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YouTube TV Workaround Added as Roku Dispute Drags On

YouTube TV is also looking to secure “free streaming devices” for its customers in case a deal with Roku isn’t reached

Things are really getting interesting in the Roku-YouTube TV standoff, with Google-owned YouTube on Friday saying it’ll soon allow users to access its streamer directly from the YouTube app.

In the next few days, viewers who click on YouTube will see a “Go to YouTube TV” icon that allows them to access the live TV streaming service. YouTube plans on rolling the feature out on Roku first before adding it to the YouTube app on other streaming devices.

Roku, in a statement shared on Friday, said Google’s move was that of an “unchecked monopolist bent on crushing fair competition and harming consumer choice.” Roku then referenced the antitrust lawsuit Google is currently facing from the U.S. Justice Department, saying the tech giant is looking to use its power to force Roku into an unfair deal.

The statement continued: “The bundling announcement by YouTube highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, Attorney Generals and regulatory bodies around the world are investigating. Roku has not asked for one additional dollar in financial value from YouTubeTV. We have simply asked Google to stop their anticompetitive behavior of manipulating user search results to their unique financial benefit and to stop demanding access to sensitive data that no other partner on our platform receives today. In response, Google has continued its practice of blatantly leveraging its YouTube monopoly to force an independent company into an agreement that is both bad for consumers and bad for fair competition.”

YouTube TV’s workaround comes after Roku pulled the YouTube TV app from its channel lineup last week, as the two sides look to hammer out a new distribution deal. Negotiations have been messy, though, with a rep for YouTube TV last week saying the service simply wants to renew its existing Roku deal; Roku, on its end, has said YouTube TV has made unfair requests, including a desire to “certify” Roku’s devices meet YouTube TV’s “technical requirements.”

“We have only asked Google for four simple commitments,” Roku said in a statement last week. “First, not to manipulate consumer search results. Second, not to require access to data not available to anyone else. Third, not to leverage their YouTube monopoly to force Roku to accept hardware requirements that would increase consumer costs. Fourth, not to act in a discriminatory and anticompetitive manner against Roku.”

The two sides are still working to reach a deal, and that makes a lot of sense, considering YouTube’s absence from Roku isn’t great for either side. Roku just reported it had 53.6 million active accounts at the end of Q1, and YouTube TV is one of the most popular live TV streaming services on the market, alongside Hulu’s live streaming plan.

If things go completely off the rails, though, Google said it’s in “discussions with other partners to secure free streaming devices in case YouTube TV members face any access issues on Roku.”