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."
Eli BlumenthalSenior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
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
Sports app to stream the Super Bowl on a
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,
Hulu with Live TV
or Sling TV apps, even mentioning that many offer free trials.
Those with a Roku TV, as opposed to a
or box, are advised by Roku to consider getting an antenna that would allow them to watch Fox broadcasts for free over-the-air.
Watch this: The latest TV tech comes to Super Bowl 2020 (The Daily Charge, 1/28/2020)
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."
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.
Those with an Xbox,
Smart TV or
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."