Mexican court halts sale of Roku devices over piracy

Roku Premiere
Cablevision, which is owned by Televisa, has charged that Roku streaming devices are often hacked and enable users to view pirated pay TV channels.

In an ongoing legal battle in Mexico, a tribunal in Mexico City has sided against Roku and with a cable TV provider owned by media giant Televisa.

Cablevision, which is owned by Televisa, has charged that Roku streaming devices are often hacked and enable users to view pirated pay TV channels.

"Cablevision cannot allow the content that it licenses from domestic and foreign companies to be illegally used," Cablevision Spokeswoman Maria Eugenia Zurita told Reuters. "We would also like Roku to better supervise the use of its software so that it’s not used inappropriately."

FierceCable Radio

Tune in to FierceCable's Newest Podcast Series

Now streaming via Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and Google Play, FierceCable Radio brings you interviews and analysis covering the pay TV, media and entertainment industries. Subscribe today and listen on the go!

The case has implications for Roku, a privately held company that accounts for roughly half of all OTT streaming devices in the U.S., according to estimates from Nielsen and comScore. The company recently said its 2016 revenue came in at $400 million, up from $300 million in 2015. It did not break down domestic versus international sales, but executives have talked about aggressive international expansion plans. Profit margins on the sale of devices like the ones blocked by the Mexican court are believed to be quite healthy.

Roku General Counsel Steve Kay said the company would not be dissuaded by the ruling and will continue its fight to distribute its products in Mexico. “Today’s decision is not the final word in this complex legal matter, and it is not expected to prevent consumers from purchasing Roku products in Mexico at this time," he said in a statement.

The messaging app WhatsApp is often at the center of hacking efforts in Mexico. Hackers are able to offer illegal access via Roku to packages of hundreds of television channels, including Televisa’s, as well as U.S. networks like HBO and ESPN. In some cases, Reuters reported, customers make cash transfers at convenience stores and then send the hackers photos of their receipts.

A judge last week issued a court order requested by Cablevision to stop the importation and sale of the Roku devices, but Roku then won a suspension. Wednesday's decision overturned that suspension.

After the latest turn in the case, major e-commerce sites operating in Mexico, including Amazon, Best Buy and Wal Mart were still selling Roku devices.