streamliner

Roku and YouTube Are Fighting in Public Again

Photo-Illustration: Martin Gee

Right this second, you can download YouTube on your Roku and watch the delightful, despondent Romeo + Juliet for free. That ends December 9, when the two tech households, alike in dignity, are scheduled to split. If you already have the YouTube app, nothing will change. New users, though, won’t be able to download the biggest free streaming service in the world. Roku, in a blog post today, bit its thumb at YouTube for squeezing the “vibrant and competitive TV streaming ecosystem.” YouTube riposted, claiming Roku had shirked “good faith.” J’accuse!

The drama between the popular streaming platform and the large adult streamer son of the planet’s biggest search provider goes back to at least 2019, but it was in May of this year that Roku called Google an “unchecked monopolist” (!) after yanking the subscription-based YouTube TV app off of new Roku devices. Roku users who had the app already could still use it to watch live TV, but no new downloads were allowed. About six months later, the deadlock hasn’t improved. Roku’s casting itself as an independent underdog, saying it never cared about the money but that Google — “under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and more than 30 State Attorneys General for violating competition laws” — wants too much control over search and customer data.

To hear YouTube tell it, Roku chose violence: “Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us,” the company said in a statement. “Since we haven’t been able to continue our conversations in good faith, our partnership for all new Roku devices will unfortunately end on December 9.” YouTube did ensure that existing Roku downloads of its main app and its ASMR sock videos would not be spiked from users’ devices.

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Roku and YouTube Are Fighting in Public Again