Roku is set to lose several Comcast-owned streaming TV services, including the NBC network app and dozens of local NBC and Telemundo station apps.
The move, first reported by Bloomberg, is part of an ongoing rift between the popular streaming manufacturer and the entertainment giant as both sides continue to negotiate over Comcast’s blockbuster streaming service Peacock.
Peacock incorporates Comcast’s content library alongside movies and TV shows from third parties, including some programs from ViacomCBS and Shout! Factory. The app launched in mid-July but skipped Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices due to a lack of agreement with both companies involving data collection and commercial ad inventory in two of Peacock’s three subscription tiers. Combined, Roku and Amazon command around 70 percent of the streaming TV device market in America.
Comcast is now escalating things by vowing to remove the NBC app, several supplemental cable apps from USA Network, Bravo, CNBC and others; and dozens of localized NBC and Telemundo apps from Roku.
On Friday, a Comcast spokesperson told Bloomberg that Roku’s “unreasonable demands ultimately hurt both their consumers and the consumer equipment partners to whom they’ve promised access to all apps in the marketplace.”
Roku never made a promise to provide all streaming apps to all consumers who use their devices, but early in the company’s history Roku did build its reputation on being a service-agnostic platform, allowing anyone who wanted to reach Roku customers the ability to build and distribute their app on Roku’s platform.
Things have changed in recent years, with Roku shifting away from focusing on hardware sales — Roku devices used to cost $100 a pop — to supplementing cheap, $30 streaming devices with revenue generated from commercial advertisements and consumer data. Roku earns commissions for subscriptions sold natively through its Roku Channel app and generates ad revenue through the insertion of its own commercial inventory in free, ad-supported streaming services.
In a competing statement, Roku said Comcast was trying to force the company to carry Peacock on terms it found unfavorable.
“Comcast is removing the [apps] in order to try to force Roku to distribute its new Peacock service on unreasonable terms,” a Roku spokesperson said.
The affected apps are expected to be removed from Roku’s platform this Saturday.
This is not the first time Roku has faced a standoff with an app distributor. Earlier this year, the company pulled apps owned by AT&T and Fox Corporation over similar issues. Fox apps were restored just before the Super Bowl and AT&T apps were made available to Roku customers a few months later.