Roku: Google’s Decision to Pull Apps from Roku Another Case of ‘Monopoly Conduct’

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By Sean Moran Roku said Friday that Google exhibited its “monopoly conduct” by deciding to pull its apps from the Roku platform.

Google announced that it would pull its YouTube and YouTubeTV apps from the Roku platforms on December 9. This is the latest battle in the brewing war between the search giant and Roku, a smaller technology company trying to compete in Google’s sphere of influence.

Roku is a technology company that produces hardware with streaming capabilities that includes set-top devices to TVs.

The fight between Roku and Google arose from a 2019 agreement to allow YouTube TV on Roku. Roku said that Google has demanded special access to search data from Roku customers as a condition to allowing YouTube on the Roku platform. Roku also claimed that Google asked for prioritized search results for YouTube videos in Roku’s search feature.

Although Roku agreed to those terms, it asked Google not to ask for any additional search data. Google would not agree to those terms, leading to an impasse between the companies, and ultimately Google’s decision to pull the YouTube and YouTubeTV apps.

Google called Roku’s claims “baseless” in a statement.

“Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC.

However, an email from a Google executive to Roku, obtained by CNBC, found that Google asked for priority access to Roku’s data.

The Google executive told Roku that it was YouTube’s position to have a “dedicated shelf for YT [YouTube] search results is a must.”

Google serves as dominating force in the digital advertising market. By using its outsized power to lobby to get Roku’s search data, it could outcompete Roku in the digital advertising market.

Roku wrote in a press release Thursday about Google’s attempt to use its dominance to outcompete Roku:

Recently we have seen a disturbing trend that threatens the vibrant and competitive TV streaming ecosystem. Rather than embracing a mutually beneficial partnership approach, some Big Tech enterprises are using their market power to extend control over independent businesses, like Roku, to benefit their broader business objectives at the expense of the consumer, putting a fair and open competitive streaming marketplace at risk.  ​
There are two primary concerns we are working to address: First, Google continues to interfere with Roku’s independent search results, requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers. This is a concern shared by many companies who believe that customers deserve neutral and relevant results to their search queries. Second, Google discriminates against Roku by demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms. ​

Roku said Friday that Google’s decision to pull their apps from the Roku platform is another instance of Google’s “monopoly conduct.”

“While not surprising, this kind of blatant retaliation and monopoly conduct is likely why the U.S. Department of Justice and 30 State Attorneys General are investigating Google for violating fair competition laws,” Roku wrote. “Google’s actions are designed to stifle competition and harm consumers which is why there is broad bipartisan support in Congress today to reign in monopoly abuses.”

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