Beginning this fall you won’t need a Roku box to watch the company’s video streams on your TV set the company said today at the International CES confab. It introduced Roku TV, which will embed the company’s software into TV sets made by China’s TCL and Hisense. The development means that “the content community will gain additional distribution and revenues through an already popular and trusted streaming platform — now in the TV,” Roku CEO Anthony Wood says. Users will have a Roku home screen that, it says, “unifies all content sources in one place making it easy to watch live programming, stream a movie or listen to a song in just seconds.” The Roku Channel Store has more than 1,200 channels with 31,000 movies and TV shows as well as live programming which the company says includes “more options than all the other Smart TVs on the market.” Although Roku’s a consumer service, it’s pitching Roku TV to additional manufacturers. It will provide them with “software and support to build and maintain the best TV experience” and will “manage the entire software ecosystem” including software updates. The company also says that pricing for set with Roku TV “will be determined by the manufacturers.” Roku will continue to offer its box which competes with a slew of Web-connected devices including Google’s Chromecast and Apple TV.
About 14% of all households have a streaming media device, twice the number that had one two years ago, research firm Parks Associates says today. But the most interesting finding in its new report on trends in connected TV is that relatively tiny Roku handily beats the mighty Apple among people who own a streaming video media device. Some 37% go with Roku vs 24% who “primarily use” Apple TV, the company found in a survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households early this year. The company expects worldwide sales of 330M connected TV devices — including smart TVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and streaming video media devices — in 2017, twice the number it says likely will be sold this year. Even though more TV sets will include Internet connectivity, Parks’ Barbara Kraus says that people will still buy separate devices including ones from Roku, Apple TV, and Google’s $35 Chromecast because they “offer innovations such as streaming video at low prices.” But with the average price for these devices likely to plummet, manufacturers and service providers will have to pick up the slack with “new and recurring revenue streams in advertising and content placement.”
This could be an important addition for the joint venture between Redbox and Verizon: It has been hobbled by the limited number of devices that can access its streaming service — and Roku says that it has sold about 5M of its players in the U.S. Redbox Instant will be available on the platform sometime this summer. All Roku customers will be able to buy and rent individual videos. But initially the Redbox Instant subscription service will just be available to those who own Roku 3, Roku 2, Roku LT (models 2400 & 2450), and Roku HD (model 2500) players or the Roku Streaming Stick. “We’ve received overwhelming demand from our customers for Redbox Instant by Verizon on their Roku devices, and we’re pleased to be expanding the service this summer to meet that demand,” says Redbox Instant CEO Shawn Strickland. The subscription streaming service costs $8 a month and includes credits for rental discs at Redbox kiosks. It’s available to Android and iOS devices, Samsung Blu-ray devices and TVs with SmartHub, LG Smart TV and Blu-ray players, Google TV, Vizio PCs (through a browser), tablets and Co-Star through the Google Play store.
The streaming media player maker said today it has received $60 million from new investors, including Hearst Corp., to help build its streaming software and services businesses. Roku said the latest funding round was led by “one of the world’s largest institutional investors” which it did not name, along with Hearst. Prior investors, including BSkyB and News Corp, contributed $45 million to Roku last July. Best known for its lineup of popular streaming players, including the new Roku 3, the company is extending its streaming platform by working with other consumer electronics brands. In a statement, Roku says more than 3.5 million Roku Ready devices, predominantly TVs, will be in retail by the end of the year. Roku Ready devices access the Roku streaming platform through the Roku Streaming Stick, a small USB-sized device sold by Roku. “Roku has a significant portfolio of investment and strategic partners with very successful global businesses. Their recognition of our brand success and belief in the Roku platform is a tremendous endorsement of our potential to shape the future television experience,” Roku Founder and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood said in a statement. “BSkyB and News Corporation are exceptional partners and we look forward to deepening our relationship with Hearst in the months to come.” In the coming months, Roku says it will continue to expand access points to its streaming platform.