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Summary:

Playing YouTube videos on your Roku player just a got a lot harder: Google made Roku take down a private channel that brought YouTube videos to the device, likely because it violated YouTube’s terms of service. However, there are already negotiations to resolve the issue.

youtube roku

Google has forced Roku to take down its YouTube channel, making it impossible for owners of the video streaming device to access YouTube videos (hat tip to Dave Zatz). Roku never had an official YouTube channel, but users were able to watch YouTube clips through a so-called private channel, which could be added to the device by entering a six digit code (check out out video embedded below to see how it worked).

The device maker always walked a tight rope in its relationship with Google. Folks from Roku told me a a while back they weren’t able to meet Google’s specs to officially add YouTube to the device. A third-party developer filled the void with a so-called private channel, which wasn’t officially listed in the Roku channel store. Roku told its users about ways to add the channel in its FAQ, and it even hired the developer of the private channel, who kept maintaining it in his spare time after being hired.

However, the FAQ now displays the following note:

“At the request of YouTube, this private channel is no longer available on Roku. To remove the channel, please go to “My Channels” in the Channel Store.”

Reports from users indicate that previously installed instances of the channel still work, but new installations aren’t possible anymore.

Roku’s private YouTube channel utilized the MP4s hosted by YouTube to stream to devices like the iPhone, which also means that pre-roll ads and other ad formats weren’t displayed. This method of access likely violated YouTube’s API terms of service, which prohibits the access of videos through “any means other than use of a YouTube player or other video player expressly authorized by YouTube.” Google wasn’t available for any further comment on the matter at the time of writing.

Roku told Dave Zatz that it is “in the midst of negotiations” with Google about bringing YouTube back to the device. The company’s VP of marketing Charles Seiber didn’t want to elaborate further on the status of these negotiations, but he told me: “We clearly would like to have a YouTube channel available for all of our customers.” This could mean that the whole episode will lead to a happy end and that Roku users will eventually be able to enjoy YouTube videos through an officially sanctioned channel.

To see how Roku’s private YouTube channel looked like, check out the video below:

  1. So much for Don’t Be Evil.

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  2. This is bad news for Roku. The YouTube channel on it – even though unofficial – was functionally richer than the one in AppleTV.

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  3. If producers are interested in having their shows on Roku, consider distributing through blip.tv. We reach all of the major set-top boxes and internet-connected TV’s, and we can cross-post to your YouTube channel, too.

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    1. Consider contacting EWTN.com – they’re looking to add a dedicated Roku channel, blip.tv might be ideal

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  4. AppleTV has Youtube, why not Roku?

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  5. Blip.tv does a good job but this conversation is a good lead-in to a broader topic. What is really the value of any large video aggregator for a small content producer like a band with one music video? In the case of youtube 35 hours of content is uploaded every minute and how is your 4 minute music video ever going to get noticed. It won’t. Unless ypou have help.

    A recent story on youtube showed that it is the “Partner” videos that youtube promotes which get like 80% of all the views on youtube. Those video creators can recieve cash, ad revenue, upgraded video equipment and much more from youtube. The opportunity to be a partner (ie successful) is a totally arbitrary one and up to YouTube staff.

    This introduces what I have been calling the “geek filter”. By that I men that the content which is successful on the web is what is featured or promoted on various high profile websites. In each case it is the owners/staff of those sites which make that determination based on their own preferences.

    So, despite the illusion that the web is free and fair and guided by the web 2.0 “crowd”, what we see developing is just a new embodiement of traditional media complete with the familliar “gatekeepers” who make the final determination on what we see most readily.

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  6. It seems as if how you interface with media is just splitting hairs now. I will still have to watch a commercial and I will still have to see the YouTube logo regardless.

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