Google Forces Roku to Take Down Its YouTube Channel

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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:


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