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Roku and Fox Reach Deal to Keep Channels on Devices, Just in Time for the Super Bowl

Roku and Fox Corp. announced that they reached a deal to keep Fox’s channels on the device maker’s platform, an 11th-hour agreement that means Fox apps will be available for Roku users to stream Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Fox Corp. said in a statement late Friday, “We are pleased to have reached a successful agreement with Roku. Fox’s leading suite of apps will continue to be available on the Roku platform.”

Roku, for its part, said, “We are delighted that we reached an agreement with Fox to distribute Fox channels on the Roku platform. Roku customers can stream the Super Bowl through Fox Now, Fox Sports and NFL in addition to other ways.”

Roku’s distribution deal with Fox Corp. was set to expire on Jan. 31 — and Roku had preemptively yanked all of the broadcaster’s apps from the Roku Channel Store as the two sides worked to hammer out a deal.

Terms of the deal between Roku and Fox Corp. were not disclosed. The standoff echoed the retransmission-consent disputes between cable and satellite TV operators and broadcasters. However, device makers like Roku typically seek payments from content suppliers like Fox for distribution on their platforms (whereas pay-TV companies compensate networks with carriage fees).

As of the end of September 2019, Roku reported 32.3 million active accounts, a net gain of 1.7 million during the third quarter and up 36% year-over-year.

Roku users were in danger of losing Fox Corp.’s entire suite of streaming apps — including those for Fox News Channel and Fox Nation (the channels subscription-streaming offshoot). On Friday, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort, several Fox News personalities including Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham posted tweets lashing out at Roku.

“Why is @Roku threatening to take away the FOX News app?” Hannity wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know either! Tell Roku hands off your device, and to put you ahead of their business interests.” That same message was posted by Tomi Lahren and Jeanine Pirro, and Ingraham had a very similar comment.

As is typical in such disputes, Fox Corp. had previously complained about Roku’s tactics, coming on the eve of the U.S.’s biggest TV event. “Roku’s threat to delete Fox apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns,” a company rep said in a statement Friday before the new deal was struck.

With the new agreement in place, Roku said that on Sunday, Feb. 2, it will launch a “Big Game Guide” on Roku devices to let users know all the ways they can access the Super Bowl LIV broadcast, featuring the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

Even if Fox’s apps had remained dark on Roku, the device maker’s customers would still have had numerous other ways to watch the Super Bowl, which is being widely distributed for free in the U.S.

In addition to the Fox Sports and Fox Now apps, Roku customers can stream the Super Bowl on Fubo TV, Hulu With Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV. Comcast or Charter Spectrum cable customers also can use the Xfinity or Spectrum apps, respectively, on Roku devices to watch the Super Bowl. The game will stream free on the NFL app on Roku as well. In addition, Roku TV owners with an antenna can tune into broadcast TV.

Fox channels that are now available again on the Roku Channel Store include: Fox Now, Fox Sports, Fox News Channel and Fox Nation, Fox Business, Fox Soccer, and Big Ten Network.

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