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Will Roku Remove YouTube App – and Does It Matter?

Jeff Kotuby

Anyone who thought “Godzilla vs. Kong” would be the only titanic showdown this year was sorely mistaken. Roku, maker of one of the most used streaming devices in the world, and Google, owners of YouTube and YouTube TV are at odds over a variety of matters, including privacy and fair play. If you’re just catching up, here’s a recap:

Roku and Google were originally at odds over the former’s privacy concerns over the latter’s “predatory” and “monopoly” behavior. Roku, in a press release, said Google is “attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users.” This involves data collection on voice and text searches within Roku’s entire platform, as well as Google asking Roku to give YouTube a prominent position on its platform.

On top of all that, Google has asked Roku to upgrade its devices’ tech specs to ensure they can run YouTube TV at optimal capacity. For more insight, check out this article we released just a few days before the battle exploded into what it is today.

Following Roku’s scathing press release, the agreement that allowed YouTube TV to remain on its platform expired, meaning potential new YouTube TV subscribers could not download the app on their Roku devices — but YouTube proper was still available.

Google decided to add a YouTube TV tab to the original YouTube app on Roku, bypassing the ban on YouTube TV. This shot across the bow made Roku very unhappy, calling Google an “unchecked monopolist” upon learning of the move. As of this moment, that seems to be the end of the saga — for now.

This story could go in one of two directions — either the companies come to terms and try to bandage these wounds, or Roku removes the YouTube app and completely rids itself of its Google problem. Removing the YouTube app would be a nuclear option to say the least, though Roku would technically be within its rights to do so as the owner of its own platform. The question isn’t could they, but would they? Would Roku actually remove the app, infuriating its massive subscriber base and Google simultaneously? If Roku did, they won’t be the first company to go completely Google-free.

In 2017, Amazon removed Google’s products from its shopping platform, so Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Fire Stick and Echo platforms. The spat lasted over a year, with everyone finally playing nice at the start of 2019. Even without Google’s apps, though, Amazon’s Fire Stick grew in popularity as a platform, thanks to its Amazon Prime Channels and user-friendly UI. Now, it’s like nothing ever happened, with Amazon and Google routinely putting each other’s apps and content on the other’s platforms, the latest example being Amazon Music coming to Google’s Chromecast.

Hopefully, we see a happy ending like this with Roku and Google’s breakup — but will we have to wait an entire year to get there?

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