×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Roku Makes First Jump Inside Smart TVs, Trying to Beat Apple to the Punch

Company cuts deals with Chinese manufacturers TCL and Hisense, announces sales of nearly 8 million set-tops to date

Roku’s trim little Internet set-tops have held their own in competing with similar Apple TV devices from the world’s biggest tech company. Now the smaller company has embarked on a strategy to widen its footprint through deals with TV manufacturers to embed Roku software into smart television sets — and get ahead of Apple’s rumored plans to debut a smart TV of its own.

On Sunday at the 2014 International CES, Roku is unveiling Roku TV, a platform touted as providing a simpler approach to smart TVs. The company has partnerships with China’s two biggest TV makers, TCL and Hisense, which plan to demo their Roku TVs at the show.

Roku is not abandoning the set-top business. Indeed, the company said that as of the end of 2013, it has sold just under 8 million media players in the U.S. since introducing them in 2008. Last year, total streaming hours on Roku players increased 70%, to 1.7 billion hours, the company said.

The company hopes to license the new Roku TV reference design platform and software stack to other manufacturers. But Roku will surely have a tough time landing deals with major HDTV manufacturers.

SEE ALSO: Apple’s Next Big Thing: A Gesture-Controlled TV?

The top five TV makers worldwide — Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp — together held 62% of the market in 2012, according to NPD DisplaySearch. And those manufacturers have well-established smart TV platforms and strategies today, so Roku will have a very hard sell with the biggest TV players. Those CE makers also are unlikely to be interested in co-branding their smart TVs with Roku.

For the last two years, Roku has chased a different strategy for plugging into Internet-connected TVs with the external Roku Streaming Stick. But so far, the company hasn’t been able to reach deals with the biggest CE makers to support the set-top-on-a-stick, which uses the Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) spec (instead of standard HDMI like Google’s Chromecast).

In any case, Roku said smart TVs running its platform are expected to be available for purchase in the fall of 2014 from retailers in the U.S. and Canada, available in screen sizes ranging from 32 to 55 inches with pricing to be announced.

“Consumers will enjoy the ease and satisfaction of Roku TV while manufacturers leverage our design specifications, content relationships and software expertise,” Roku CEO Anthony Wood said in announcing the partnerships. “At the same time, the content community will gain additional distribution and revenues through an already popular and trusted streaming platform — now in the TV.”

SEE ALSO: YouTube Channel Now Playing on Roku

Roku is trying to convince CE makers it should be the brains of their Internet-connected TVs by emphasizing its simplified approach. The Roku TV design has a home screen that unifies all content sources in one place, with options for watching live TV, streaming a movie or listening to a song. The overall approach is less complicated, according to Roku: For example, the Roku TV remote control has 20 buttons — half the number found on traditional TV remotes.

Roku TVs can be controlled by either the TV remote or via mobile devices using the Roku app for Apple iOS or Android. In addition, Roku TV supports modern stream-casting standards including DIAL, which streams content from a mobile device to the TV.

Like Roku’s streaming players, Roku TVs will have access to 1,200-plus channels including those for Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Walmart’s Vudu and Pandora — more content options than any other smart TV on the market, Roku says.

Roku has raised $140 million in funding, including a $60 million round last May led by Fidelity Investments, with participation from Hearst and previous investors British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and 21st Century Fox. Other investors include Dish Network and venture-capital firms Menlo Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners.

More Digital

  • BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 18: (EDITORIAL

    Dax Shepard, Bobby Bones, 'Breakfast Club' Among iHeartRadio Podcast Awards Winners

    iHeartRadio launched its first ever Podcast Awards on Friday (January 18) in Los Angeles. Among the winners in 22 categories were “Whine Down with Jana Kramer” (Best Entertainment TV Podcast); “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (Breakout Podcast); “Bobbycast” (Music Podcast); and “The Breakfast Club” (Best Multicultural Podcast). The winners were determined by iHeartRadio listeners. Taking the top prize of Podcast [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Release of Docs to Reveal How Facebook Made Money Off Children

    Documents related to a 2012 lawsuit against Facebook in which children, sometimes unwittingly, spent their parents’ money on games via the social site will be unsealed, according to a Monday ruling from the United States District Court. The court gave Facebook ten days to file unredacted documents in accordance with the ruling. The 2012 lawsuit [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Sets Up New Product Group for AR Glasses (Report)

    Facebook has restructured its augmented and virtual reality research division and set up a new group tasked with building augmented reality (AR) glasses, according to a new Business Insider report. Facebook acknowledged the move in a statement given to the publication, saying that the move affected “a few hundred people.” The group has already built [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content