Roku Ups Audio Partner Adoption and International Expansion

Roku Dec. 29 announced new growth and international expansion to its “Roku TV Ready Certification” program. Designed to simplify the home theater, the Roku TV Ready program enables third party A/V and consumer electronics companies to enhance their audio products to support seamless setup, single remote operations, and easier access to home theater settings on screen when connected to a Roku TV.

New partners added in 2021 included Element, JVC, Pheanoo and Philips, with Polk Audio and Westinghouse joining in early 2022. Existing Roku TV Ready partners include Bose, Hisense, TCL North America and Sound United, parent company to Denon, Definitive Technology and Polk Audio. Additionally, the program was expanded internationally with partners launching in the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.

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For partners, the Roku TV Ready program includes an easy-to-implement software development kit (SDK) and test materials to fast-track integration. In addition to Roku TV Ready, Roku also offers a wireless soundbar reference design for companies looking to deliver high-performance home theater without running wires to the TV.

“Whether you are a soundbar manufacturer interested in providing your customers with a seamless home theater experience or would like to integrate Roku’s wireless audio technology, [we] make it easy for manufacturers to utilize [our] technology,” Mark Ely, VP of product strategy at Roku, said in a statement.

Parks: Headphones, Earphones See Sales Spike With Work-at-Home, Home Schooling and Entertainment

With more states advising shelter-in-place guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Parks Associates finds that 44% of U.S. broadband households own speakers, 37% own headphones bought separately from a phone or music player, and 33% own a separate set of earbuds.

While purchase intentions were flat prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, due in large part to the emergence of smart speakers, demand for headphones and earbuds is projected to see a spike with work-at-home and entertainment-in-place now the standard for many households.

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“Everyone in the household now needs their own headphones and earbuds for privacy during this time of shelter-in-place orders and work-at-home mandates,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement.

Nason contends people buying head/earphones are doing so expecting to integrate these standalone products with their smart speakers and other connected devices in the home. This trend was already underway with the gradual dissolution of the “home theater system” concept, according to Nason, with households now featuring a collection of varied audio products.

“Brands and devices that must work together to deliver a seamless user experience,” he said.

Soundbars are now a prominent standalone product category in the audio device landscape, with adoption at nearly 25% of domestic broadband households, according to Dallas-based Parks. It is the most likely audio device to be connected to the TV, so soundbars have not been as impacted by smart speakers and displays as other audio products. However, growth has remained flat. Adoption of more niche audio devices such as internet-connected audio visual receivers and multiroom music systems has remained low.

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“Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the traditional audio device category was at a crossroads,” Nason said. “Adoption and usage of devices such as wired/wireless speakers without voice assistants, audio/visual receivers, home theater systems, and multiroom music systems had waned.”

He said that while consumers are now buying electronics to accommodate work-at-home and home schooling needs, manufacturers need to maintain their emphasis on innovation, particularly the integration with voice assistants, so that their devices can have value beyond the initial stop-gap usage.

Parks notes device manufacturers and voice assistant providers alike have to better market and communicate the value that integrated voice control brings to audio devices.

“Increased integration of audio devices and use of high-resolution and 3D audio with the most-used CE video device, smart TVs, will also raise the profile of the audio category,” Nason said.

TuneIn Streaming ‘Coronavirus News’ Audio and Podcasts

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, TuneIn, a San Francisco-based streaming and on-demand audio service, is offering listeners the “Coronavirus News” channel with community updates via local radio stations searchable by state, as well as dedicated COVID-19 podcasts and live breaking news from top-rated national networks, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Talk, CNBC, and Bloomberg News, among others.

TuneIn streams more than 100,000 owned & operated and partner radio stations globally, in addition to more than 5.7 million podcasts, and is available across 200 platforms and connected devices.

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