Television has evolved a lot over the last decade, but there’s one thing that has outlived the decline of cable: carriage disputes. YouTube TV might not be a “traditional” cable service, but it’s still susceptible to the same issues that every distributor has faced. Today, Roku is warning users that YouTube TV could be dropped from its devices in the coming days should Google continue to pursue its new contract.
Roku has gone public with its ongoing YouTube TV negotiations in an email sent out to its customer base this morning, and it’s not holding back. In no uncertain terms, the company accuses Google of using its “monopoly power” to bully it into accepting a new contract. While most carriage disputes revolve around one party requesting additional revenue, this fight sees Google asking to boost YouTube to the forefront of Roku’s interface.
As reported by Axios, Google is looking to position YouTube as the premier streaming destination on Roku, requesting a dedicated search page, boosted music results, and a full block on search returns from other sources while the YouTube app is open. In perhaps its most brazen move, the company has reportedly asked Roku to meet specific hardware requirements to continue carrying its apps. On paper, none of these demands have anything to do with YouTube TV. Instead, Roku alleges that Google is using negotiations for its cable streaming service to gain leverage for YouTube as a whole, a move labeled “anticompetitive” in this morning’s email.
Roku has refused to sign this new contract, which could result in YouTube TV being pulled from the company’s devices. In a very traditional move, the email ends by asking users to petition Google to continue offering its cable replacement on Roku. For its part, Google provided a statement to The Verge, calling the allegations “baseless” and denying having made any “requests to access user data or interfere with search results.”
It’s unclear if the standard YouTube app is also at risk of disappearing, but Google does have a long history of dropping its applications from any platform not willing to play ball. Though these sorts of disputes almost always end with quiet settlements, customers of both Roku and YouTube TV might have to suffer through a disruption in service before anything is resolved.