Roku CEO Defends International App Takedown, Says More Content Is Available Thanks To DISH Exclusive

Last month, Roku sent an email out to its developers, informing them that an exclusive deal with DISH meant it would be taking down independent apps for international content. [Hat tip to Zatz Not Funny!] With the launch of the satellite provider’s DISHWorld international channels, which are available for $19.99 a month, some 25 apps were taken off the Roku Channel Store. While a number of Roku developers are upset with the takedown and have begun questioning the open nature of the platform, Roku CEO Anthony Wood said the decision will mean more, and higher-quality content available to users through the DISHWorld channel.

“In general, we still want Roku to be a super-open platform,” Wood told me by phone today. But he said that in the case of international content, he said Dish is the largest provider of those channels both by satellite and, with its over-the-top channels on Roku, online.

Wood said that the channels taken down in aggregate didn’t provide as much content as the satellite provider’s comparable DishWorld offerings. That includes a lot of overlapping content with third-party developers who had built channels for the Roku platform, as well as a lot of exclusive content that its subscribers wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

But that’s not the only reason Roku sided with Dish in making it the exclusive provider of channels on its streaming boxes. There’s also the problem of international content licensing, which could cause headaches due to some independent developers not paying for or licensing the video they were streaming to Roku users. Wood said it received multiple DMCA takedown notices from content owners who weren’t being properly paid for videos that appeared on some international Roku channels.

“We’re taking all that into consideration,” Wood said. “Dish provides better-quality content and a much bigger selection, all of which is properly licensed.”

While that might be true, Roku also seems to be cozying up to a lot more premium content providers, cable networks, and operators recently. In addition to DISHWorld content, it’s also recently gotten apps for HBO Go, as well as Fox News and others. That doesn’t mean that it’s abandoning its independent roots, but it definitely sees the value in offering up high-quality content from traditional providers.