Roku announces YouTube TV breakup: important things to know for streamers
After a week of headlines indicating difficulties in negotiations, it looks like Roku and YouTube TV have officially severed their relationship.
In an email sent to its user base on April 30, Roku announced that Google has decided to let the contract between the two tech giants expire. This means that new YouTube TV users will not be able to access the service on Roku.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean existing cable cutters lose access to the streaming service on Roku devices, at least not yet.
In this article, I’ll detail the latest news on the failed Roku and YouTube TV negotiations and explain what it means for streamers now and in the future.
What Roku’s YouTube TV Breakout Announcement Email Says
First off, in case you’re not on the Roku mailing list that received this email, here’s what Roku said about the YouTube TV contract expiring:
Later today, YouTube TV sent a letter to its user base explaining the situation and offering streaming solutions:
Included was a link to “simple steps” that walk people through streaming YouTube TV to a Roku device as a temporary workaround if users lose access.
What the Roku-YouTube TV split means for streamers right now
So if you are a current or potential Roku or YouTube TV user, you are probably wondering: And now?
Here are the four big takeaways from Friday’s announcement:
- Existing YouTube TV subscribers can still stream on Roku: Even though the contract has technically expired, Roku says it is taking no action to remove the streaming app from its devices. That leaves the ball in Google’s court. Until Google removes YouTube TV from Roku, you should continue to use it normally for now.
- New YouTube TV app downloads are disabled: Even though Roku leaves YouTube TV on its devices for existing users, Roku is unable (or perhaps unwilling) to continue to allow new downloads as there is no contract in place. This means that new YouTube TV subscribers will not be able to set up the service on a Roku device.
- Do NOT delete the YouTube TV app on your Roku device: If you are already subscribed to YouTube TV, it is very important not to delete the app from your Roku device. Roku has removed the YouTube TV app from its app store, so you won’t be able to add it back to your device once it’s gone.
- This doesn’t seem to affect the YouTube app: Note that these access negotiations and changes only apply to YouTube TV live broadcast application. The YouTube app, which people use to access free videos, is still available. I’ve confirmed that you can still access the standard YouTube app from Roku devices, and there are several reports that new downloads are possible as well.
UPDATE 5/7/2021: Google has emailed YouTube TV subscribers with information on a workaround to watch the streaming service on Roku devices even without access to the YouTube TV app.
Google has built in a way to access YouTube TV through the YouTube app, which is still available for download on Roku devices.
Here is how it works:
- Make sure you’ve downloaded the YouTube app from the Roku Channel Store.
- From the YouTube app, just click “Go to YouTube TV” on the left menu of the app.
- If this is your first time doing this, you need to sign in to YouTube TV.
- You can read more on YouTube TV Help Center.
Alternatively, Google says that you can also use your mobile device or tablet to stream YouTube TV to your Roku device. It’s an extra step that may seem overwhelming, but it’s better than nothing.
Here’s a look at the full letter:
Actions Cable Cutters Should Take to Move Forward
Let’s quickly go over the options available to you if you’re a customer caught in the middle of this breakup:
- Keep the YouTube TV app installed and weather the storm: The first suggestion is probably the wisest one, and it takes no action on your part. If you’re an existing Roku and YouTube TV customer, you can continue to use YouTube TV on your Roku device while you wait to see if the companies make a new deal. REMEMBER: You must NOT delete your YouTube TV app on your Roku device. You will lose access!
- Start shopping for a new streaming service: If you’re a happy Roku user and aren’t planning on changing your TV or streaming stick setup just to watch YouTube TV content, then maybe now is the time to start trying free trials on other live TV streaming services. Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV both have similar rates and channel lines, and they have free trials available. The Clark team has a live streaming guide to help you choose the one that’s right for you.
- Start buying a new streaming device: If you’re a YouTube TV enthusiast and aren’t planning on leaving the channel, it might be time to start looking for a new streaming device. Many non-Roku smart TVs now come with preloaded YouTube TV access, and there are several powerful streaming devices on the market at relatively low costs. Amazon Fire TV Stick is popular and affordable. And Google has its own competitor Roku in the Chromecast with Google TV.
Money expert Clark Howard gave users several tips in an article we collaborated on earlier this week, so check him out for more tips.
Clark sees this as a chance for many people to re-evaluate how they spend their streaming money and why they make the choices they make.
“Don’t just view this as a potential disruption in your life,” says Clark. “Instead, see it as an opportunity to change what you do. As a result, you may be able to save a lot of money.
Looking Ahead: What Can Streamers Expect
The string-cutter world feared the announcement came after weeks of tense negotiations that turned into an unpleasant public exchange earlier this week.
Clark thinks you should view these negotiations as you would two companies negotiating under the threat of strike action.
“The two are going to say nasty things to each other and YouTube TV might even shut down for a while on Roku devices,” Clark predicted. “But when one side or the other hurts enough, they’re probably going to make a deal.”
And that’s probably the right long-term perspective to keep despite today’s setback.
Roku’s actions (leaving YouTube TV on its service for existing users, notifying them of its deletion, etc.) are in line with the actions you would expect from a company hoping to save the relationship.
Roku even said in his email, “We remain committed to reaching a good faith deal with Google.”
While it’s easy to panic and make a rash decision about your streaming situation, the best advice is probably to let this play out for a few more weeks before making any permanent changes. There is still a good chance that it will resolve itself.
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