Here we go again. Roku this morning sent an email to customers warning that they could lose access to YouTube TV.
The reason, as ever, is money. This is the sort of thing we see happen all the time, though usually it's with cable and streaming services themselves, and not entire platforms.
Roku came out swinging first, saying that "recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannon accept Google's unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users."
What those terms are and whether they're actually unfair or just something Roku doesn't want to pay are unknown. Roku didn't say in its email. (Google since has responded, calling Roku's claims "baseless.")
Roku also used a bunch of buzzwords in the notification that are sure to perk up anyone's ears, given the state of affairs in the tech industry. Roku also mentioned that it "cannot accept Google's unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact usage of your data and ultimately cost you more." It also decried "Google's decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers."
"Anticompetitive." "Monopoly." Roku definitely is aiming at known pressure points here.
Who's right and who's wrong here may certainly be up for debate. But what's not is that, like Google, Roku — which sported some 51.2 million active accounts at the end of 2020 and whose "platform revenue" (as opposed to hardware revenue) hit $471 million in Q4 — itself also is in the advertising business. And like Google, that advertising model requires having as much data on customers as possible.
So it's not much of a surprise that we could see the two butting heads, or that that smaller of the two companies would be the first to accuse the other.
Here's the full text of the email:
Dear Roku Customer,
We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku. Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users.
Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google's unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more.
While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete. We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results.
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