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Roku Founder on Resolving the Dispute With Fox: ‘It Was a Deal That Was Good for Both Parties’

Stephanie Sengwe

Roku shocked customers in late January when they sent out an email revealing that they would remove “all standalone Fox channels” from Roku streaming devices. The company wasn’t clear as to what caused their dispute with Fox, which would have seen the Fox Now, Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Nation, Big 10 Network and Fox Soccer apps booted from all Roku devices. However, the companies were able to reach a deal and users watched Super Bowl LIV undisturbed.

The exact nature of the dispute wasn’t clear, but it was speculated to have been over revenue share on ads. Roku gets a cut of ad revenue from those streamed in apps on their platform. The dispute came just weeks after AT&T TV Now was removed from the Roku Channel Store.

During their Q4 2019 earnings call yesterday, Anthony Wood, the founder, chairman, president and CEO of Roku, addressed the dispute and seemed to allude to the fact that their disagreement was over finances, though he didn’t mention ad revenue explicitly. He argued that because the streaming space is still relatively new to the entertainment business, negotiations and deals have to be conducted in a non-traditional way, which can cause some friction.

“It’s not a zero-sum game. If you compare and contrast it to the traditional distribution deal on Roku versus, say, a traditional pay-TV deal, in the pay-TV world, there was a fixed size bill, a consumer would spend, let’s say, $1,000 a year on a bundle. And then there would be a fight between the distributor and the networks over how to split that bill,” Wood said.

“In the case of streaming, it’s a new business for everyone. It’s just a different dynamic. The dynamic is we’re trying to help build businesses, and we’re trying to succeed when our partners succeed. So it’s just a different business. It’s not a zero-sum game at all … we have a long-term relationship with Fox and I’m happy we reached the deal with Fox. It was a deal that was good for both parties. And I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them.”

The dispute with Fox didn’t have an impact on the Fox Sports Go app, which is now owned and managed by the Sinclair Media Group. With the return of the Fox Apps to the Roku platform, streamers were able to watch the Super Bowl in 4K on Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Streaming Stick+ and Roku Ultra devices.