Roku and Google face off over YouTube TV being part of Roku’s channel line-up

Photo (c) hapabapa - Getty Images

It’s a war of words so far, but both sides are intent on striking a deal for both themselves and consumers

A battle royale is brewing between Roku and Google. On Monday, Roku sent out an email to its 50+ million users saying that Google may take away their access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku.

A Roku spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs there are three key issues that the platform is wrestling with: 

  • Google’s request that Roku manipulate consumer search.

  • What Roku calls discriminatory tactics levied by Google exclusively against Roku.

  • An attempt to tie other aspects of the Google monopoly together such as leveraging the negotiations Roku and Google are holding that could make Google’s own hardware more price-competitive by threatening to remove the much bigger YouTube app. The Roku spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs that this point is not up for negotiation at this time. 

Roku says it’s standing up for its customers

In its email to subscribers, Roku hammered home that the platform is sticking to its guns to ensure “a great streaming experience at an exceptional value.” 

“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 company stated.

When ConsumerAffairs contacted Roku, its spokesperson wasted no time in taking off the gloves. They said Google was attempting to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive, and discriminatory terms that will directly impact Roku’s users. 

“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,” the spokesperson said.

Google fires back

The fight turned even uglier when ConsumerAffairs contacted Google for its side of the argument.

Google called out Roku for making inaccurate public claims, but the company said that it wasn’t really surprised by Roku’s ploy to go public to raise the specter of negotiations. Google pointed out two recent examples of that -- one with WarnerMedia and another negotiation with NBC’s Peacock. Roku wasn’t alone in its stand-off with Peacock; Amazon also played hardball for the sake of its Fire TV service.

“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,” a Google spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs.

“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.”

What consumers can expect as an end result

At the end of this bout, it’s likely that both sides will find a way to work things out, call it a draw, and lay down their swords for the sake of the consumer. Neither side would say much more than it’s working in good faith to reach an equitable agreement that benefits its users.

“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,” Roku said. 

Google was on the same page, saying that it hopes the two sides “can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”

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