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Roku Warns Customers They Might Lose YouTube TV as Talks With Google Break Down

Roku says ”Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users“

Roku warned customers Monday morning that it’s possible the platform could lose the YouTube TV channel due to an ongoing dispute between Roku and Google.

An individual with knowledge tells TheWrap this breakdown in negotiations comes as Google is asking Roku to “manipulate” consumer search, using discriminatory tactics only against Roku, and attempting to use the negotiations surrounding YouTube TV to secure terms that could make their Chromecast hardware more price-competitive with threats of removing the YouTube app, a contract that is not up for renewal with Roku at this time.

“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,” an email to Roku users reads. “Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.”

The email continued: “While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete.  We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results.”

A YouTube TV spokesperson told TheWrap Monday they have been “working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers” but that, “unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations.”

“We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”

A Roku spokesperson told TheWrap Monday that “Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users.”  

The Roku rep’s length statement continues: “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 anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”

“Ensuring a great consumer experience and an exceptional value for streamers is the core of our business.  We are disappointed that Google has so far refused to accept our proposal to extend YouTube TV on Roku.  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. ​

“We are an independent company that has built the No. 1 streaming platform in the U.S. by always putting consumers first.  Our goal is to bring consumers a wide selection of content and to help content producers build large and valuable audiences.  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.​”