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Roku Calls Google an 'Unchecked Monopolist' After Tech Giant Posts YouTube TV App Workaround

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(Image credit: Hasbro, Inc.)

The kerfuffle between Google and Roku escalated some more Friday, with Google publishing details to consumers on a workaround to its pulled YouTube TV app, and the flummoxed Roku publishing an incendiary statement calling it the move of an “unchecked monopolist.”

The YouTube TV app was removed from the Roku Channel Store a week earlier in a contract dispute, meaning subscribers to Google’s virtual pay TV service could only access it on Roku if they had previously downloaded the app.

Not anymore. 

On Friday, Google published the details of a workaround: Users can access their YouTube TV account by using the flagship YouTube app on Roku, which is still available on the platform, at least until the end of the year, when Roku’s contract to support the app expires. Users merely need to click on the “Go to YouTube TV” button in the main menu of the YouTube app.

"This update will be available to all YouTube TV members on Roku over the next few days, and we will expand to as many devices as we can over time," YouTube said in a blog post. "We're also in discussions with other partners to secure free streaming devices in case YouTube TV members face any access issues on Roku.”

Roku quickly fired back. Google is “bent on crushing fair competition and harming consumer choice,” it said in a statement. It “highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, Attorneys General and regulatory bodies around the world are investigating.”

Sources close to the kerfuffle said it centers around Roku’s quest not to be dragged along in Google’s quest to make the AV1 codec a more ubiquitous part of YouTube’s technology backbone. The codec, which enables 4K video and lower bitrates, requires more advanced hardware than which fits Roku’s business model. With its contract to support YouTube TV expiring, Roku is reportedly demanding that it not be beholden to the technology requirements of AV1 when the flagship YouTube app expires, too, at the end of 2021. 

For its part, Roku has publicly stated that the dispute revolves around Google manipulating search results and demanding platform data. 

“Roku has not asked for one additional dollar in financial value from YouTube TV,” Roku’s statement added. “We have simply asked Google to stop their anticompetitive behavior of manipulating user search results to their unique financial benefit 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 leveraging its YouTube monopoly to force an independent company into an agreement that is both bad for consumers and bad for fair competition.”