Roku alleges Google is using its monopoly power in YouTube TV carriage negotiations – TechCrunch

Roku is alerting its customers that they may lose access to the YouTube TV channel on its platform after negotiations with Google went south. The company alleges that Google is attempting to use its monopoly power to insist on unfair, anticompetitive terms about how Roku handles search results for YouTube content, customer data, and more. The email also urges Roku customers to contact Google to voice their concerns. Axios first reported details of the spat.

Roku says Google continues to ask for special treatment on Roku’s streaming media player platform, which today includes a dedicated search results row for YouTube that appears after a customer performs a universal voice search. The row returns YouTube results at the top of the search results page, even when this isn’t relevant to what the customer was searching for in the first place, Roku explains. Roku claims YouTube threatened to remove the app over a year ago if Roku didn’t comply with this particular demand. It now wants to ask Google not to prefer its service in the search results, as it believes this row doesn’t serve its customer base well.


Today, Roku allows customers to set their preferred music service provider for their music requests. In addition, Google is adding to its earlier demands with a new series of recommendations only to show YouTube or YouTube Music search results when the YouTube app is open — even overriding Roku user preferences. Google asks if a user presses the Roku voice search button while YouTube is available; that query returns only YouTube results. That means YouTube Music would play any music request, and search results would appear for any other request.

Roku says this also disadvantages the customer because it doesn’t honor the user’s preferences — like if their preferred music service is Roku. Also, Roku couldn’t even use the search results to tell the customer if they’ve already paid for the requested content — like showing them a movie they’ve already bought on another service or one of their paid subscriptions that carry the title. There are other concerning demands, including asks for customer data outside industry-standard practices, Roku told TechCrunch. Roku says this data isn’t available to any other partners and doesn’t want to share it with Google.

Finally, Google wants to reserve the right to ask for new certification requirements, as needed, for carrying YouTube — changes that could impact the cost of Roku’s hardware. By increasing the specs — asking for a faster processor speed or more memory —Google could close the gap between Roku’s low-end $29 device and Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV. Roku admits Google has asked for those sorts of hardware changes before, but it now wants that in the YouTube TV agreement, too.

More broadly, Roku is concerned about how Google is leveraging YouTube as it asks for these changes, even though the agreement being negotiated is YouTube TV. It says its deal with YouTube is not up for renewal now. We understand Google may have also issued similar requests to some TV platforms but not larger companies like Apple (for Apple TV).

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive, criminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior, and Congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anticompetitive terms that Haru’s users,” they said.

Roku declined to say whether or not it would bring its complaints before antitrust investigators, noting that, for now, its focus is on closing the deal for YouTube TV. While it’s common to see carriage disputes when contracts come up for renewal, those tend to involve requests for more money to allow a platform — like a pay-TV provider, for example — to continue to carry a channel or group of channels. In this case, Roku says it’s not asking for any change in economic terms. In the email sent to customers this morning at 6 AM, Roku says it won’t accept Google’s terms and its “anti-competitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact your data usage, and ultimately cost you more.”

Gemma Broadhurst
I am a writer by profession, and I love to write in my spare time. I am one of the most experienced writer for newspriest. I always make sure that whatever is written on my blog is 100% genuine and true. I am a University of Florida graduate pursuing a Master's degree.

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