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Google challenges Roku in battle over YouTube TV

The logo of YouTube TV. (Logo: Google/Image: The Desk)

Google says it continues to negotiate in good faith with streaming hardware maker Roku over the future of its YouTube TV app on that platform.

The comment comes less than one day after Roku accused Google of demanding certain perks in exchange for the right to distribute the YouTube TV app, including demands that Roku switch to certain chips in its hardware and a requirement that Roku not inject its own search results within the YouTube suite of apps.

In statements provided to media outlets, a Google spokesperson said the company is not demanding Roku switch any of its chipsets and is not otherwise requiring the streaming hardware maker to provide user information related to its apps beyond what Roku already offers.

Google accused Roku of airing their negotiations into the public arena in an attempt to strong-arm a better deal for itself.

“We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers,” the Google spokesperson said. “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.”

On Monday, Roku said some of Google’s demands would require it to change certain hardware specifications in its line of budget streaming devices. A report from Protocol later revealed that Google is in the process of switching its streaming video services to a codec developed by a consortium of tech companies (Roku is not a participant), and that the codec requires certain hardware to function.

Some of Roku’s hardware is not compatible with the codec, called AV1. That could be a problem in the long-term if Google decides to switch all of its streaming video to use AV1 exclusively. Roku would need to implement the necessary hardware to be compatible with AV1 — which would require a bit more expense on Roku’s end, something that would be passed along to consumers — or Roku’s users would need to switch platforms in order to maintain access to YouTube TV and other Google-owned streaming TV apps down the road.

Roku didn’t mention AV1 at all in its statement to consumers and tech publishers on Monday, choosing instead to paint Google as a monopolistic entity that is demanding unreasonable conditions. As is usually the case with carriage disputes, the truth is somewhat more complicated — in its simplest form, though, consumers are always caught in the middle, and they typically don’t stand to benefit from a carriage dispute.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).