TV Answer Man, I remember reading that Roku might lose YouTube in December, but will it be YouTube TV and YouTube? And if I have already put them in my channel list, will they disappear? Can you please help me figure this out? — Claire, Tulsa. 

Claire, Roku and Google issued separate warnings in October that the streaming device could lose both YouTube TV and YouTube on December 9 due to a carriage dispute. (Google owns YouTube and YouTube TV.)

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Since those alerts, there has been no evidence to suggest that the blackout won’t occur on December 9, which is Thursday. Both companies say they have been unable to reach a new agreement although they differ on what the dispute is about. (Roku says Google is trying to exert unfair influence over its search feature while Google denies the charge.)

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While there has been no indication that a settlement is likely before Thursday, there has been considerable confusion among Roku owners over what exactly a YouTube blackout might look like.

Roku has been operating without a carriage agreement for YouTube TV since April,  which means it’s been unavailable in the Roku Channel Store. However, Google has permitted Roku owners to access the app if they downloaded it before the dispute began. (Plus, Google added a link to YouTube TV on its YouTube app which allows Roku users to access the service. YouTube is currently still available on Roku to all users.)

Does that mean that Roku owners will still be able to access the two YouTube apps in their Menus on Thursday?

Google says yes, if Roku agrees.

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“Our partnership with Roku will unfortunately end on December 9, but we have given them the ability to continue distributing both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure you and the rest of our common customers will not be impacted,” YouTube’s Twitter customer service team told one Roku customer last night.

Roku has not commented if the ‘previously downloaded’ policy will extend to YouTube, as it has for YouTube TV, in the event of a blackout on Thursday. But it would obviously be in its interest to keep as many customers happy as possible.

So the likelihood is that a carriage blackout will begin on Thursday. It’s equally likely that Roku customers who have previously downloaded the two YouTube apps will still be able to use them. However, they would not be available in the Channel Store if you are a new Roku customer.

The last concern here is if a current Roku customer who buys a new Roku device will be able to access the apps on the new device. In past disputes, Roku says if you input your Roku user name and password in the new device, your list of previously downloaded channels will appear in the Menu. But some customers say that doesn’t always happen so we’ll have to see what occurs after Thursday.

The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant occurs. Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann