Roku says it could lose YouTube TV app after Google makes anti-competitive demands

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On Monday, Roku notified its users via email that YouTube TV could be kicked out of its platform altogether, alleging anticompetitive claims by Google that include requests for preferential treatment of its YouTube TV and YouTube apps.

Why is it important: It’s one of the first big carrier disputes over anti-competitive behavior in the age of streaming. Unlike most streaming TV fights, Roku says it’s not asking for more money, but better terms regarding Google’s anti-competitive demands — like being asked to favor Google products in search results. from Roku.

  • Roku and Google compete on several fronts, including Smart TV hardware devices, Smart TV operating systems, and Smart TV content.
  • The transport contract between the two companies is about to expire.

Details: Roku says Google is threatening to take down YouTube TV to force Roku to grant preferential access to its consumer data in the future.

  • It says Google has asked Roku to do things it doesn’t see replicated on other streaming competitors’ platforms, like creating a dedicated search results row for YouTube in the Roku smart TV interface and give YouTube search results a more prominent placement.
  • Roku says Google also asked it to block search results from other streaming content providers while users are using the YouTube app on Roku‘s system.
  • Roku alleges that Google instructed it to favor YouTube music results from voice commands made on the Roku remote when the YouTube app is open, even though the user’s music preference is set to default to another music app, like Pandora.
  • Roku says Google has threatened to require Roku to use certain chipsets or memory cards that would force Roku to raise the price of its hardware product, which directly competes with Google’s Chromecast.

In response to the allegations, a YouTube TV spokesperson said, “We have worked with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers.”

  • “Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations. We are disappointed that they have chosen to make unsubstantiated statements while we continue our ongoing negotiations.”
  • “All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a consistent, high-quality experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hopefully we can resolve this issue for the benefit of our common users.”

Be smart: A key issue for Roku — other than Google asking it to manipulate search results that favor Google’s products — is that it believes Google is trying to tie YouTube TV’s distribution contract renewal with Roku to force anti-competitive advantages. additional for Google’s separate YouTube app. .

The big picture: The allegations come amid historic antitrust investigations into Google by the Justice Department, state attorneys general and Congress into Google’s dominance in search and advertising.

  • “Google is attempting to use its monopoly position over YouTube to force Roku to agree to predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson said.
  • “Roku is not asking Google for a single additional dollar in value. We simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumers’ search results, inflate the cost of our products, and violate established industry practices for data.”

Between the lines: A Roku spokesperson said Google has “so far refused to accept” its proposal to extend YouTube TV to Roku while agreeing to its terms. Roku says the company is ultimately looking to reach an agreement with Google.

What to watch: Roku’s standoff with Google is the latest in a long line of spats between streaming TV distributors and streaming networks over distribution deals.

  • For consumers, this means that the programming blackouts that have become increasingly common on cable and satellite TV are migrating to the world of streaming.

Read Roku’s email to customers:

Go further: TV battles spill over to streaming

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