earlier on Google vs Roku: Roku and Google had to renew the contract for YouTube TV, Google’s $65-a-month cable TV replacement, on Roku’s TV platform. The two companies were unable to agree on the new contract, which resulted in YouTube TV being pulled from the Roku store. Oh no! While existing customers could still use the YouTube TV app they already installed, new users couldn’t sign up. Will the two companies ever reconcile their differences, or will their friendship be ruined forever?
The next exciting installment in this saga aired on Friday, when Google announced in a blog post that it would simply end Roku and stick the YouTube TV app. in the YouTube app. YouTube and YouTube TV exist as separate apps, and while the YouTube TV contract expired and the app was pulled from the Roku store, the YouTube contract won’t expire until December.
Since the YouTube app is still running, Google was able to quickly slide YouTube TV functionality into it. In the side navigation menu, the last link in the list is ‘Go to YouTube TV’. This isn’t unprecedented – it’s basically the way YouTube Music works, too, with some sort of app-within-an-app interface.
Google says it is “still in the process of reaching an agreement with Roku to ensure continued access to YouTube TV for our mutual customers.” But Google threatened Roku with another escalation, saying, “We’re also in talks with other partners to secure free streaming devices in case YouTube TV members experience access issues on Roku.”
A few weeks ago, Google offered to “renew the YouTube TV deal under existing reasonable terms” with Roku, so Roku appears to be the current aggressor. In response to this latest move, Roku sent the following statement to The Verge.
Google’s actions are the obvious behavior of an uncontrolled monopolist bent on crushing fair competition and damaging consumer choice. YouTube’s bundle announcement highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, the Attorney General, and regulators around the world are investigating. Roku did not ask YouTubeTV for one extra dollar in financial value. We simply asked Google to stop their anti-competitive behavior of manipulating users’ search results for their unique financial advantage and to stop demanding access to sensitive data that no other partner on our platform receives today. In response, Google has continued its practice of blatantly using its YouTube monopoly to force an independent company into an agreement that is both bad for consumers and bad for fair competition.
These are the same claims that Roku has made before, and Google has already responded by saying, “To be clear, we have never, as they claimed, made requests to access user data or interfere with search results. These allegation is unfounded and false.”
The real reason for the rift between the two companies seems to lie in Google’s AV1 video codec requirements for YouTube (presumably only for new devices), and it appears those requirements would begin in December, when the main YouTube app contract expires. .
AV1 is an advanced, royalty-free video codec that will likely be the next de facto video standard as it is supported by Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Samsung, Intel, Facebook, Arm, Hulu, and a host of other companies. AV1 is said to save bandwidth for streaming companies and customers, but it requires hardware decoding support on cheaper devices like a Roku box. Google wants to make AV1 a requirement for YouTube, but that will require new chips, which are likely to be more expensive than the older chips that Roku would prefer to use.
Google says, “Separately, we also conduct lengthy, long-term discussions with Roku to certify that new devices meet our technical requirements. This certification process exists to ensure a consistent and high-quality YouTube experience across devices, including Google’s own.” “So you know how to navigate the app and what to expect. We will continue our good faith discussions with Roku about certification with the aim of advocating for our mutual customers.”