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Roku pulls YouTube TV from its store as Google feud deepens

Existing users can still access the app on their Roku device.
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Valentina Palladino / Engadget
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|April 30, 2021 10:32 AM

Roku has made good on its threat to remove YouTube TV from its channel store amid a contract dispute with Google. Earlier this week, Roku said it would yank the app unless Google backtracked on alleged demands for YouTube to get priority placement in search results and to have results from other providers (such as music streaming services) blocked while the app is in use. Roku also claimed Google wanted the company to use certain memory cards and chipsets in its devices that would push up the price of hardware, potentially making Chromecast a more appealing option for consumers.

The companies couldn't find common ground, and YouTube TV is gone from the store after the previous contract expired. Existing subscribers should still have access to the app on Roku as long as they don't delete it. The issue doesn't impact the main YouTube app, which is covered under a separate agreement.

"​We have only asked Google for four simple commitments," Roku said in a statement to Deadline. "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."

The company claimed it didn't ask Google for extra money to renew the contract. Roku still hopes to strike a new deal with Google and bring YouTube TV back to the channel store.

Here's Roku's letter to customers regarding the issue:

Dear Roku Customer,

We are disappointed to share the news that Google has chosen to let the YouTube TV contract expire.

While this news is unfortunate, we wanted to let you know that we are taking an extra step to ensure existing Roku users like yourself retain access to YouTube TV while we work to reach an agreement.

We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements that would allow for the manipulation of your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.

Our commitment is to always put your interests first and therefore we will continue to offer existing users access to YouTube TV unless Google takes actions that require the full removal of the channel. New subscribers will not be allowed at this time. It is also important that you do not delete the YouTube TV app as it will not be available for download to Roku devices.

We remain committed to reaching a good-faith agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, honors your desired search preferences and protects your data. We hope to update you soon.

YouTube says Roku's accusation that it "made any requests to access user data or interfere with search results" is baseless and false. It claimed in a blog post that Roku acted in bad faith by terminating the deal during negotiations and that the company has adopted similar tactics with other streaming platforms.

The initial talks, according to the blog post, centered around renewing the contract under the existing terms. According to YouTube, however, "Roku chose to use this as an opportunity to renegotiate a separate deal encompassing the YouTube main app, which does not expire until December."

The streaming giant claims that "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." That includes a lack of support for open-source video codecs, which YouTube says would prevent users from watching its content in 4K or 8K on a Roku device. It noted it couldn't "give Roku special treatment at the expense of users," but said it was committed to making sure its users still have access to YouTube TV.

Update 4/30 12:25PM ET: Added YouTube's response.

Roku pulls YouTube TV from its store as Google feud deepens