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Super Bowl 2020: Roku drops Fox apps from its platform days before the big game

Fox calls the move "a naked effort to use its customers as pawns."

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If you're looking to use the Fox app to stream the Super Bowl on a Roku, you may want to start making other plans.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Update, Feb. 1, 8:12 a.m. PT: Fox and Roku have reached an agreement, and Fox apps will continue to appear on Roku devices. The original story, published Jan. 31, continues below.


If you were hoping to use the Fox Sports app to stream the Super Bowl on a Roku this Sunday, you may need to start making other plans. On Thursday evening, Roku sent an email to customers alerting them that starting tomorrow, Jan. 31, it will be removing the Fox app from its platform.

"On Jan. 31, 2020, all standalone Fox channels will no longer be available on Roku streaming devices," the company wrote in the note. While it does not mention the Super Bowl specifically, Roku goes on to advise customers interested in watching Fox programming to look at using the Fubo, YouTube TVHulu with Live TV or Sling TV apps, even mentioning that many offer free trials.

Those with a Roku TV, as opposed to a streaming stick or box, are advised by Roku to consider getting an antenna that would allow them to watch Fox broadcasts for free over-the-air.

Read more: Roku owners streaming Super Bowl 2020 without Fox apps: Don't panic

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At issue seems to be the distribution agreement between Fox and Roku to carry the broadcaster's apps on Roku's platform.

"Roku's distribution agreement with Fox Corp is set to expire on Jan. 31," Tricia Mifsud, Roku's vice president of corporate communications, told CNET in an email. "We offered Fox an extension so that Roku can continue to bring a large and valuable audience to Fox. If an agreement is not reached, we will be forced to remove Fox channels from the Roku platform."

Mifsud added that the company's "discussions with Fox continue and we hope that Fox will work to reach an agreement soon."

Read more: How to stream the Super Bowl in 4K for free

If you already downloaded the Fox Sports app, you will need to make other plans, as once the agreement ends the app will stop functioning and will be deleted from customers' Roku devices and TVs. 

Fox, which previously touted Roku on its website as one of the ways to stream the Super Bowl in HD and 4K, has removed all references to Roku with a noticeable gap on the page where the Roku logo used to be.

Fox Sports Roku

The Fox Sports site for the 2020 Super Bowl no longer includes references to Roku as a way to stream the game.

Screenshot

The Fox Sports site continues to list Amazon's Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV as some of the many places its app is available (with the Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV 4K as options to stream in 4K).

Those with an Xbox, Samsung Smart TV or iOS or Android device can also still stream the Super Bowl, as can users watching on a computer.

"Roku's threat to delete Fox apps from its customers' devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns," a Fox spokeswoman told CNET in a statement Friday morning. "To be clear, Fox has not asked Roku to remove our apps, and we would prefer Roku continue to make them available without interruption. Roku's tactics are a poorly timed negotiating ploy, fabricating a crisis with no thought for the alarm it generated among its own customers.

"Even if Roku unilaterally decides to remove FOX apps, savvy Roku customers know Super Bowl LIV on Fox will be ubiquitously available through streaming providers, Fox apps on the biggest streaming platforms and our website," the statement continues. "Only Roku can pull apps from its customers' devices, and we would urge them to stop the intimidation tactics and reconsider the merits of irritating their best customers in pursuit of Roku's own interests."

As of Friday morning, the Fox Sports app is still available on Roku.

Originally published Jan. 30.
Update, 6:44 a.m. Jan. 31: Adds statement from Fox.