Just days ago, Roku sent out an email to users that YouTube TV may leave the platform due to a dispute with Google. Unfortunately, that warning became a reality today, and the YouTube TV channel is no longer available for new users to download. Existing customers get a pass—for now.
Update: After publish, Google released a lengthy statement on the YouTube blog site. We’ve summarized some of the points below, but recommend reading it in full.
If you already have YouTube TV and you’re signed in to your account on your Roku device, you can continue using the app. But the YouTube TV app isn’t in Roku’s app store anymore, so if you just bought a new device, you won’t be able to download it. And even if you do have it downloaded, new subscribers can’t log in. Existing users are the only people that escape the crossfire between the two behemoth companies. At least for now, Roku or Google could always insist that come to an end, too.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first breakdown in contract negotiations between platforms and contact providers, whether that’s traditional cable and channel content or a digital platform like Roku and streaming channels. We doubt it will be the last.
For its part, Roku released the following statement to 9to5Google:
We are disappointed that Google has allowed our agreement for the distribution of YouTube TV to expire. Roku has not asked for one dollar of additional financial consideration from Google to renew YouTube TV.
We have only asked Google for four simple commitments. 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.
Because our contract has expired, we have removed YouTube TV from our channel store. 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. Because of Google’s conduct, new subscriptions will not be available going forward until an agreement is reached.
Google hasn’t responded with its own statement, and it’s not clear if or when the two companies will find common ground. The only thing clear is that when two companies like this fight, consumers are the real losers.
Update: After publishing, Google released a lengthy statement telling its side of the story. According to Google, the crux of the dispute doesn’t hang on YouTube TV, but the YouTube app instead, which won’t see its contract expire until December. Google’s disagreement seems to settle on need for “technical requirements” to achieve a “high quality experience on YouTube.” Google claims Roku requested exceptions to those requirements, and that Google could not grant them as it would make 4K and 8K YouTube content not work on devices that otherwise promise support. You can head to the YouTube blog to see Google’s full take on the situation.
It’s hard to say who’s in the right and the wrong, but with disputes like these the truth is often somewhere in the midddle.