Google says it will remove Roku’s YouTube app on December 9



If you have a Roku streaming media player and haven’t added Google’s YouTube app yet, now might be a good time to do so.

The Roku app for the most watched video site in the United States will leave Roku’s platform on December 9, as negotiations between Google and Roku remain at an impasse. It’s a dispute that Roku warned about in an article on his corporate blog Thursday morning and in a separate notice to customers before providing me with further details on a Zoom call a few hours later.

News of the December 9 deadline has arrived a tweet from Axios media writer Sara Fischer, who relayed Google’s response to Roku’s post. But the YouTube app on a Roku player offered viewers no warning on Thursday morning, and YouTube blog hasn’t spoken about it since April.

Google’s statement, since also sent to PCMag with a request not to be attributed to anyone by name, accuses Roku of “unproductive and baseless claims” without further details. But it does confirm that existing copies of the YouTube app will continue to work.

Interfere with “independent search results”

Roku’s post notes that he prefers content partnerships “built around mutually beneficial terms†—read: revenue sharing — but says the feud over the YouTube app isn’t about the money.

“We did not ask for a single change in the financial terms of our existing agreement,” he said. “In fact, Roku doesn’t make a single dollar from YouTube’s ad-supported video sharing service today, while Google makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the YouTube app on Roku. “

The publication, however, makes two accusations of anti-competitive behavior on the part of Google:

“First, Google continues to interfere with Roku independent search results, demanding that we prefer YouTube over other content providers. This is a concern shared by many companies who believe that customers deserve neutral and relevant results for their search queries. Second, Google discriminates against Roku by demanding search, voice, and data features they don’t insist on on other streaming platforms.

No mixing with other video providers

During a Zoom call, Roku executives (who spoke on condition they were not named) shared a screenshot of a September 23, 2019 email from a Google executive (including the name has been blacked out) requiring Roku to add a row of YouTube-only search results: “Voice / universal search results displayed in a dedicated YouTube shelf and not mixed with other video content providers.”

Roku says the feature, which this post describes as “must-have,” would require Roku to send all search queries to Google so that Google can process them and return the YouTube results for Roku to display. That, in turn, could give YouTube valuable insight into the tastes of Roku users.

During the call, Roku executives also said that YouTube requested two other privileges in Roku’s voice search:

  • If a Roku user has opened the YouTube app and made a music-specific request like “Play the Beatles”, have Roku respond to that request in YouTube Music instead of the music app that the user defined as his fault.
  • That Roku respond to a user’s voice searches for a movie by showing YouTube options to rent or buy them, even though the user can watch the movie for free on other services they are already paying for.

This isn’t Roku’s first streaming spit. YouTube TV’s app disappeared from its channel in April after Roku rejected Google’s demands for preferential search results, access to viewer data, and upgraded processing hardware.

The April 30 YouTube blog post covering the removal stated that Google had “never” asked Roku to allow it to “access user data or interfere with search results” and described the hardware requirements to enable 4K HDR and 8K viewing on compatible televisions.

During the Zoom call, executives at Roku called this statement “never” a lie. Google has yet to respond to an email requesting a response to Roku’s new claims.

Previously, Charter’s Spectrum app — a economical alternative to boxes rented by this cable operator – also faded away from Roku’s Channel Store for six months until the two companies strike a new deal that returns the app to Roku on August 17.

On the way to a break?

Google, meanwhile, faces more and more accusations of anti-competitive behavior. Last October, the Justice Department filed an antitrust complaint accusing it of illegal maneuvers to preserve its dominant share of the search market. In December, a coalition of states filed a separate complaint accusing Google of anti-competitive behavior in the display advertising market. In July, another group of states deposit yet another lawsuit alleging abusive surveillance of the Android Play Store.

Google and big tech companies in general have become increasingly unpopular among lawmakers in Washington, with lawmakers launching a variety of sweeping proposals to regulate social platforms. Some have called on the federal government to force Google to divest YouTube, which the company bought in 2006 for what now looks like a bargain price of $ 1.65 billion.

On Thursday, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) Released a statement noting this growing unease with the power of the biggest tech companies. “For too long, big technology platforms have leveraged their power to prioritize their products and services over those of thousands of small businesses online,” the statement read in part. “They said ‘just trust us’, but experience has shown that we cannot rely on these companies to act fairly in the market.”


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