Roku and Fox avoid Super Bowl blackout with new deal to keep apps on service
Roku and Fox have resolved their streaming-video skirmish with a deal that keeps the network's apps online for the Super Bowl. The two sides were threatening a protracted fight that could have left Roku customers looking for alternatives to watch the game, after the company had said it would remove Fox apps.
Late Friday, Roku said a deal was reached to avoid that outcome. "We are delighted that we reached an agreement with Fox to distribute Fox channels on the Roku platform," a Roku spokeswoman said in an email statement. "Roku customers can stream the Super Bowl through Fox Now, Fox Sports and NFL in addition to other ways."
The companies did not disclose the terms of the new agreement. The dispute was reminiscent of the brinkmanship that has played out among cable providers and networks for decades, but now these fights are coming to streaming services. Platforms like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV are the new gatekeepers of the channels that stream into people's homes. The TV networks that control the programming, like Fox, are looking for the most favorable deals possible to serve ads and retain subscription fees.
The Super Bowl was used as leverage in the negotiations. Fox owns the broadcast rights to the game on Sunday, and Roku notified its customers that it would pull Fox's apps if they couldn't reach a deal.
On Friday, Fox blamed Roku, saying it would prefer that its apps remain online, even while the two sides continued to negotiate.
“Roku’s threat to delete Fox apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns,” a Fox spokeswoman said in an email statement to Ad Age. “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.”
On Friday, Roku had claimed its digital video platform could not stream apps without a deal in place. Roku also said the Fox negotiations have been dragging on for months. “We have tried for months to get Fox to sign an agreement and we offered Fox an extension but they declined,” Roku said in a note to customers on Friday. “If an agreement is not reached, we will be forced to remove Fox channels from the Roku platform because we can’t distribute content without an agreement. Every content provider has a distribution agreement on every platform. It gives us the legal right to distribute.”