Just a week after Roku removed YouTube TV from its app store, Google is now using the basic YouTube app to host YouTube TV’s services. Google discussed the Trojan Horse maneuver in a blog post, and hinted that it may give free streaming sticks to customers if negotiations with Roku break down.
If you downloaded YouTube TV on your Roku before April 30th, then you can still use the YouTube TV app normally. But if you’re a new YouTube TV customer with a Roku, then you have to use Google’s new workaround. Open the standard YouTube app and press the “Go to YouTube TV” button in the sidebar. You should be redirected to the full YouTube TV interface.
The dispute between Google and Roku is confusing, but it seems to revolve around Google’s insistence on AV1 codec support for streaming devices. Google wants future Roku devices to support the fast and efficient AV1 codec for YouTube, a requirement that could increase the price of Roku products.
Google says that negotiations with Roku are ongoing, but to be honest, it looks like the company is preparing for the worst. According to its blog post, Google is “in discussions with other partners to secure free streaming devices in case YouTube TV members face any access issues on Roku,” a dramatic and expensive move.
Update, 5/7/21 3:44 pm: Roku issues a scathing statement to The Verge:
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. In response, Google has continued its practice of blatantly leveraging its YouTube monopoly to force an independent company into an agreement that is both bad for consumers and bad for fair competition.
This is getting uglier by the minute.
It’s hard to tell what will happen next. Roku tried using YouTube TV access as a bargaining chip, but Google found a workaround. Unless the companies come to an agreement, Roku might be forced to follow Google’s request for AV1 codec support. Or, you know, Roku will just say “screw it” and ban YouTube from its platform entirely.