Google brings YouTube TV to its main YouTube app on Roku TVs

Mike Wheatley

Google has updated its YouTube app for Roku TV platforms, enabling users to access to its YouTube TV video streaming service amid an ongoing row with North America’s leading Smart TV platform provider.


Google is currently in a standoff with Roku over the terms of a new distribution deal for YouTube TV, a subscription streaming service available in the U.S. that provides access to hundreds of live TV channels. Following the expiration of their previous deal last week, Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store to prevent new downloads. The app does still work for anyone who previously installed it, however.

It was thought that Roku’s move would pressure Google to come to terms, but Google’s surprising response turns the tables somewhat. The main YouTube app will now serve two purposes – its traditional job of providing access to the regular ad-supported YouTube platform, and also a portal for YouTube TV’s live channels and other features available to subscribers of the service.

The update brings a new “Go to YouTube TV” button in the main YouTube app, which provides access to the standard YouTube TV interface, albeit inside the regular YouTube app. Google said this functionality is coming to Roku TV platforms first, before arriving on others later.

Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its store last week after negotiations with Google for a new deal broke down due to what it claimed were “unfair terms” that could harm its users. Specifically, Roku said Google was asking for special access to its users data and also for it to build a dedicated search result row for YouTube in the Roku TV interface. Google also wanted Roku to meet some specific hardware specifications, Roku said.

Besides adding YouTube TV to the YouTube app, Google has also revealed its holding discussions with “other partners to secure free streaming devices” in case any of its subscribers have trouble accessing the service through the Roku TV platform.

Roku said in a statement that Google’s actions were the work of “an unchecked monopolist” that’s bent on “crushing fair competition” and “harming consumer choice.”

“The bundling announcement by YouTube highlights the kind of predatory business practices used by Google that Congress, Attorney Generals and regulatory bodies around the world are investigating,” Roku said. “Roku has not asked for one additional dollar in financial value from YouTubeTV. We have simply asked Google to stop their anticompetitive behavior of manipulating user search results to their unique financial benefit and to stop demanding access to sensitive data that no other partner on our platform receives today.”

Roku’s accusations that Google is an unchecked monopolist may have some merit. Google is currently facing a number of investigations in both the U.S. and Europe around alleged abuses of its power. Earlier this year, Google was questioned by U.S. senators on an antitrust subcommittee about accusations that it uses the dominance of its Google Play app store to entrench its own power and retaliate against its rivals.

For its part, Google has proclaimed its innocence, and said that it is still negotiating with Roku in good faith.

In a blog post announcing the YouTube update, it said it remains in “ongoing, long-term conversations” with Roku to ensure that the company’s new devices meet its technical requirements. Although it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, it’s widely believed that Google’s requirements include a demand that hardware makers implement support for the AV1 codec.

“This certification process exists to ensure a consistent and high-quality YouTube experience across different devices, including Google’s own — so you know how to navigate the app and what to expect. We’ll continue our conversations with Roku on certification, in good faith, with the goal of advocating for our mutual customers,” Google said.

Roku has claimed that Google’s technical demands are unreasonable and could lead to higher prices for its streaming devices.