If you’re planning on watching Super Bowl LIV using a streaming app, then you might not be able to use Roku hardware. While the platform has had a number of Fox apps available for years, their distribution agreement is set to expire after tomorrow, ahead of the big game. Roku is sending out emails to customers informing them that the standalone Fox apps won’t be available this weekend to watch and suggesting alternatives.
If they can’t work out some kind of extension (the Fox Now and Fox Sports apps have already been delisted from the Roku Channel Store) then the simplest workaround may be using another streaming service on your Roku device. Apps like YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV or Sling TV can all work in a pinch, assuming they have your local Fox affiliate. If you’d like to see the game in (upscaled from 1080p) 4K, then Fubo TV will deliver it that way, and it has a seven day free trial.
If you’d rather swap out for different hardware, then Amazon’s Fire TV 4K stick is ready to stream the 4K and HDR mastered feed of the game on Sunday, and it’s on sale right now for $35 (if it won’t ship to your area in time from Amazon, Best Buy and Target also have it for the same price).
Usually the carriage disputes I’ve covered involve cable operators, with threats to send antennas out and scrolling ads. Now even that has gone to the next level as streaming platforms are the new landscape, with acquisitions and competition making things stranger every day. Apps can appear and disappear in a blink — but hopefully this gets worked out so no one has to make backup plans at all.
Update: While Roku said that it will be “forced” to remove Fox’s apps as of the 31st if a distribution agreement or extension isn’t reached, Fox has a different view of things. A “Fox Corporation Spokesperson” called the notification a “poorly timed negotiating ploy,” and claimed the company would prefer to see the apps remain available. What will happen after tomorrow? We’ll have to wait and see.
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.
[Thanks to Michael, Darren and everyone else who sent this in.]