Roku is redoubling efforts to get its Internet video-streaming platform embedded into TVs.
The company said it plans to team with manufacturers on 4K Ultra HD television sets — along with a partnership with Netflix to deliver 4K content through the TVs — and also has reached a deal with Best Buy, which will introduce a Roku-based HDTV under the retailer’s high-end Insignia brand. The news is timed for the 2015 International CES trade show this week in Las Vegas.
Roku is best known for its standalone set-tops, which provide access to more than 2,000 channels of Internet-delivered video, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Amazon Video and HBO Go. But to expand its footprint, the company wants to get baked inside millions of connected TVs: Last fall, the first Roku TV models from Chinese consumer-electronics giants TCL and Hisense began shipping in the U.S.
For Ultra HD, which offers four times the resolution of 1080p HD, Roku will license a reference design of its platform for 4K smart TVs to manufacturing partners. TCL is an initial partner that has signed on to build Roku-enabled 4K television sets.
Today, Ultra HD content remains relatively scarce, and TVs supporting the format have been considerably more expensive than conventional HDTVs. But industry watchers expect 4K adoption to grow steadily over the next few years as the ecosystem expands.
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“With the maturation of 4K, including the dramatic price reductions of 4K TVs, the growing amount of 4K content available for streaming and the increased consumer awareness of the benefits of 4K, the time is right for Roku to offer Roku TV 4K solutions to global TV OEMs (original equipment manufacturers),” Roku CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement.
For Netflix, which began offering Ultra HD content to subscribers last year, it’s important “to work closely with partners like Roku to give consumers more streaming options,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer.
Best Buy’s line of Roku-based Insignia sets will initially be conventional HDTVs, slated to be available starting this spring in stores and at BestBuy.com.
In another new partnership, Roku has secured a deal with Haier America, the U.S. subsidiary of China’s Haier Group, under which Roku TV models are expected to ship in the third quarter of 2015 with screen sizes ranging from 32 to 65 inches. Haier also plans to release “Roku-ready TVs” in the first quarter of 2015 bundled with the HDMI-based Roku Streaming Stick.
Roku’s goal with the strategy is to make it as easy as possible to access the company’s lineup of Internet-video channels, using the TV’s own remote. For one thing, the Roku interface is the default screen consumers see when they turn on their sets, although users can change the primary input to another source such as a cable or satellite set-top, gaming console or over-the-air antenna.
Roku investors include BSkyB, 21st Century Fox, Hearst, Fidelity Investments and venture-capital firms Menlo Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners. The Saratoga, Calif.-based company has raised about $155 million to date, including a $25 million round in October.