Roku sent out an interesting survey to some of its users this week, asking them what kind of content they watch on YouTube and how often they use the Google-owned video service. That’s notable, because Roku is the only major smart TV platform that doesn’t have an official YouTube app.
Roku users were for some time able to access YouTube through a third-party channel — as apps are called in the Roku ecosystem — but the company was forced to shut these down on YouTube’s request. One example: VideoBuzz, which offered access to YouTube videos was kicked off the platform earlier this year. But with this week’s survey, Roku specifically targeted former VideoBuzz users to find out how they used the channel, and what kind of YouTube content they accessed with it.
I asked a Roku spokesperson whether this means that the company is close to launching a YouTube channel. Her response was more or less the same that Roku has given people over the last few years whenever the subject came up:
“We are (…) talking to YouTube to bring a YouTube channel to Roku but have not reached business terms yet.”
In the absence of a deal with YouTube, Roku is now apparently looking to get some of the content that’s popular on YouTube without all those other strings attached. Roku team members had a booth at Vidcon, the yearly gathering of YouTube creators and their fans, in Southern California this week. Their goal: Get more YouTube publishers to launch their own channels on Roku. “We actually have many YouTube channels already on Roku,” the company spokesperson told me, citing Vevo, Machinima, CollegeHumor and IGN as examples.
YouTube has for some time been looking to empower professional content producers and put a bigger emphasis on channels with serialized content, as opposed to those random viral cat video that used to be the site’s biggest fare back in the days. Of course, without any official agreement with YouTube, there would be another option for Roku: Get as many of these professional YouTube channels as possible, and then bundle them in one or more YouTube-like packages, possibly organized around topics.
One of the slides suggested as much, but Roku’s spokesperson denied that the company is looking to build something that looks like YouTube, but isn’t actually YouTube. Via email, she said:
“We are working with channels already on YouTube to bring them as individual channels on Roku… Separate from that we are still exploring a YouTube channel on Roku. These would co-exist.”