Two tech giants are in a messy streaming video fight right now, leaving consumers squeezed in the middle.
Google on Tuesday said it would pull its YouTube apps from Amazon's Fire TV and Alexa-powered Echo Show starting next month. Why? Google pointed a finger at Amazon, which hasn't been selling some products from Google and Nest, which is also owned by Google's parent company. Amazon also doesn't allow Google products to have access to its Prime Video streaming service, the statement said.
(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
“Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products,” the company said in a statement to The Post. “Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”
A statement from Amazon on Tuesday didn't address Google's claims but said that the online retail giant did not block consumer services and that Amazon users could still reach the website version of YouTube.com on the Echo Show and Fire TV. “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website,” Amazon's statement said. “We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.”
These kinds of conflicts can be confusing for consumers who probably just want to watch the things they like on the devices they've bought.
"It's pretty childish that companies as big as Amazon and Google can't work out a deal that makes sense for both of them, thereby helping the industry to grow and, instead, let consumers and content owners suffer," said media analyst Dan Rayburn of Frost & Sullivan.
This isn't the first time the two companies have sparred over services. Google pulled YouTube from the Echo Show in September, saying that the way Amazon had implemented YouTube didn't comply with Google's terms of service. YouTube returned to the Echo Show last month, before being pulled again on Tuesday. Variety reported that Amazon's latest implementation also had some terms-of-service issues, which were related to the way it used voice commands.
The spat also exposes how the interdependent state of streaming media — in which companies often partner with their competitors in hopes of reaching more viewers — can hurt consumers. And it highlights how much control the companies that make devices and run video services have and how willing they are to use those products as bargaining chips with one another.
Meanwhile, another long-standing streaming media tiff is getting (somewhat) resolved. As of Wednesday, Apple TV owners are finally able to add Amazon's Prime Video to their devices — about six months after Apple chief executive Tim Cook promised the service was on its way. The two companies reportedly had trouble negotiating while wearing the hats of both partners and competitors.
There is no obligation for Amazon to carry products of any kind, and the company has exercised its editorial decision over its products before. But it's certainly not helping Amazon or its consumers for the company to limit its selection — particularly cutting out such popular competing products as Apple TV — without real justification.
"Consumers should not be harmed in these kinds of business disputes. Both Amazon and Google need to put their customers first instead of putting them between a rock and a hard place as a result of corporate warfare." said John Bergmayer, senior counsel at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.
When Amazon stopped selling Apple TV and Chromecast on its site two years ago, the company gave the thin excuse that it was “important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video to avoid customer confusion.”
Amazon did not immediately respond when asked if Apple TV will return to Amazon's online store now that it supports Amazon Prime. As of time of writing, the product was not listed on Amazon.