LOS GATOS, Calif.—The dispute between Roku and Google is getting more heated, with Roku criticizing Google for abusing its market power and Google saying it will remove its popular YouTube app from new Roku devices if the dispute isn’t resolved in early December.
The conflict highlights growing tension between streaming devices and content providers that has led to protracted disputes over carriage of services like Peacock and HBO Max on platforms like Roku and Amazon.
It also comes at a time when big tech companies like Google are under increased scrutiny for potential abuses of their market power, a fact that Roku references in its complaints about Google.
In a blog post on October 21 Roku claimed that “Recently we have seen a disturbing trend that threatens the vibrant and competitive TV streaming ecosystem. 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 post, which is attributed to “Roku Staff” stated that “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.”
Noting that “Google...is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and more than 30 State Attorneys General for violating competition laws,” and that “doing business with an enterprise as powerful as Google creates complex challenges,” the Roku post claimed that it faces two major problems in resolving the dispute.
“Google continues to interfere with Roku’s independent search results, requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers,” Roku said. “This is a concern shared by many companies who believe that customers deserve neutral and relevant results to their search queries. Second, Google discriminates against Roku by demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms.”
According to Next TV Google has responded in a statement stating: "since we haven’t been able to continue our conversations in good faith, our partnership for all new Roku devices will unfortunately end on December 9. We are, however, giving Roku the ability to continue distributing both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure they are not impacted.”
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.