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Comcast may force Roku to drop some NBCUniversal channels

Update: NBCU and Roku cut a deal.
Christine Fisher, @cfisherwrites
September 18, 2020
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FILE PHOTO A video sign displays the logo for Roku Inc, a Fox-backed video streaming firm, in Times Square after the company's IPO at the Nasdaq Market in New York, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD
Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is threatening to pull its TV Everywhere channels from Roku, Variety reports. According to a Roku spokesperson, Comcast is trying to force Roku to distribute the new Peacock streaming service on “unreasonable terms.”

NBCUniversal launched Peacock in the US on July 15th. The streaming service is available on Google devices, like Android TV and Chromecast, as well as Apple devices and Xbox. But it’s still not available on Roku or Fire TV. (HBO Max isn’t available on those platforms either.)

NBCU’s distribution deal with Roku expired last week. Roku offered to extend the existing deal for TV Everywhere channels while the two companies negotiated an agreement to distribute Peacock. Comcast reportedly declined the offer, and it may force Roku to remove the TV Everywhere channels by this weekend.

If NBCU does force Roku to pull those channels, viewers will lose content from Bravo, E!, Syfy, USA and NBC. Though, Roku points out that viewers can still access NBCU channels through services like Comcast Xfinity, Charter and AT&T TV apps, as well as some internet streaming services.

“Comcast is removing  the channels in order to try to force Roku to distribute its new Peacock service on unreasonable terms. While the NBC TV Everywhere apps represent an insignificant amount  of streaming  hours  and revenue on our platform, we believe they are important to those consumers  who use them, especially when so many Americans are at home,” a Roku spokesperson said in a statement shared by Variety.”

Update (10:45AM ET): The two sides appear to be locked in a stalemate. In a statement provided to Engadget, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said:

“We are disappointed Roku is removing its users’ FREE access to NBCUniversal programming - 11 network apps, 12 NBC Owned Station apps, 23 Telemundo Owned Station apps - and continues to block access to the only free premium streaming service available in the market, Peacock. Roku’s unreasonable demands ultimately hurt both their consumers and their consumer equipment partners to whom they’ve promised access to all apps in the marketplace.”

Update 2 (7 PM ET): One way or another, they have worked things out. Peacock is coming to Roku soon.

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