You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Roku-Enabled TVs Will Soon ‘Listen’ to Programs You’re Watching to Suggest Streaming Content

Roku TVs will soon be able to detect what you’re watching on the tube, in order to steer you to internet-streaming content — but the feature is not as Orwellian as it may sound.

Roku-enabled TVs, thanks to a new operating-system update rolling out over the next few weeks, will be able to recognize the show or movie you’re watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna. Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu.

It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the “More Ways to Watch” feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted).

Meanwhile, such behavioral tracking is ubiquitous in the internet biz — and it’s perfectly kosher, as long as consumers’ data isn’t being used or shared without their consent. Note that in February, Vizio paid $2.2 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that it installed software on smart TVs to collect viewing data from some 11 million TVs without informing their customers or asking permission to do so.

For now, the “More Ways to Watch” feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy’s Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.

Roku declined to reveal what ACR technology it is using for the feature. Vendors in the space include Audible Magic, Digimarc, and Gracenote (now part of Nielsen).

Other feature enhancements that are part of the Roku OS version 7.6 update include:

  • Live TV pause on Roku TVs: When using the Live TV Pause feature on your Roku TV, you’ll now see thumbnail images displayed on the screen while pausing, rewinding, or fast forwarding. That’s supposed to make it easier to identify where you are in the movie or show to resume playing at the point you want to watch. In addition, Live TV Pause now supports closed captioning for the Roku TV “replay” feature to go back a few seconds to catch dialogue you may have missed.
  • Favorite channels list for Roku TV tuner: The favorites list will allow you to browse only selected tuner channels, instead of the entire lineup.
  • Custom input names for Roku TV: Users can now enter any name they want (up to 15 characters) for an input device (for example, “”).
  • Faster resume from standby for some Roku TV models: HD Roku TV models will now resume from standby mode a few seconds faster than before.

The Roku OS 7.6 update is available to Roku devices sold after May 2011, as the company has phased out support for older streaming players. The update is expected to be complete before June.

According to Roku, as of March 31, 2017, it had 14 million active user accounts. Roku’s search feature now spans more than 300 channel partners, up from 150 channels in January.

More Digital

  • Netflix and Amazon on Different Sides

    Netflix and Amazon on Different Sides Over Self Censorship in India

    Leading streaming video platforms have signed an agreement to self-regulate content in the booming Indian market. Signatories include Netflix, Hotstar, Sony Liv, Eros Now, Arre, Alt Balaji and Voot have signed an agreement to self-regulate content for the booming Indian market. But Amazon and Facebook are among those OTT companies which so far have not. [...]

  • A view of the SK Telecom

    Korean OTT Players, SK Telecom Join Forces to Compete Against Netflix

    South Korea’s three major broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS have joined forces with the country’s leading telecom firm, SK Telecom, to launch a new video streaming platform. The move is regarded as a defensive reaction against the growing influence of foreign competitors, lead by Netflix. The broadcasters already jointly own Pooq, with MBC and SBS [...]

  • Magic leap Is Hiring to Build

    Magic Leap Plans to Expand to Mobile AR

    Magic Leap is getting ready to embrace augmented reality (AR) on mobile devices. The company is currently looking to hire a senior software engineer for mobile AR, who will be tasked with “expanding Magic Leap’s platform to mobile devices,” according to a new job listing. A Magic Leap spokesperson declined to comment. Magic Leap released [...]

  • Microsoft

    Microsoft Hints at Mixed Reality Update for Mobile World Congress

    Microsoft may give us an update on its Mixed Reality ambitions at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month: The company sent out invites for a press conference Wednesday that list Alex Kipman, who leads its augmented and virtual reality efforts, among the speakers. Kipman will speak together with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and corporate vice [...]

  • Sinclair Enters Streaming Arena With Local

    Sinclair Enters Streaming Arena With Entertainment Bundle and Local Channels

    Sinclair Broadcast Group is diving into the increasingly crowded streaming platform arena with the launch today of Stirr, a free OTT entertainment bundle offering local news and general entertainment, sports and lifestyle channels. Sinclair aims to leverage the near-national reach of its sprawling station group with its strong local presence in markets across the country [...]

  • variety digital innovators

    Variety's Digital Innovators 2019: The Trailblazers Pushing Media Boundaries

    A decade ago, when the streaming-video revolution was in its infancy, the internet was more complementary than disruptive to Hollywood. Those days are gone. New platforms have risen up as Silicon Valley players have bulldozed onto the scene, and the media biz is rebuilding the ways it reaches audiences. With the inaugural Variety Digital Innovators [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content