As Roku-Google talks stall, access to YouTube apps hangs in the balance

The two sides don’t appear anywhere close to striking a deal for YouTube TV, and now Google is making noises about the main YouTube app.

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It’s been six months since Roku and Google began sniping over YouTube TV, and now the two sides are renewing their war of words, with Roku accusing Google of trying to manipulate its search results while Google is threatening to block access to its YouTube apps from new Roku devices.

In a blog post, Roku said that its dispute with Google is “not about money,” and alleged (again) that Google is attempting to “interfere” in its video search results by “requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers.” Roku also accused Google of “demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms.”

Google (in a statement to The Streamable) countered that Roku “has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us.”

Pointedly, Google noted that its deal with Roku to distribute the YouTube app to “all-new” Roku devices will “unfortunately” end on December 9, although it would “continue distributing YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure they are not impacted.”

Roku yanked the YouTube TV app from its channel store in April after its contract with Google for distributing the app expired, and the two sides have been firing broadsides at each other ever since.

Existing YouTube TV users have been able to continue using the app on their Roku devices, while Google installed a back door in the main YouTube app that allowed access to YouTube TV.

But with the December 9 deadline looming, new Roku users might not be able to download the main YouTube app either unless Roku and Google manage to strike a deal.

Of course, such vocal disputes over TV carriage agreements are nothing new, and they usually leave viewers stuck in the middle.

Google recently beat back the threat of NBCUniversal pulling its entire channel lineup, including local NBC affiliates, from YouTube TV, batting aside an NBCU proposal that would have forced subscribers to sign up for Peacock’s $10-a-month Premium tier in addition to YouTube TV’s standard $65/month cost.

Roku, meanwhile, hasn’t been shy about wrangling with streaming video providers, with both the HBO Max and Peacock apps only arriving on Roku devices following lengthy (and sometimes bitter) negotiations.

Will Google and Roku ultimately settle their differences? Hard to say, but it may not happen until the very last minute, leaving Roku users to sweat it out until the end.

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