Dec 8, 2021 - Technology

Roku, Google settle messy battle over YouTube distribution

Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Roku and Google have agreed to a multi-year extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to be distributed on Roku.

Why it matters: Roku's deal with Google to distribute YouTube was set to expire this month. Without a deal, YouTube would've been removed from Roku's channel store, creating a big competitive disadvantage, especially during the holiday season.

Details: "Roku and Google have agreed to a multi-year extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV," a Roku spokesperson said.

  • "This agreement represents a positive development for our shared customers, making both YouTube and YouTube TV available for all streamers on the Roku platform.”

Catch up quick: Roku first warned customers in April that YouTube TV, Google's live TV skinny bundle app, may be forced off its platform if the two companies couldn't come to an agreement. A few days later, the app was removed from the Roku store.

  • In October, Roku warned customers that it still not been able to strike a distribution agreement with Google for YouTube TV, which had been removed from Roku's store for five months.
  • It also said Google was threatening to make its regular YouTube app unavailable to new users on Roku if an agreement wasn't reached by December.

Be smart: At the heart of these conflicts were allegations from Roku that Google was making anti-competitive demands as a part of its distribution agreements, including preferential treatment of its YouTube TV and YouTube apps within the Roku system.

  • Roku did not back down from these allegations for months, and Google publicly denied them. In October, CNBC reported it had seen an email showing that YouTube executives had made such demands in 2019. Axios had also seen that email and can confirm the contents.
  • Democratic members of Congress weighed in with support for Roku following the latest public clash in October.

The big picture: The long-term nature of the deal allows Roku to avoid having another messy spat with Google for a while, giving consumers more certainty at a time when these types of fights between streamers, programmers and app developers are becoming more frequent.

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