An awful lot of companies have tried to figure out how to make consumers want to stream Internet video in the living room. One of the few to have succeeded is Roku, whose cheap little boxes offer easy access to 1,200 channels of content, from biggies such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO Go to stuff you never knew existed. The company has sold 8 million boxes, which have been used to watch 1.7 billion hours of video to date.
At this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, Roku’s big news is that it’s going to be possible to watch those 1,200 channels without even paying for and hooking up that cheap little box. It’s going to work with TV companies to build Roku TVs. Roku will design the entire interface, as well as the super-simple remote control; essentially, it’ll be as if a Roku box sprouted a gigantic screen.
(This is, by the way, Roku’s second pass at partnering up with TV builders: The first is the Roku Streaming Stick, a tiny doohickey designed to be bundled with TVs.)
The first two TV makers Roku is working with are two Chinese companies: TCL and Hisense. Considering their low profiles in the U.S, that doesn’t sound like a big whoop, but the two Chinese manufacturers are the third and fifth largest TV producers globally, according to Roku. And both see built-in Roku as a way to raise their profile in the U.S. market.
Anthony Wood, Roku’s founder and CEO, told me that TCL and Hisense are just the start. Designing Internet TV software and services and signing up content partners is such a major undertaking that he sees Roku TV as an appealing proposition for every TV producer except Samsung. “Our goal is to be the platform for TV, he says.”
These first two companies plan to ship Roku TVs in a variety of sizes from 32 inches to 55 inches this fall. Pricing will be announced later, but “we think that smart TV features should be in every TV for essentially the same price,” Wood told me. “I’m sure there will be some small premium at the beginning.”
Introducing Roku TV [Roku.com]