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Roku calls out Google over YouTube contract stalemate

Roku calls out Google over YouTube contract stalemate


Google said it would pull YouTube from Roku by December

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Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Tensions between Roku and Google spilled over to customers in a new blog posted by the streaming service on Thursday. After months of failed negotiations for Roku to maintain the YouTube app, the company is accusing Google of anti-competitive demands.

Responding to the deadlocked negotiations, Google said that it would end all distribution of YouTube on new Roku devices after December 9th.

In its Thursday blog post, Roku accused Google of making anti-competitive demands in carriage agreements, like requiring Roku to implement a dedicated YouTube search results row in the Roku interface. Roku also alleged that Google overrides music voice search and blocks relevant searches outside of YouTube’s own results while users are in the YouTube app.

“Doing business with an enterprise as powerful as Google creates complex challenges,” the blog post said. “Importantly, our concerns with Google are not about money. We have not asked for a single change in the financial terms of our existing agreement. In fact, Roku does not earn a single dollar from YouTube’s ad supported video sharing service today, whereas Google makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the YouTube app on Roku.”

Outside of these demands being hostile to consumers, Roku also alleged that Google’s requirements give it access to vast amounts of consumer data related to what Roku users watch on their devices.

Roku’s deal to distribute the YouTube TV app expired in April and the company removed the app from its store after failing to reach a new agreement with Google. Roku has consistently accused Google of making unfair demands while not requiring similar data-sharing and search features on other platforms like Apple TV.

“Since our negotiations with Roku earlier this year, we’ve continued to work with them to find a resolution that benefits our mutual users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. “Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us.”

The blog comes just a week after a new bipartisan bill to combat anti-competitive behavior in the tech industry was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would ban similar behaviors alleged by Roku in its Thursday blog, like self-preferencing and discriminating against competitors’ content.

“Roku supports bipartisan efforts such as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to modernize our competition laws, promote innovation, and protect consumers in the Digital Age,” said John Kelly, Roku senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Roku in a statement earlier this week.

Roku told The Verge Wednesday that company representatives were in contact with lawmakers over these concerns.

Updated 10/21/19 at 11:08AM ET: Included a statement from Google.