Simmering tensions between Roku and Google have erupted into a full-blown fight.
On Monday, Roku began warning YouTube TV customers that Google’s internet pay-TV service may go dark on the Roku platform soon — alleging that Google in seeking anticompetitive terms.
“We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku,” Roku says in an email notice to customers. “Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users. “
According to Roku, as a condition for carrying YouTube TV, Google is demanding Roku grant the separate YouTube app special search privileges. The current dispute does not immediately affect the YouTube app’s distribution on Roku.
“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anticompetitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” Roku said in a statement Monday. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior and congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anticompetitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”
Google reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Roku said the dispute is not over economic terms, claiming it is not asking for higher fees to carry YouTube TV. The crux of the spat, according to Roku, is that Google wants to prevent Roku from displaying search results from third-party services (e.g., HBO Max or Netflix) if a user has the YouTube app open.
In addition, one of Google’s stipulations in its renewal talks with Roku for YouTube TV is that Roku agree to future hardware specs as set by Google. Google’s Chromecast device competes with Roku.
“We are disappointed that Google has so far refused to accept our proposal to extend YouTube TV on Roku,” Roku said in the statement. “Roku is not asking Google for a single additional dollar in value. We simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumer search results, inflate the cost of our products and violate established industry data practices. Google is already under fire from governments around the world for manipulating search results. It is outrageous that Google would now try to insist on manipulating Roku’s search results as well.”
Roku continued, “We believe consumers stand to benefit from Google and Roku reaching a fair agreement that preserves consumers access to YouTube TV, protects user data and promotes a competitive, free and open marketplace. We are committed to trying to achieve that goal.”