Roku is best known for its streaming boxes, but the company is starting to leave a mark in the smart TV world as well: Roku and its hardware partners have sold around one million smart TVs to U.S. consumers since first entering the space in 2014, the company announced Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
This year, Roku aims to sell even more big screens: Roku’s hardware partners, including Haier, Hisense and TCL, plan to introduce close to 60 new Roku TV models in 2016. Part of the mix will be the first 4K TV sets powered by Roku’s smart TV operating system. TCL will be first to ship 4K Roku TVs this spring, and other manufacturers are expected to have their own ultra-high resolution Roku TVs later this year.
Roku’s strategy for the TV market has been to team up with lesser-known and lower-cost manufacturers to sell streaming-capable TVs with a familiar interface and all the necessary apps to consumers who don’t want to spend big bucks for high-end TV sets from companies like Samsung and LG. That strategy seems to be working for the company — Roku estimates that it now has an eight percent smart TV market share in the U.S.
In fact, at least one major brand recently carved in and quietly started selling Roku TVs as well: LG started selling Roku TVs at Best buy late last year. LG told CNet at the time that the cooperation was a “limited-time promotion,” but the move was nonetheless remarkable, because LG has spent big bucks on developing its own smart TV operating system.
It’s also symptomatic of a bigger shift within the industry: The ability to stream internet video services directly to a TV set was once a big part of the industry’s sales pitch. These days, almost every TV offers at least limited streaming functionality, and consumers can easily add more smarts to their TVs with inexpensive devices like Google’s $35 Chromecast or Roku’s own $50 entry-level streaming boxes.
That’s why TV manufacturers instead opt for image quality to compete. Part of that is 4K, but at this year’s CES, the next big thing will undoubtedly be high-dynamic range, or HDR. A number of services are expected to make their first announcements about HDR content, and manufacturers will show off HDR TV sets with higher contrast and color depth.
Roku doesn’t want to miss out on this trend either. The company announced its first HDR reference design for TV manufacturers Monday, which will allow companies like TCL to build Roku TVs with HDR support. However, don’t expect those TV sets to show up any time soon: Roku introduced its 4K reference design at last year’s CES, and actual 4K Roku TVs will only start selling in the coming months.