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Roku warns of standoff with Google over YouTube TV

Jon Fingas
·Associate Editor
·2-min read

The streaming media battle is getting particularly dirty. According to Axios, Roku has accused Google of wanting preferential treatment for the YouTube and YouTube TV apps as the two companies renegotiate their deal, something Google has denied. Roku told customers in email that Google supposedly wants conspicuous placement for YouTube in search results, including a dedicated row. It also hopes to block results from other providers while using the YouTube app, Roku said, and to prioritize YouTube music results when using the Roku remote for voice commands while YouTube is open.

Roku further alleged that Google threatened to set chipset and memory requirements for devices that would raise hardware prices, potentially giving Google's Chromecast an unfair advantage.

A spokesperson for Roku wasn't shy about ascribing malicious intent. Google was using its YouTube monopoly to strongarm Roku into accepting "predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory" conditions, the representative argued. The spokesperson added that Roku wasn't asking for a "single additional dollar" and just wanted terms that didn't skew search results, hike costs or run afoul if industry data practices.

Roku might be forced to remove YouTube apps as a result, the company said in its email.

Google provided Engadget with the following statement: "We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers. 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."

Roku has been involved in tense media discussions before — it was embroiled in a fight with NBCUniversal in late 2020 over terms for carrying Peacock. The allegations against Google are more serious, though, and come right as Google is facing multiple antitrust lawsuits. Roku appears to be making the dispute public in hopes of landing more favorable terms.

Update, 12:30 PM ET: Added statement from Google.