Roku Announces YouTube TV Breakup: Important Things for Streamers To Know

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After a week of headlines indicating struggles in negotiations, it appears Roku and YouTube TV have officially broken off their relationship.

In an email sent to its userbase on April 30, Roku announced that Google has decided to let the contract between the two tech giants expire. That means new YouTube TV users won’t be able to access the service on Roku.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that existing cord-cutters are losing access to the streaming service on Roku devices — at least not yet.

In this article, I’ll break down the latest news on Roku and YouTube TV’s failed negotiations and explain what it means for streamers now and moving forward.


What Roku’s YouTube TV Breakup Announcement Email Says

First, in case you weren’t on the Roku mailing list that received this email, here’s what Roku said about the YouTube TV contract expiring:

Roku announces Google has let YouTube TV contract expire.

Later that day, YouTube TV sent a letter of its own to its userbase explaining the situation and offering streaming solutions:

YouTube TV letter responding to Roku

Included was a link to “simple steps” that walk people through casting YouTube TV to a Roku device as a temporary workaround should users lose access.


What the Roku-YouTube TV Breakup Means for Streamers Right Now

So if you’re a current or prospective Roku or YouTube TV user, you’re probably wondering: What now?

Here are the four big takeaways from Friday’s announcement:

  • Existing YouTube TV subscribers can still stream on Roku: Even though the contract has technically expired, Roku says that it is not taking any action to remove the streaming app from its devices. That leaves the ball in Google’s court. Until/unless Google removes YouTube TV from Roku, you should be fine to continue using it as normal for now.
  • New downloads of the YouTube TV app are disabled: Even though Roku is leaving YouTube TV on its devices for existing users, Roku is unable (or perhaps unwilling) to continue allowing new downloads since there is no contract in place. That means new YouTube TV subscribers will not be able to set up the service on a Roku device.
  • Do NOT delete the YouTube TV app on your Roku device: If you’re an existing YouTube TV subscriber, it is very important not to delete the app from your Roku device. Roku has removed the YouTube TV app from its app store, so you won’t be able to add it back to your device once it’s gone.
  • This does not appear to affect the YouTube app: Note that these negotiations and changes in access apply only to the YouTube TV live streaming app. The YouTube app, which people use to access free videos, is still available. I’ve confirmed that you can still access the regular YouTube app from Roku devices, and several reports indicate new downloads are also possible.

5/7/2021 UPDATE: Google sent an email to YouTube TV subscribers with information on a workaround to watch the streaming service on Roku devices even without access to the YouTube TV app.

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Google embedded a way to access YouTube TV through the YouTube app, which is still available for download on Roku devices.

Here is how it works:

  1. Make sure you have the YouTube app downloaded from the Roku Channel Store.
  2. From the YouTube app simply click on “Go to YouTube TV” in the left-hand menu of the app.
  3. If it’s your first time doing this, you’ll need to sign in to YouTube TV.
  4. You can learn more in YouTube TV’s Help Center.

Alternatively, Google says you also can use your mobile device or tablet to cast YouTube TV onto your Roku device. That’s an extra step that may seem like a pain, but it’s better than nothing.

Here’s a look at the complete letter:


Actions Cord Cutters Should Take Moving Forward

Let’s quickly run through the options at your disposal if you’re a customer caught in the middle of this breakup:

  1. Keep the YouTube TV app installed and ride out the storm: The first suggestion is probably the wisest, and it takes no action at all on your part. If you’re an existing customer of Roku and YouTube TV, you can keep using YouTube TV on your Roku device while waiting to see if companies reach a new agreement. REMEMBER: You must NOT delete your YouTube TV app on your Roku device. You’ll lose access!
  2. Start shopping for a new streaming service: If you’re a happy Roku user and don’t plan on changing your TV or streaming stick setup just to watch YouTube TV content, now might be a good time to start trying free trials on other live TV streaming services. Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV both have similar pricing and channel lineups, and they have free trials available. Team Clark has a live TV streaming guide to help you pick the best one for you.
  3. Start shopping for a new streaming device: If you’re a YouTube TV enthusiast and don’t plan on quitting the sreice, now may be the time to start looking around for a new streaming device. Many non-Roku smart TVs now come with access to YouTube TV preloaded, and there several strong streaming devices on the market at relatively low costs. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is popular and affordable. And Google has its own Roku competitor in the Chromecast with Google TV.

Money expert Clark Howard gave several tips to users in an article we collaborated on earlier this week, so check that out for more advice.

Clark views this situation as a chance for many people to reassess how they spend their money on streaming and why they make the choices they make.

“Don’t just look at this as a potential piece-of-crap disruption in your life,” Clark says. “Instead, look at it as an opportunity to look at shaking up what you’re doing. You may be able to save yourself some serious money as a result.”


Looking Ahead: What Streamers Can Expect

The cord-cutting world feared this announcement could be coming after weeks of tense negotiation that spilled into a nasty public exchange earlier this week.

Clark thinks you should view these negotiations as you would two companies negotiating under threat of a strike.

“The two of them are going to say nasty things about each other and YouTube TV may even go dark for a while on Roku devices,” Clark predicted. “But when one side or the other hurts enough, they’ll likely make a deal.”

And that’s probably the correct long-term perspective to keep despite today’s setback.

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The actions by Roku (leaving YouTube TV on its service for existing users, warning them about deleting it, etc.) are in line with actions you’d expect from a company that is hoping to salvage the relationship.

Roku even says right there in its email: “We remain committed to reaching a good-faith agreement with Google.”

While it would be easy to panic and make a rash decision about your streaming situation, the best advice is probably to let this play out for another couple of weeks before making any permanent changes. There is still a good chance this gets resolved.


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