Google Pulls YouTube From Amazon Devices, Saying It Isn't Playing Fair

By Jack Nicas Features Dow Jones Newswires

Google said it is pulling YouTube from some Amazon.com Inc. devices in retaliation for Amazon refusing to sell many Google products, escalating a battle between two tech titans as their businesses increasingly overlap.

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Google said Tuesday it had cut access to YouTube on Amazon's smart speakers with screens, called the Echo Show, and that it plans to block YouTube on Amazon's Fire TV media-streaming device on Jan. 1.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said Amazon's retail website doesn't sell competing products like the Google Home smart speaker or Google's Chromecast streaming device. Google also claimed that Amazon's Prime Video lineup of shows and movies isn't available via the Chromecast. It added that Amazon has stopped selling some products from Nest, a connected-device maker that is Google's sister firm under Alphabet. Amazon in October launched a home-security system that competes with Nest.

"Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV," a Google spokeswoman said Tuesday.

An Amazon spokeswoman said, "Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website."

Both companies said they hope to resolve the issue quickly.

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The rare public spat between two of the world's most powerful companies highlights increasing tensions as they spread their ambitions to new products and industries. While Google started in online search and Amazon in retail, each now has competing hardware and content businesses that they are betting will expand their dominance.

Google already pulled YouTube off Amazon's Echo Show device in September because it said Amazon's implementation of YouTube violated its policies by barring users from logging in or commenting.

Last month, a few days before the Black Friday shopping bonanza, Amazon said YouTube was working on the Echo Show again. A person familiar with Google's thinking said Amazon had worked around its move to block access to its YouTube voice-controlled app by sending users to YouTube's website, an approach that also violates YouTube's policies.

Amazon's Prime Video service, which offers access to movies and TV shows over the internet, is blocked on Google's Chromecast streaming device, which sends content from phones and laptops onto TVs. Now Google will be blocking access to YouTube on Amazon's Fire TV streaming device.

Google has tried to negotiate with Amazon to get its Chromecast and Google Home products on Amazon's retail site, but Amazon has told Google bluntly it won't sell them, according to the person familiar with Google's thinking. On Tuesday, asking Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant to add a Google Chromecast to a user's shopping cart caused the assistant to add Amazon's competing Fire TV Stick to the cart. Amazon also doesn't sell Apple Inc.'s Apple TV streaming device.

A person familiar with Amazon's thinking said retailers frequently decide against carrying certain products, but it is rare for any company to block access to a public website.

The person familiar with Google's thinking said Amazon also built an unauthorized way to access YouTube via its Fire TV device.

The Amazon spokeswoman said the Echo Show and Fire TV display standard web views of YouTube.com.

Patrick Moorhead, head of tech-research firm Moor Insights & Strategy, said Google appears to be using access to YouTube as leverage in its negotiations with Amazon -- and the losers are customers. "This is classic tech-giant sparring," he said. "For consumers, it's not good."

Still, the companies likely won't stop working together in other areas. Their relationship is complicated. Amazon is one of Google's largest customers, buying many high-price ads on its search engine. Google also still sells other popular products through Amazon, including its new Pixel smartphones.

--Laura Stevens contributed to this article.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 05, 2017 18:46 ET (23:46 GMT)