Roku unveiled a software update to its streaming operating system — OS 11.5 — that among other features will introduce a new section on its streaming devices called “The Buzz,” stocked with short-form promotional content from entertainment partners. The goal: to provide another entry point for users to discover and watch new TV shows and movies.
On the hardware side, the company is launching minimal changes to its product family for the 2022 holiday shopping season, with upgraded models of the Roku Express entry-level streaming player and its wireless subwoofer (now called Roku Wireless Bass).
In addition to The Buzz, Roku OS 11.5 will add two “significant updates” to its What to Watch feature — a Continue Watching option and an expanded platform-wide Save List — along with updates to Roku Voice, expanding Bluetooth private listening to be compatible with the Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar and Roku Streambar Pro; the addition of categories to the Live TV Channel Guide and a redesigned, “more visual” Roku Store section.
The company said OS 11.5 will roll out to Roku devices “in the coming months.”
“By personalizing the way our customers connect with the content they love and offering more ways to discover and access new content to stream or save for later, our users have more tools than ever to watch what they want to with ease,” said Preston Smalley, Roku’s VP of consumer product.
Coming to the Roku home screen, The Buzz will feature a regularly updated collection of posts with short-form content from streaming services and entertainment brands. Initial partners for The Buzz include AMC+, Apple TV+, BET+, Crackle, Hallmark Movies Now, IGN, Plex, Popcornflix, Showtime, Starz, The CW, Tubi, Vevo and Wondrium. The posts in The Buzz can be video clips, images, trailers, interviews and other content. Users can “like” the posts, save content to watch later, follow profiles in The Buzz to view future posts — or immediately start streaming the movie or show featured in the post.
The Continue Watching feature, located within What to Watch on the Roku home screen, provides a single location to resume content. The services available in Continue Watching will include Netflix, HBO Max, Netflix, Paramount+ and the Roku Channel, with more channels to be added.
Roku’s What to Watch also will now include a Save List for quick access to content users have previously bookmarked. Users will see a “Save” option on movie and TV show details pages, allowing them to save that title to their list with the press of a button. Previously, Roku has offered a Save List only for the Roku Channel and the Roku mobile app.
The OS 11.5 update also adds new visual on-screen tools for Roku Voice that will display channel options relevant to their voice search. From there, customers can say or select the option they want and start streaming.
Roku’s Live TV Channel Guide will add three new categories: Recents, Favorites and Subscribed, where users can save their favorite channels, return to recently watched content or navigate to their subscribed channels from the Roku Channel. It also will display a selection of Live TV genres including News, Sports, Movies, Entertainment, Kids, Crime, Music and En Espanol, each of which will be automatically populated based on the live TV content in the Roku Channel available in those categories. Also, Roku is adding a dedicated Live TV Channel “Guide” button on the mobile app remote, letting users see what is playing live on their TV with the tap of a button.
Roku announced two new products in their device lineup, the Roku Express player and Roku Wireless Bass, continuing Roku’s commitment to providing a best-in-class streaming experience at accessible price points.
The new Roku Express, at the same $30 price point as the prior model, now includes dual-band Wi-Fi (an upgrade from 802.11b/g/n single-band wireless) and additional storage (which the company says will result in faster channel start times). The streaming device, which does not support 4K Ultra HD, will be available for pre-order Monday on Roku.com, Walmart.com and Amazon.com for a list price of $29.99 and is expected to ship mid-October. General availability at Roku.com and at major retailers in the U.S. begins Oct. 16.
The newly designed Roku Wireless Bass subwoofer is designed to work with the Roku Streambar, Roku Wireless Speakers or Roku TV Wireless Soundbar. It is slated to ship Nov. 7, at a list price of $129.99; a Roku Streambar and Wireless Bass bundle will be priced at $250.