On Monday, Roku sent an email to its users who subscribe to YouTube TV warning them that the paid American streaming service may soon no longer be available on the platform. YouTube TV is a streaming bundle of linear channels, which has been available on Roku since 2018. The current carriage deal between Roku and YouTube TV expires in the next few days.
In a statement, Roku blamed the oncoming blackout on what it described as “predatory” actions by YouTube’s parent company Google. Roku says that Google is threatening to pull YouTube TV to get the company to accept terms that would amount to preferential treatment for YouTube.
“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson said. “It should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”
Roku alleges that Google has laid out a number of terms in their carriage deal negotiations, which would give YouTube unfair advantages on Roku’s platform. For example, Roku says that Google has asked it to create a dedicated search results row for YouTube within their interface and to manipulate search results so that they favour YouTube over its rivals.
On the hardware front, Roku says that Google has asked them to meet specifications that would drive the price of their devices up. Google and Roku compete on CTV hardware, with the Chromecast being a direct rival to Roku’s devices.
Google has denied that they have made any unreasonable demands of Roku during negotiations, saying they have been working in “good faith”.
“Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations. We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations,” said a YouTube TV spokesperson, “All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”
Roku has said that its row with Google is not motivated by the financial specifics of the carriage deal. “Roku is not asking Google for a single additional dollar in value. We simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumer search results, inflate the cost of our products, and violate established industry data practices,” the spokesperson said.
Roku pointed to the bevy of ongoing antitrust investigations currently targeting Google, saying that “it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”
Google is the subject of a number of antitrust investigations in Europe and the US. In October 2020, the US Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant. This filing alleged that Google used anticompetitive techniques to maintain its monopoly position.