Roku, Google Reach Deal To Carry YouTube, YouTube TV

Frontier's YouTube TV promo page
(Image credit: Frontier Communications)

Roku and Google said they reached an agreement ending a nasty dispute that took YouTube TV off the popular streaming platform and threatened to make YouTube unavailable this week as well.

The deal defuses what was brewing as the biggest tech beef in streaming, potentially taking the second most popular app off the No. 1 over-the-top platform.

“Roku and Google have agreed to a multi-year extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV. This agreement represents a positive development for our shared customers, making both YouTube and YouTube TV available for all streamers on the Roku platform,” a Roku spokesman said.

The YouTube TV app will begin loading back into Roku’s channel store Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. ET.

Roku's stock price was up 9% in morning trading Wednesday. Google shares were basically flat. 

“We’re happy to share that we’ve reached a deal with Roku to continue distributing the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on Roku devices," a Google spokesperson said. "This means that Roku customers will continue to have access to YouTube and that the YouTube TV app will once again be available in the Roku store for both new and existing members. We are pleased to have a partnership that benefits our mutual users.”

The dispute surfaced in April when Roku warned customers that its talks with Google over YouTube TV had broken down. Roku said Google was seeking terms that could harm Roku users.

In a blog post on Oct. 21, Roku said that there had been little progress in the standoff with Google. Later that day, Google said that if the impasse wasn’t fixed by Dec. 9, the YouTube app would now longer be available for download from the Roku store. 

People who had already downloaded the YouTube TV and YouTube apps could continue to uses them. But an update to the Roku operating system disrupted access to YouTube TV and some other apps. While Roku didn’t offer a fix, Google create a workaround that allowed people to access YouTube TV functionality through the YouTube app. 

In the public battle, Roku called Google an unchecked monopolist, arguing that Google was using its dominant position to take advantage of Roku by disrupting Roku’s search results.

Roku said Google was demanding unprecedented search, voice and data features as part of a carriage agreement. 

Google reportedly also wanted Roku to support the AV1 codec, a technology for the efficient delivery of 4K video also endorsed by Netflix. Roku was concerned using AV1 would make its hardware more expensive.

The companies did not release details of their agreement.

The stakes in the standoff were high. According to Nielsen YouTube generates 6% of all TV viewing. Roku had 54 million active users accounts as of the end of September.■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.