations with Google broke down.
  • YouTube TV will, however, remain available for current subscribers on Roku devices.
  • Google issued a response to Roku’s assertions that the issue stems from Google, not Roku.

Updated, April 30, 2021 (12:30 PM ET): The drama between Roku and Google over the fate of YouTube on Roku’s streaming hardware just escalated again. This time, Google has finally chimed in to give its own account on the spat between the two companies.

In a lengthy blog post, Google explains that it didn’t want to change anything about its current contract with Roku. It claims that it did, however, point out that the current contract stipulates that Roku must update its hardware in order to support certain streaming formats related to YouTube. Allegedly, Roku refused this, which is what’s causing the stand-still.

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. For example, by not supporting open-source video codecs, you wouldn’t be able to watch YouTube in 4K HDR or 8K even if you bought a Roku device that supports that resolution.

The tech referenced here is almost assuredly the AV1 codec. As Google says, if Rokus don’t support that codec, they won’t be able to stream YouTube content at high resolutions, even if the Roku itself supports 4K or 8K content.

Google also objects to Roku’s claims that Google is asking for access to user data or to manipulate search results:

To be clear, we have never, as they have alleged, made any requests to access user data or interfere with search results. This claim is baseless and false.

We’ll need to wait and see how this drama unfolds going forward.

Original article, April 30, 2021 (09:18 AM ET): Negotiations between Roku and Google over their YouTube TV distribution agreement have seemingly come to an end, and it’s not great news for Roku users. The two parties failed to agree to new terms which would allow Roku to offer YouTube TV on its platform. As a result, the YouTube TV app will no longer be available to download from the Roku channel store.

Per an earlier report, Google’s set of demands allegedly included a dedicated search channel within the Roku interface. It also reportedly wanted Roku to give preference to YouTube Music when using voice commands, among other requests.

Roku wanted Google to commit to four key points, according to an emailed statement. These were namely:

  • Not to manipulate consumer search results.
  • Not to require access to data not available to anyone else.
  • Not to leverage their YouTube monopoly to force Roku to accept hardware requirements that would increase consumer costs.
  • Not to act in a discriminatory and anticompetitive manner against Roku.

As the companies could not reach a consensus, the contract has expired. Therefore, new users purchasing a Roku device will no longer have access to the service.

What about existing YouTube TV users on Roku?

Roku is trying to soften the blow for existing customers, though. It notes that the issue won’t affect users who already own a Roku device and have an active YouTube TV subscription.

“To continue to provide our users with a great streaming experience, we are taking the extra step to continue to offer existing subscribers access to YouTube TV on the Roku platform unless Google takes actions that require the full removal of the channel,” said Roku in the statement.

Roku has subsequently notified YouTube TV users in an email on Friday, alerting them of the changes.

There’s still some hope, though. Roku noted it’s “committed to reaching a good-faith agreement with Google.” But unless the two parties can resolve their impasse soon, it’s likely YouTube TV won’t be part of Roku’s future for much longer.