Roku has pulled an unauthorized TV.com app from being available on its broadband set-top boxes after receiving a takedown request from CBS. (Hat tip to Dave Zatz, who spotted the Roku forum thread.) The takedown follows the removal of a similar third-party app that had allowed Roku owners to access YouTube videos on the device, and highlights the problem with allowing third-party developers to create and publish private channels for the device.
A CBS spokesperson confirmed the company asked Roku to remove the TV.com channel, which had been built by a third-party developer that wasn’t authorized to redistribute its video streams. The channel was created through a hack that fed in HTML5-enabled TV.com videos distributed to mobile devices like the iPhone.
While the unauthorized TV.com app wasn’t listed in the general Roku Channel Store along with channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus and MLB.tv, it was available to Roku users who accessed it by submitting a private channel code to their accounts. These private channels aren’t made publicly available, but are listed on sites like Roku-Channels.com, which aggregate other channels created by third-party developers.
Private channels were enabled by Roku primarily to allow developers to test channels before they were submitted for approval to the Channel Store. The availability of private channels also enables developers to create applications that aren’t meant to be shared with the broader Roku universe — like channels for enterprise training videos, for instance. It also allows for content that isn’t authorized through Roku’s terms of service — like adult movies — to be streamed to the broadband set-top boxes.
However, many private channels today are developed to distribute content that content owners don’t want to make available on Roku devices. This was the case with both the TV.com app and the YouTube app, which Google asked to have removed last month. In those cases, Roku is put in the position of taking down unauthorized channels when content owners request it.