The dispute is over, but we don’t know who caved
For a moment, it looked Roku owners would be losing the highest-quality way to stream the Super Bowl for free, when the set-top box maker announced Thursday that it would abruptly pull Fox’s apps off the platform a day ahead of the game. But that won’t actually be happening.
Late Friday, Roku and Fox announced that they’ve reached a new agreement that will ensure the Fox apps keep on working without pause — and they’ll be restored to the Roku app store this weekend ahead of the game, Roku tells The Verge.
“We are delighted that we reached an agreement with FOX to distribute FOX channels on the Roku platform. Roku customers can stream the Super Bowl through FOX Now, Fox Sports and NFL in addition to other ways,” reads a statement from Roku.
“We are pleased to have reached a successful agreement with Roku. FOX’s leading suite of apps will continue to be available on the Roku platform,” reads a parallel statement from Fox.
Remember when we reported Thursday how the Roku icon had disappeared from Fox’s Super Bowl landing page? It’s back again, too — as if nothing ever happened.
As we’ve reported, the entire standoff was a heated carriage dispute playing out in the public realm, with each side hoping its customers would get angry enough at the other party to convince them to stand down. While Roku tried to convince customers to watch the game through other apps (like NFL, Fubo TV, Sling TV, and Xfinity), Fox poured on even more pressure on Friday by getting Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to rile up their audiences directly. We’ve definitely seen tweets from angry owners threatening to ditch their Roku.
It’s not clear who started the fight, or who gave in at the end. While each side blamed the other for pulling the channels down to begin with, neither Roku nor Fox would share any proof of that with The Verge. Nor are they sharing details of the new agreement now, though we’re hoping maybe some of those details eventually float our way.
But the situation did seem suspiciously similar to a tactic mentioned in a Bloomberg report this past December about how “Roku executives will threaten to cancel a channel if its owner doesn’t give Roku a larger cut of ad sales,” and we’re quite curious if Roku got its way. Roku holds a lot of power as the most popular streaming platform in the US, but then again so does Fox as the exclusive presenter of Super Bowl LIV.
Either way, we’ve now seen that over-the-top streaming platforms like Roku may be no better than a cable box in one key way: they can still hold subscribers hostage if there’s extra money to be made.