How’s this for a pregame letdown? Roku says it is pulling all the Fox channels from its streaming devices two days before Super Bowl LIV is broadcast on Fox.
Fox is broadcasting the game, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, and all the pregame buildup, for free on its streaming apps Fox Sports and Fox Now.
Roku users found out about the move late Thursday via email from the streaming provider. Roku is the most popular streaming device used to run internet TV apps on big screen TVs. So many cord-cutting and cord-shaving homes planned on watching the game on Fox’s streams using a Roku device.
Unfortunately, it sounds like Roku and Fox are having the same type of carriage dispute that networks and pay TV providers have had for decades – a hassle viewers hoped they had seen the last of with the advent of streaming apps.
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In a statement sent to USA TODAY, Roku said its “distribution agreement with FOX Corp is set to expire on Jan. 31. 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.”
In response, Fox said in its own statement that “Roku’s threat to delete FOX apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns. To be clear, FOX has not asked Roku to remove our apps, and we would prefer Roku continue to make them available without interruption.”
With the big game two days away, Fox said, “Roku’s tactics are a poorly timed negotiating ploy, fabricating a crisis with no thought for the alarm it generated among its own customers.”
If you are football fan caught in the middle, Fox notes that you can get its apps on other streaming platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, on smart TVs and Xbox video game consoles, as well as on FoxSports.com. “Only Roku can pull apps from its customers’ devices, and we would urge them to stop the intimidation tactics and reconsider the merits of irritating their best customers in pursuit of Roku’s own interests,” Fox said.
Roku noted that several other apps including fubo TV, Hulu Live, Sling TV and YouTube TV will carry Fox’s broadcast of the game, but all of those require a subscription. However, if you are a new customer you could start a free trial this weekend and leave the service before you are charged.
Or, as Roku noted in its email sent to customers, you could try using an antenna.
Needless to say, some customers were upset and took to Twitter to vent. “There goes my Super Bowl party … ” wrote @Jesse_Dunn.
“So glad @Roku sent a notice of Fox channels disappearing on Jan 31st, THREE DAYS BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL,” tweeted @jordiemac3.
As of Friday morning, the Fox apps remain on Roku and are still working.
“Our discussions with Fox continue and we hope that Fox will work to reach an agreement soon,” Roku said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.