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Roku, Google strike deal to keep YouTube on Rokus, restore YouTube TV

The multiyear agreement comes a day before Google's deadline to either reach a deal or cut off its main YouTube app from new Roku devices.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku and Google's YouTube have reached a multiyear distribution deal for Roku to offer both the main YouTube app and Google's app for its live-channel streaming service, YouTube TV, Roku said Wednesday. 

The agreement comes a day before Google's deadline to either reach a deal or it would cut off the main YouTube app from new Roku devices. Wednesday's new pact also means that the YouTube TV app will be restored to Roku's channel store within hours; Roku had removed the dedicated YouTube TV app from its channel store for any new users who wanted to download it in May, as part of the months-long standoff with Google. 

YouTube is the world's biggest source of online video, with more than 2 billion monthly visitors. YouTube TV -- a subscription service that streams live television channels -- is much smaller, but it is a popular alternative to cable or satellite for cord-cutters. Roku is one of the biggest makers of connected-TV gadgets. But Google itself is a Roku hardware rival: Its Google TV, Chromecast and Android TV streaming devices compete with Roku, making Google both a partner and competitor in different facets of its business.

Carriage disputes between programmers and distributors are nothing new -- they're a routine annoyance for customers of traditional cable and satellite TV. Up until last year, the absence of these kinds of service "blackouts" was one of the ways streaming set itself apart from the aggravations of television's past. 

But in the last year, they've cropped up with the launches of many big, new streaming services, such as both HBO Max and NBCUniversal's Peacock, failing to launch with support on Roku. The tensions come as streaming has grown more popular than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, amplifying a long trend of people watching more video over the internet. Companies like Roku and Google all want command of the data, money, programming and discovery tools at the heart of your streaming activity to entrench themselves in positions of power for the next era of television.

On Wednesday, YouTube said in a statement that it was pleased to have a partnership that benefits both companies' mutual users. "This means that Roku customers will continue to have access to YouTube and that the YouTube TV app will once again be available in the Roku store for both new and existing members," the company said. 

Roku said in its own statement that the deal is a multiyear extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV. "This agreement represents a positive development for our shared customers, making both YouTube and YouTube TV available for all streamers on the Roku platform," Roku added.