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Google and Roku strike a deal to keep YouTube and YouTube TV on the platform

Google and Roku today announced that the two companies have reached a deal that will keep YouTube and YouTube TV on the No. 1 streaming platform in the United States and return the YouTube TV channel to the Roku Channel Store. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s good for multiple years.

Roku’s Dallas Lawrence, head of comms for platform business, told Digital Trends via email: “Roku and Google have agreed to a multiyear 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.”

YouTube on Roku.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

The agreement ends a months-long public battle that saw the removal of the YouTube TV app from the Roku channel store — though as a workaround the YouTube TV service was still reachable from within the YouTube app, and the removal only affected new downloads. In the later stages of the impasse, it was possible that the YouTube app itself would be removed from Roku.

“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,” YouTube spokesperson Mariana De Felice told Digital Trends via email, shortly after publication. “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.”

Roku says that the YouTube TV channel will return to the Roku Channel store by mid-morning on December 8.

It was never completely clear what the disagreement was about. Things flared up in April 2021 when Roku first announced publicly that negotiations weren’t going well and that “Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users.” At the time, YouTube TV seemed to be the sole issue, but Google alleged that Roku was using the negotiations as an opportunity to lump YouTube itself into the discussion, despite those apparently being separate agreements. Roku alleged that Google wanted priority when you search for content on Roku. Google, for its part, said that Roku not supporting open-source video codecs was at issue, and that “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.”

At the end of the day, though, it almost certainly all came down to money, of course. And that doesn’t change the fact that neither Roku nor Google’s customers had anything to do with any of this, and there are plenty of comparable options for replacing Roku and streaming all the YouTube and YouTube TV you want. That includes Chromecast with Google TV, which includes 4K resolution, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and sells for just $50.

YouTube TV had more than 3 million paid subscribers as of October 2020, which was the last time Google gave any sort of numbers. That probably puts it in the No. 2 position of live streaming providers in the United States; Hulu With Live TV on November 10, 2021, reported that it had 4 million paid subscribers. Roku, which is available worldwide, reported 56.4 million active accounts as of the third quarter of 2021.

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Phil Nickinson
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