How Roku, Netflix, and Others Dealing with Russian Content After Ukrainian Invasion
UPDATE: Throughout the day on Tuesday, more companies began joining the media boycott of Russia. Paramount announced that they would not be releasing their upcoming features “The Lost City” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in Russia in the coming weeks.
Additionally, YouTube blocked Russian news channels RT and Sputnik from being available in Europe, though they are still available to viewers in the United States.
DIRECTV also took the step to not only remove RT America from their platform immediately, but also permanently. The company had previously planned to drop the propaganda network mid-year, but the country’s actions in Ukraine necessitated an acceleration of the timeline.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, a number of streaming services, movie studios, sports leagues, and other entertainment companies have begun announcing steps to cut off their business involvement with the country in one way or another, either permanently or temporarily.
On Tuesday, Roku announced that they were pulling the Russian state propaganda station RT from the platform in Europe. However, the channel is still available in the service’s Channel Store in the United States. DIRECTV and Dish are also still carrying RT America on their services.
Despite earlier reports that Netflix would be required to carry state media on its Russian-language service under a law “projected to take effect March 1,” the streamer confirmed that it will not be adding Russia’s Channel One, NTV, or Russian Orthodox Church channel. Netflix launched its service in the country just over a year ago and currently has less than one million subscribers in the country.
Dozens of media organizations around the world, many in central and eastern Europe, have begun removing RT, NTV, and other Russian propaganda outlets as well. In a handful of occasions, those channels have been replaced by United News, a 24-hour news broadcast coordinated by the four major TV organizations in Ukraine with support from the government.
The media companies — 1+1, Inter Media Group, MG Ukraine, and StarLightMedia — have called on platforms around the world to join a “media sanctions” effort to remove Russia’s propaganda outlets from wider distribution.
While more and more outlets are deplatforming Russian state media, studios have also begun announcing plans to prevent their films from releasing in country, beginning immediately. On Monday, Disney was the first major studio to announce that they would be pausing theatrical releases in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine; “Turning Red” was set to release in the country this week.
In 2021, despite the pandemic, Disney made $445 million in Russia, and dating back over the past decade has seen annual box office receipts climb to as much as $1.3 billion annually in the country.
The Motion Picture Association issued a statement shortly after Disney confirmed its move saying, “The Motion Picture Association stands with the international community in upholding the rule of law and condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On behalf of our member companies, who lead the film, TV and streaming industry, we express our strongest support for Ukraine’s vibrant creative community who, like all people, deserve to live and work peacefully.”
In the wake of Disney’s announcement, Sony followed suit by pausing their upcoming releases — including “Morbius” — and Warner Bros. delayed releases in Russia, just three days before “The Batman” was set to premiere on Thursday.
Other media companies have paused activities in Russia and aimed at Russian-speaking people, including the NHL, which has a large Russian following given the number of players born in the country playing in the league. The NHL suspended use of their Russian-language social and digital media accounts and paused all business in the country.
Russia has also been barred from Olympic or FIFA competition, including upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.