Roku could be in for some serious customer complaints next month if its distribution dispute with Google carries on. According to a report by Variety, the YouTube app could disappear from the Roku app store in December of 2021 if the two companies don't reach a deal. This would impact millions of users around the world.
Roku and Google are at odds over the distribution terms of YouTube TV – the premium streaming app attached to the popular video hosting site. The issue actually goes back to April when the YouTube TV deal expired, and it has not been renewed since. At the time, Roku reportedly said that Google was asking for search and data-sharing access that it does not ask from other hardware providers. Both companies settled on workarounds at the time – Roku kept the YouTube TV app functioning for existing customers, while Google created a way for subscribers to access YouTube TV content through the regular YouTube app.
Now, the YouTube app is under threat as well, with the impending deadline of Dec. 9. Roku made a company blog post on Thursday describing its side of the negotiations to customers. It said that Google has not compromised its terms at all, and is seeking concessions that would give it monopolistic power in the streaming world.
"Importantly, our concerns with Google are not about money," the post reads. "We have not asked for a single change in the financial terms of our existing agreement. In fact, Roku does not earn a single dollar from YouTube's ad-supported video sharing service today, whereas Google makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the YouTube app on Roku."
Instead, Roku claims that there are two main issues. The first is that Google wants to "interfere with Roku's independent search results, requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers." It is also "demanding search, voice and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms." Roku is typically neck-and-neck with Amazon Fire TV devices for the most popular streaming hardware on the market.
A Google representative issued a statement saying: "Since our negotiations with Roku earlier this year, we've continued to work with them to find a resolution that benefits our mutual users. Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us. Since we haven't been able to continue our conversations in good faith, our partnership for all-new Roku devices will unfortunately end on December 9. We are, however, giving Roku the ability to continue distributing both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure they are not impacted."
It was not made explicitly clear whether Roku would keep the existing YouTube app intact for existing users, as it has for the YouTube TV app. Some critics are now calling on lawmakers and regulatory agencies to step in on Roku's behalf. There is no sign that this matter will be settled amicably within the month.