Using words such as “predatory” and “monopoly” to describe Google’s negotiating tactics, Roku is now warning its customers that because of this, those with a YouTube TV subscription may soon be in for some dark days.
In a statement, the streaming tech company Roku took aim at Google, accusing the tech giant of attempting to control users’ experiences in a way that favors Google’s own products. More specifically, YouTube TV.
“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,” a spokesperson for the streaming tech company said via The Verge. “It should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.” Not only did the company release their statement with their concerns, but they also emailed all their customers expressing the same concerns in detail.
According to Roku, Google’s demands as they have entered contract negotiations include special preferential treatment for Google’s YouTube app. Included in this are providing Google with special access to Roku consumer data and the rest that Roku builds a dedicated search row in the platform’s interface for YouTube. Additionally, Google is asking for the streaming tech company to meet certain specific hardware specs. Google, as many know, have their own Chromecast device, which is in direct competition with Roku.
The current agreement between Google and Roku will expire in the new few days, though in their statement, Roku did not give a specific date. Typically, with April coming to an end and May beginning, this is when many distribution contracts have their deadlines.
YouTube TV fired back at Roku in their own statement claiming they have been negotiating in “good faith” with Roku as the two companies try to reach a new deal. “Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations,” the statement said via Deadline. “We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.”
Most times when companies duke it out, it’s mainly over financial terms but according to Roku, YouTube TV is more interested in mining data of Roku customers than it is with the money. Roku states that they are not asking for “a single additional dollar in value” in its negotiations with YouTube TV.
This accusation from Roku against Google shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who have been following the tech giant. As a company, Google has been the subject of many massive antitrust investigations by both the U.S. and Europe.
In the United States, these investigations are being led by the Justice Department, state attorneys general, and Congress. In fact, last fall the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant. The complaint filed says the goal is to stop Google from “unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.”
“Google is already under fire from governments around the world for manipulating search results,” a Roku spokesperson said via The Verge. “It is outrageous that Google would now try to insist on manipulating Roku’s search results as well.”
In Roku’s lengthy statement, it also leaned heavily on the scrutiny Google is under from the government saying, “it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users.” Just last week Google had to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel in regards to Google’s Play Store and just how much they charge app developers to allow them to sell their apps in the store.
But, with that said, business is business and even though the YouTube TV subscriber numbers across Roku aren’t massive, they still wish to maintain their business relationship. “We believe consumers stand to benefit from Google and Roku reaching a fair agreement that preserves consumers access to YouTube TV, protects user data, and promotes a competitive, free and open marketplace,” Roku said at the conclusion of their statement. “We are committed to trying to achieve that goal.”
With only a few days left before the end of the month, things look to get even more intense.