Less than 72 hours before the Super Bowl kickoff, digital video provider Roku has reached an impasse in negotiations with Fox Corporation, creating the possibility that subscribers will lose access to all standalone Fox apps, including Fox Sports, Fox News, and other media properties the company owns. Fox Sports is the only app Roku subscribers can use to stream the game in 4K resolution. From CNET.com:
If you were hoping to use the Fox Sports app to stream the Super Bowl on a Roku this Sunday, you may need to start making other plans. On Thursday evening, Roku sent an email to customers alerting them that starting tomorrow, Jan. 31, it will be removing the Fox app from its platform.
“On Jan. 31, 2020, all standalone Fox channels will no longer be available on Roku streaming devices," the company wrote in the note. While it does not mention the Super Bowl specifically, Roku goes on to advise customers interested in watching Fox programming to look at using the Fubo, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV or Sling TV apps, even mentioning that many offer free trials.
In an attempt to bully Roku into signing an agreement that makes Fox Corporation properties more money, the company has dispatched its most bigoted hosts to tweet form statements mobilizing their audience.
This group of Fox News hosts includes the network’s most inflammatory personalities. Among other examples of journalistic misconduct, Jeanine Pirro once questioned Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) ability to be faithful to the Constitution because she wears a hijab. Sean Hannity’s nightly state TV broadcast is rife with deliberate misinformation and has included lowlights such as spreading the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, which baselessly suggested the Clinton family was responsible for the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer in July 2016. Laura Ingraham once bullied a school shooting victim and has pushed the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren launched her media career by spouting racist rants. Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt regularly fearmongers about immigrants and made excuses for Roger Ailes' sexual harassment. Son of Rupert and Fox Corp's Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch has defended the bigoted personalities he employs.
Fox is using the Super Bowl as a bargaining chip in order to pad out its bottom line, which has been hurt by the years-long advertiser exodus as a result of bigotry and misinformation its top talent regularly push on-air. It’s also not the first time Fox has used the strategy. As recently as December 2019, when carriage fee negotiations stalled with a consortium of small rural cable providers, Fox deployed the same strategy and also set up a website (that has since been taken down) as a part of its intimidation campaign. Fox also said the National Cable Television Cooperative was “putting its own business objectives ahead of the needs of its members and their respective customers” and that it was engaging in “a misguided attempt to fabricate an avoidable crisis.” In reality, this description reflected Fox’s own behavior, which it is now repeating with Roku just days before the Super Bowl.
So why does this matter? Because Fox Corp. is about to deploy this same tactic during upcoming negotiations with cable providers. If Fox’s bullying succeeds and Fox’s high carriage fees get even higher, then consumers could see their cable bill skyrocket.