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Roku Locks Horns With Google; May Dump YouTube TV

As far as Roku is concerned, Google is stamping its massive foot a little too fiercely when it comes to making contractual demands. And it’s pushing Roku nearer and nearer to bumping Google’s YouTube app from its video streaming platform.

Streaming hardware manufacturer Roku says that the search engine monster is demanding “anti-competitive” and “unfair” terms for its YouTube and YouTube TV apps.

In an email on Monday to its users, Roku revealed some of Google’s demands: requests for preferential treatment for YouTube TV (its internet pay TV service), as well as its YouTube app being favoured for searches by Roku users.

As a condition for carrying YouTube TV, Google asked that Roku create a dedicated search results row for YouTube within the Roku smart TV interface and give YouTube search results more prominent placement — perks that Roku said it hasn’t seen handed out on rival platforms.

According to Roku, Google also demands that only YouTube TV results appear when using its YouTube app to search for content.

“We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers. Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations,” a YouTube TV rep said in a statement.

“We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”

On top of the requests for search result favouritism, Google also wants Roku to agree on hardware specifications for YouTube TV, such as memory that would increase the cost of manufacturing a Roku box, therefore potentially giving Google’s US$29.99 Chromecast streaming device an unfair price advantage.

“We simply cannot agree to terms that would manipulate consumer search results, inflate the cost of our products and violate established industry data practices,” Roku said in the statement.

“Google is already under fire from governments around the world for manipulating search results. It is outrageous that Google would now try to insist on manipulating Roku’s search results as well.”

Roku says its contract with Google’s pay TV app, YouTube TV, is set to expire within days. Roku, which has about 51 million users, said the far more important contract with YouTube isn’t up anytime soon, but it’s been suggested that Google is using YouTube as a trump card to get Roku to bend to its demands for its pay TV service.

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anticompetitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” Roku said in a statement Monday.

“Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior and congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.”

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