TV Answer Man, you sometimes give predictions for when TV fights between the channels and the cable people will end. When do you think the fight between Roku and YouTube TV will end? I still can use YouTube TV on my Roku, but I’m afraid that I won’t soon and I can’t tell my friends to get it because they would be new customers. — Gene, Fairfax, Virginia.
Gene, as you know, Roku last week announced that it would remove the YouTube TV app from its Channel Store because its carriage agreement with the streamer’s owner, Google, expired. The device maker says Google is trying to interfere with its search protocols, but Google denies that. Regardless of who’s right, it means the app is no longer available in the Channel Store.
The good news is that Roku customers who had previously downloaded the app can still use it. The bad news is that if you accidentally delete it, you won’t be able to download it again. (You also won’t be able to delete it and reinstall it if it’s having technical problems.) Plus, new YouTube TV customers who use Roku will not be able to watch the service on their device of choice.
There’s also a concern that the dispute will escalate which could prevent even previous YouTube TV subscribers on Roku from watching it. And while the blackout now does not affect YouTube, Google’s free, user-generated video service, it might late this year when Roku’s contract to carry it expires.
So it’s understandable that both YouTube and YouTube TV viewers who own Roku are a little anxious now.
I wish I could alleviate those tensions, but I don’t see this fight ending before late this year when the companies are likely to negotiate the next contract for YouTube. Roku is earning a reputation for being particularly prickly in these carriage battles. By example, Roku last December removed the Spectrum TV from its Channel Store due to a carriage battle with its owner, Charter Communications. Five months later, it’s still gone. (In the last few years, Roku has had similar fights with AT&T, Fox, Peacock and HBO Max.)
There’s every indication here that Roku will hold the line with Google, too. With current customers still able to use the app, the device maker isn’t under as much pressure to settle.
Perhaps when the companies meet to talk both YouTube TV and YouTube, their differences will evaporate. But until that happens, don’t delete that app, Gene.
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything changes. Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann