Roku Inc. and Fox Corp. reached a distribution deal late Friday, avoiding a blackout that would have seen the service’s users deprived of the Super Bowl.
“We are pleased to have reached a successful agreement with Roku,” said a Fox statement. “FOX’s leading suite of apps will continue to be available on the Roku platform.”
Details of the agreement were not revealed. Roku had directed users to other services in the wake of the dispute and removal, but now can welcome them back home.
UPDATED with Fox statement, stock movement. In an ominously timed carriage dispute, Roku’s contract with Fox expires today, Jan. 31. Unable to reach a new agreement, the Fox channels were removed from the Roku Channel Store, a big blow as that network is the broadcast outlet for Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV.
Roku was forced to tell fans to head to rivals if they cared to watch. The brinkmanship is the streaming equivalent of a traditional pay-TV carriage dispute, though the economic models and competitive landscape are still emerging as more viewers cut and shave the cord and view programming online.
“Our distribution contract with Fox Corp. is set to expire on Jan. 31 so Fox channels were removed from the Roku Channel Store,” the company tweeted in response to an inquiry. “You can view Fox programming ,including the big game, through Fubo, Sling, Hulu Live, YouTube TV and other ways. Many of these services offer a free trial.”
A Fox Corp. rep responded in a statement, “Roku’s threat to delete FOX apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns. To be clear, FOX has not asked Roku to remove our apps, and we would prefer Roku continue to make them available without interruption. Roku’s tactics are a poorly timed negotiating ploy, fabricating a crisis with no thought for the alarm it generated among its own customers. Even if Roku unilaterally decides to remove FOX apps, savvy Roku customers know Super Bowl LIV on FOX will be ubiquitously available through streaming providers, FOX apps on the biggest streaming platforms and our website. Only Roku can pull apps from its customers’ devices, and we would urge them to stop the intimidation tactics and reconsider the merits of irritating their best customers in pursuit of Roku’s own interests.”
Roku stock, while one of the high-fliers in media and technology in 2019, has pulled back in recent months. In the early minutes of trading Friday, it had dropped 5% to $124.40. Fox shares were up a small fraction at $37.12.