Yesterday, Roku dropped a bombshell on its users. It sent out an email explaining that today, two days before the Super Bowl, all Fox apps would disappear. Without Fox Sports, you won’t be able to watch the biggest NFL game of the year in 4K HDR on Roku TVs and streaming sticks. What’s going on?
Update, 2/1: Roku released a tweet today announcing the two companies have reached an agreement to distribute Fox Channels in time for the Super Bowl. Additionally, the Fox Sports website now lists Roku as another method to see the big game. We’re not sure what the terms of the agreement are, but at least Roku users can watch the Super Bowl.
The original report is left intact below.
It feels like a familiar tale: a cable service and a premium channel (especially sports channels) get into a fight over rates, and the channel gets pulled while they resolve the dispute. But Roku isn’t a cable service, and we’re days away from the Super Bowl. Surely the two wouldn’t get into a disagreement now, right?
But that’s what’s happening. As reported by The Verge, just days ago the Fox Sports website had Roku listed as one method to watch the Super Bowl. But all those references have been scrubbed. Roku says it must remove the Fox apps from its stores, and if you already downloaded them, they’ll stop working.
While it might be easy to throw the blame at Fox for pulling its service from Roku at the worst time possible, Fox says this is Roku’s decision. In a statement provided to The Verge it had this to say:
Roku’s threat to delete FOX apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns. To be clear, FOX has not asked Roku to remove our apps, and we would prefer Roku continue to make them available without interruption. Roku’s tactics are a poorly timed negotiating ploy, fabricating a crisis with no thought for the alarm it generated among its own customers. Even if Roku unilaterally decides to remove FOX apps, savvy Roku customers know Super Bowl LIV on FOX will be ubiquitously available through streaming providers, FOX apps on the biggest streaming platforms and our website. Only Roku can pull apps from its customers’ devices, and we would urge them to stop the intimidation tactics and reconsider the merits of irritating their best customers in pursuit of Roku’s own interests.
But Roku maintains it’s Fox’s fault. And it’s not saying it will just remove existing apps; they’ll stop working even if you had them previously installed. But here’s where it starts to get really confusing: despite the doom and gloom emails that access to Fox apps should be disabled, that doesn’t seem to be true—at least not yet.
We tested and were able to find and download the Fox Sports app on two different Roku powered TVs. Once downloaded, we were able to log in and watch live TV.
That said, as of right now Roku is treating the Fox apps as private channels. Private channels are unlisted, uncertified channels that require special codes to download. Roku considers them “unofficial apps.” But oddly, they usually aren’t found by searching—you plug in a unique code in the “add a channel” interface.
In this case, we were able to find the Fox Sports app by searching in the Roku interface, and the code was provided directly on the installation screen. It seemed like an unnecessary extra step.
We’re not sure if Roku blinked in this fight or if it’s the first step to removing the channels entirely. Perhaps Fox and Roku are working out a deal right this very instant.
All we know is, in cases like this, the real losers are the viewers. If you plan on watching the Super Bowl through Roku, you may want to get Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, or fuboTV accounts set up as a backup. You may even be able to activate a free trial if you haven’t in the past.
via The Verge