Roku-YouTube Dispute Escalates

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Protocol:

Roku is alleging that Google is using the YouTube TV negotiations to push it to enforce hardware requirements for future Roku products that could make Roku devices more expensive. This allegation bears some extra weight because of Google’s own Chromecast TV streaming device, which is currently selling for $20 more than the cheapest Roku streamer. […]

Roku also alleges that Google aims to dictate how the streaming device maker treats voice search results. According to those allegations, Google wants to force Roku to only show YouTube results when someone launches a voice search from within the YouTube app. If, for instance, someone browses YouTube and then decides to listen to music, a voice query like “Play ‘Uptown Funk’” would open the song on YouTube, even if the consumer had set Pandora as their default music app.

Roku has removed the YouTube TV app from their store, but it still works for users who already have it installed.

Google, in its response on the official YouTube blog, doesn’t deny the requirements for the new AV1 codec, but flatly denies the rest of Roku’s allegations:

Our agreements with partners have technical requirements to ensure a high quality experience on YouTube. Roku requested exceptions that would break the YouTube experience and limit our ability to update YouTube in order to fix issues or add new features. For example, by not supporting open-source video codecs, you wouldn’t be able to watch YouTube in 4K HDR or 8K even if you bought a Roku device that supports that resolution.

We can’t give Roku special treatment at the expense of users. To be clear, we have never, as they have alleged, made any requests to access user data or interfere with search results. This claim is baseless and false.

This is remarkably contentious. I don’t see any way to square this up without concluding that one of the companies is flat-out lying.

Friday, 30 April 2021