Roku vs. Fox Super Bowl 2020 battle shows ‘transformation’ of power

A person sitting on a couch in front of a Roku TV displaying the home screen.

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Fox and Roku are in the midst of a fight that could impact the ability of some customers to watch the Super Bowl. And consumers are likely to see more such streaming conflicts in the future that could affect the way they watch sports and news.

The battle between streaming player platform company Roku and Fox shows how the power has shifted from cable to streaming, notes Peter Csathy, the president of the CREATV Media consultancy. 

Streaming platforms such as Roku and Amazon Prime Video “will increasingly take a harder line,” he says. “This is an example of the transformation of power in the media and entertainment business.”

The dispute went public Thursday afternoon when fans of Fox Sports and Fox News smart TV apps got a pre-Super Bowl surprise e-mail from Roku: It was dumping Fox from its platform. 

Such viewers got the word despite all the hype about watching the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday  in 4K (Ultra High Dynamic Range) resolution via a recent Roku or Amazon streaming player.

Fox’s distribution agreement with Roku was set to expire Jan. 31, and Roku was playing hardball.

A person sitting on a couch in front of a Roku TV displaying the home screen.

Roku says this is the first time it has taken down a channel, although the company is also having negotiation issues with AT&T, whose AT&T Now channel was removed from Roku’s app store recently. The AT&T Now channel is still operational, as are the Fox apps. Now. If no contract is signed soon, the Fox apps will be automatically deleted from our Roku devices by Sunday, says Roku.

“We don’t have the rights to distribute content with no agreement in place,” says Roku vice-president Tricia Mifsud. 

Amazon has had similar contract battles, but only with one company, Google. Amazon yanked Google’s YouTube from the service due to a corporate spat.YouTube is back on Fire TV and Echo speakers. 

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