Roku Says YouTube TV May Go Dark on Its Platform in Dispute


Roku Inc. has begun notifying customers that they may lose access to Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube TV app, marking the latest standoff between the popular connected-TV platform and a streaming service.

In an email sent Monday to its YouTube TV users, Roku said recent negotiations with Alphabet’s Google unit to carry the app “have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users.”

The message cited “Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.”

As part of its negotiations with Roku over YouTube TV, Google is requiring Roku to display a special row of search results for YouTube clips when a Roku user looks for a movie, according to people familiar with the matter. Google is also requiring Roku to share search data, the people said.

In an emailed statement, a YouTube TV spokesperson said the unit has been working with Roku “in good faith” to reach an agreement. “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.”

YouTube TV “has been focused on ensuring a high-quality and consistent experience for our viewers,” the spokesperson added. “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.”

YouTube TV is an online replacement for cable that costs $64.99 a month. Its contract on the Roku platform is set to expire in the coming days. The main YouTube app, which is free, is part of a separate agreement and wouldn’t be affected.

Roku has had multiple disputes with streaming services over the past year. AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max struck a deal with Roku in December after a long impasse that kept the service off the platform. Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal reached an agreement to have its Peacock streaming service carried on Roku after a monthslong dispute over sharing advertising sales.

Roku shares were up 1% to $360.28 at 1:10 p.m. in New York. Alphabet was up 0.6%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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