The distribution deal for YouTube’s main app is set to expire on December 9. YouTube TV, the pay-TV service with more than 3 million customers, already reached the end of the line last spring. Roku removed it from its channel store, meaning no new customers have been able to sign up, but existing ones have still been able to access their subscriptions. If the December deadline arrives without a deal, new Roku smart-TVs and connected devices will not have YouTube, but existing ones will still feature the apps.
In a blog post published today, Roku continued to insist that the fight is not about money. The streaming company described a “disturbing trend that threatens the vibrant and competitive streaming ecosystem,” saying Google has manipulated search results on Roku’s platform in order to favor its own.
“While we are working to resolve our differences, we want to be transparent about these negotiations,” the blog post said. “As we shared in April, the threat remains that Google may remove YouTube TV from the Roku platform.”
In a response, YouTube asserted that it has “continued to work” with Roku to reach a resolution. “Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us,” the company said.
The dispute burst into public view last spring, though its origins date back to 2019. Roku called Google an “unchecked monopolist,” while the latter said it had engaged in “good-faith” talks to try to reach an agreement.
As was the case in the spring, Roku reiterated its stance in the blog post that the fight is not about money, but rather about control of data and the search function. “For Roku, this is about maintaining our independence, protecting our customers, and ensuring healthy competition in the streaming industry that benefits millions of consumers,” the blog post said
Roku has cited its DNA as an independent company, smaller than tech giants like Google, as an issue in the dispute. The company has no full-time lobbyists in Washington on its payroll, but it puts the YouTube snag in the context of the larger conversation about tech dominance in the modern marketplace. Even before President Joe Biden was sworn in last January, there has been momentum building toward a regulatory crackdown on companies such as Google.
“Rather than embracing a mutually beneficial partnership approach, some Big Tech enterprises are using their market power to extend control over independent businesses, like Roku, to benefit their broader business objectives at the expense of the consumer, putting a fair and open competitive streaming marketplace at risk,” the Roku post asserted.
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