Roku has revamped its trademark Internet-video devices, adding voice search to its top-tier Roku 3 model and expanding its ability to search for movies and TV shows across multiple streaming services.
With the upgrades, Roku aims to keep an edge on rivals including Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. Roku took a dig at its bigger competitors with the claim of having the “most comprehensive and unbiased search” features on the market — the implication being that Apple, Google and Amazon have incentives to steer users of their devices to their own digital-media storefronts.
A new “Roku Feed” feature lets users make a list of movies they’re interested in seeing to get automatic updates on pricing and availability, across multiple services.
The company’s new Roku 3 streaming player (listed at $99.99) now provides voice search, which is activated via a button on the unit’s enhanced remote control. Note that Amazon launched Fire TV set-top last year with voice-enabled search, a feature it highlighted in ads featuring a rambling, wild-eyed Gary Busey.
Also Monday, Roku is launching a faster Roku 2 model (listed at $69.99) that it said matches the performance of the Roku 3, as well as updated mobile apps that support the new search features.
“With the biggest lineup of streaming channels available, the most comprehensive and unbiased search, and new ways to discover new movies, Roku players make it simple for consumers to stream the entertainment they want to watch on their terms,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
Roku, which launched its first Internet streaming player in 2008, has held its ground amid the competitive pressure. In 2014, Roku was the leading streaming-device brand with 29% market share of U.S. sales, followed by the Google Chromecast USB-size adapter at 20% and Apple TV at 17%, according to research firm Parks Associates. Amazon Fire TV was in fourth place with 10% share.
Last September Roku said it had sold 10 million players in the U.S.; it also sells products in the U.K., Ireland and Canada.
Roku’s enhanced search function lets users search for movies, TV shows, actors and directors — across some 250,000 movies and TV episodes — and see results listed by price from top streaming channels. Roku owners now also can search by channel name, spanning 2,000-plus streaming channels available on the platform. Those include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, YouTube, Vudu and M-Go.
The Roku Feed, accessible under the “My Feed” tab on the home screen, lets consumers create a list of movies they’re interested in. The service informs users when the titles becomes available to stream and at what price, and when they become available from additional streaming channels.
An updated version of the Roku Mobile App for both iOS and Android devices includes support for the new search and discovery features. The app works with current-generation Roku players and Roku TV models, with the full rollout expected to be completed by the end of April.
Investors in Saratoga, Calif.-based Roku include BSkyB, 21st Century Fox, Hearst, Fidelity Investments and venture-capital firms Menlo Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners and Luminari Capital.