Roku Removes YouTube TV Channel Access Over Bitter Google Contract Dispute

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Roku today yanked YouTube TV from its list of available channels for customers, after it says that Google decided not to renew its contract. This means that Roku users who haven't already added the YouTube TV channel to their account will no longer be able to do so.

However, Roku is taking steps to protect customers that already have the YouTube TV channel installed. According to Roku, "users like yourself retain access to YouTube TV while we work to reach an agreement."

Roku plans to continue blocking new channel adds and protecting existing YouTube TV customers "unless Google takes actions that require the full removal of the channel." The company also cautions users against removing the channel from their Roku home screen. If customers take this unwise action, they can no longer add the channel during this period of flux between Roku and Google.

Roku is the number one smart TV platform, while Google has its hands in everything from internet search, to the Android operating system, to smart TVs to its YouTube TV streaming service. It's the latter product that has caused the most friction between Roku and Google.

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Last week, Roku said that it "cannot accept Google's unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users" and that Google's "anti-competitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more."

The company also accused Google of requesting hardware changes that would inflate the cost of Roku TVs and standalone Roku streaming devices. Protocol later reported that Google's hardware demands are, for the most part, warranted, as the industry is attempting to shift to the open-source AV1 codec.  AV1 is royalty-free and goes a long way towards reducing bandwidth requirements for streaming 4K content across the internet.

From Microsoft to Apple to Amazon, many big names in the industry have joined the AV1 consortium, but Roku is conspicuously absent. Interestingly enough, Google's current-generation streaming sticks don't support the AV1 codec. Still, we'd assume that given Google's insistence with Roku over the requirements, its next-generation hardware will support it.

For its part, Google accused Roku of fabricating its anti-competitive claims. "Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations," said Google in a statement earlier this week. "We're disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. 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."

This situation remains a relatively testy and public feud between two giants in the streaming world. However, Roku seems to think that not all is lost. "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," said Roku in an email to customers this morning.