The biggest TV event of 2020, Super Bowl LIV, is nearly upon us, and companies have been giving viewers early peeks at the highly anticipated (and high dollar) commercials and movie trailers that tend to draw more eyeballs than the NFL championship itself. However, it appears as if not everyone will readily have access to the big game on Sunday, with streaming mainstay Roku alerting customers that all of its Fox-related channels will be removed from the service by the end of January 31.
Seeing as how Fox is hosting the Super Bowl this year, that announcement is quite a harrowing shock to NFL fanatics who'd been planning on streaming the game on their Roku devices. And even more of a surprise, considering Fox Sports was still working on trying to perfect the 4K HDR feed for its Roku apps.
Many Roku users got the news via a plainly stated email saying that all seven of the standalone Fox channels wouldn't be available anymore after January 31. The email then advised fans that there are still plenty of other means of getting Fox channels through other services such as Hulu's live TV, YouTube TV, and more. (And, of course, there's always all the other non-Fox channels in the Roku store, for anyone who wants to just skip the game.)
Perhaps strangely, Roku's emails make zero mention of the Super Bowl, and never refer to the fact that their issues with Fox stem from disputes over contracts. It's only through tweeted responses that it became more clear that Roku and Fox Corp were unable to reach a financial agreement. Sentiments such as this are quickly piling up on social media.
What's more, Fox Sports responded to the ongoing kerfuffle with claims that Roku is the only one making things difficult for streaming audiences, and that pulling the network's apps amounts to "intimidation tactics."
Here's the statement given to CNET by a Fox Sports spokesperson:
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. Roku's tactics are a poorly timed negotiating ploy, fabricating a crisis with no thought for the alarm it generated among its own customers. Even if Roku unilaterally decides to remove FOX apps, savvy Roku customers know Super Bowl LIV on Fox will be ubiquitously available through streaming providers, Fox apps on the biggest streaming platforms and our website. 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.
As some people on Twitter pointed out, this situation isn't quite the same as when linear TV providers experience carriage agreement disputes with networks, so many think that Roku is indeed pulling a unfair ploy on its users specifically to strong-arm Fox Corp into a deal. Whether it will work or not is anyone's guess.
But for my guess, I think Roku and Fox Corp need to figure something out with the quickness, since fans may start to riot if they can't get easy access to the Super Bowl. Especially those in Kansas City and San Francisco.
Super Bowl LIV is set to air on Fox on Sunday, February 2, with kickoff starting around 6:30 p.m. ET. To see everything that'll be debuting on the small screen in the aftermath of the NFL championship, head to our Winter and Spring TV premiere schedule.