Removing channels from a TV lineup over carriage disputes is common in the pay-TV business. That legacy has found its way into the streaming TV business, but the blackouts are now about apps, with Roku removing the Charter Spectrum app as the latest example.
Charter was an early adopter of expanding pay-TV package access to the app based world of streaming TV. By introducing the Charter Spectrum app, subscribers could access their Spectrum subscription, including live-TV channels, through streaming STBs like Roku and Apple TV.
But in with the new and out with old doesn’t hold true for everything, as streaming TV blackouts are now becoming all too common. The issues are the same and revolve around money and access. Roku is stopping new downloads of the Charter Spectrum app until the two can work out a new carriage agreement.
One main difference with this Roku dispute is existing Spectrum app users aren’t impacted, at least not yet. Carriage of apps on a platform involve complex negotiations around revenue sharing, particularly with advertising revenue.
There are other issues too, and as the largest streaming TV platform, Roku has some considerable power in these negotiations. According to its latest quarterly earnings report, Roku has 46 million active accounts. To put that in perspective, the largest cable and broadband operator, Comcast, has close to 33 million residential customer relationships.
The Roku Spectrum moves aren’t the first Roku has taken against video providers. Roku has wielded this power before. Just ask AT&T, which has been trying to get the new HBO Max app on the Roku platform for months.
Comcast and Roku were also involved in a dispute over Comcast/NBCU’s Peacock streaming app. That dispute included dragging in NBC’s other content apps, including local broadcast channels. It was eventually worked out but did include the all too familiar game of chicken over blacking out content