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Roku Faces Off With Google Over YouTube Access

Roku has enjoyed a lot of success, but that might be in jeopardy if Google removes YouTube from Roku devices due to the inability to negotiate a new agreement. Roku is painting Google as the villain.

Roku Home Screen with YouTube App Crossed Out

UPDATE: YouTube and YouTube TV access on Roku devices for new users is still expected to end on December 9, 2021. Stay Tuned for any status updates.

The past couple of years has been very successful for Roku. Its streaming platform is not only widely available on plug-in streaming devices, but its OS streaming platform is built into a growing number of TVs and soundbars

However, the real key to Roku’s success is providing access to well over 5,000 free and subscription-based streaming apps. Roku has also entered the content space with its streaming app that features curated and original content, as well as access to live TV

That being said, Roku is getting stuck in quicksand with one of its most popular content partners, Google. 

The problem is that Google owns YouTube, and Roku claims that Google is throwing its weight around to such an extent, that Roku is at immediate risk of losing the rights to offer YouTube on its streaming platform. Without YouTube, and its huge number of viewers, the popularity of Roku streaming devices could see a dip. 

YouTube on Roku

The main sticking point for Roku is that they claim Google is demanding that it provide preferential treatment to YouTube apps within their content search feature. Roku refuses this demand as it operates search results agnostically.

Of course, Google counterclaims that they have never asked for preferential treatment. However, CNBC has also claimed that it has uncovered an email from 2019 that indicates that Google did indeed ask for favorable search treatment from Roku.

The friction between Roku and Google is not new. In April/May 2021, Google pulled the paid subscription-based YouTube TV app from Roku’s offerings, but still placed access to it as a paid category within the standard free YouTube app on Roku devices.

  • If Roku and Google can’t resolve their differences, new Roku users will not be able to download and install the YouTube or YouTube TV apps on Roku devices after December 9th, 2021.  
  • Current Roku users that already have the YouTube and/or YouTube TV apps installed could still use those apps after the cut-off date for the time being. However, how long that access would last would remain to be seen. 

The Roku/Google controversy has not escaped the eyes of some members of Congress. However, if Congress does get involved that doesn’t necessarily mean that the result will be better than Roku and Google hashing this situation out themselves. 

It must be pointed out that in the past Amazon also had a dispute with Google which prevented direct access to YouTube on Fire TV and Echo Show devices, but that was eventually worked out.

Also, during that dispute, Amazon did provide a workaround for YouTube access via the Firefox and Silk Web Browsers. However, since Roku does not provide an effective web browser, this type of workaround is not available to Roku users. 

NOTE: This is a developing story. As significant developments are verified, this article will be updated. 

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