Just when you thought disputes between pay-TV operators and broadcasters were a problem, the streaming world just said, "Hold my beer."
Roku announced Thursday it would drop all Fox apps, including Fox Sports, on its platform on January 31. Roku's decision puts its delivery of the free Fox Sports Super Bowl LIV stream in jeopardy. The nationally broadcast game, between the Kansas City Chief and San Francisco 49ers, includes a first ever 4K stream of the NFL's championship event.
The good news is that Roku users can still access Fox channels through various apps from pay-TV operators, including OTT-delivered ones from the likes of Sling TV and YouTube TV that carry local Fox feeds.
Roku chalked up the app removal to a lapsing distribution deal with Fox, but said it hoped to get a new agreement done soon.
"Roku's distribution agreement with FOX Corp is set to expire on Jan. 31," Roku said in an emailed statement. "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.
"Meanwhile, customers can view FOX programming, including the big game in many other ways on the Roku platform including through Fubo, Sling TV, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, and other ways. Many offer free trials for new customers. Our discussions with Fox continue and we hope that Fox will work to reach an agreement soon."
Fox's individual apps, including Fox Sports and Fox Now, are still supported on several other TV-connected streaming platforms, including Apple TV boxes, Xbox One consoles, Android TV devices, Samsung smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV. Amazon's devices, by the way, are billed by Fox as the "preferred 4K streaming experience" for Super Bowl LIV.
The expiration of the Roku-Fox deal coincidentally is coming to an end just before a tent-pole sporting event. Still, the impasse is being closely watched by the industry as a new type of dispute that might crop up more often as streaming becomes an increasingly popular way for consumers to access both live TV and on-demand fare.
Get ready for carriage disputes to arrive on your streaming services. Case in point: Fox channels are disappearing from Roku tomorrow.— Janko Roettgers (@jank0) January 31, 2020
Roku spokesperson sent me this statement. pic.twitter.com/Ef9WJHRyKu
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading