Roku Moving Into High-End Television Market With Pro Series Models

Roku is expanding its lineup of branded HD televisions to include more expensive units featuring 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch screen sizes priced at upwards of $1,500 — 50% higher than the company’s most-expensive ($999) TV units available today.

The new Roku Pro Series TVs will include 4K QLED display, Mini-LED, local dimming, enhanced audio technology for a wide cinematic sound, and a new modern thinner design that rests flat against the wall. Roku is also expanding its line of less-expensive televisions featuring AI-generated features, including automatic picture quality.

The new televisions — available in the spring and aimed at the market currently dominated by Samsung, LG and Sony — will be showcased by San Jose, Calif.-based Roku next week at the annual CES trade show in Las Vegas.

“As we hit 10 years of the Roku TV program, we believe this new line of TVs will set a new standard for an elevated streaming experience,” Chris Larson, VP, retail strategy, Roku, said in a statement.

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In 2023, Roku rolled out its first branded TVs designed, made, and sold by the company. In the most recent fiscal period, Roku generated $125.2 million in device revenue, which includes streaming devices, up 33% from the previous-year period. The device segment reported an operating loss of $9.4 million, down 37% from an operating loss of $14.9 million in the previous-year period.

IHS: China’s TCL Brand Tops North American TV Market

With just about everything made in China, it’s little surprise a Chinese television manufacturer has unseated South Korea’s Samsung for top unit sales in North America.

With China and the United States embroiled in a trade dispute, the rush to import Chinese TVs ahead of proposed tariffs is at a fevered pitch.

China’s TCL unit shipments climbed to 26.2% in the first quarter (ended March 31), up from 16% during the previous-year period, according to new data from IHS Markit.

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Perennial market leader Samsung saw shipments drop to 21.8% from 28%. No. 3 Vizio shipments nearly reached 14%, according to the data first reported by Advanced-Television.

TCL, which markets TVs featuring the Roku operating system, helped drive North American unit shipments up 30% to a record 9.3 million units.

Samsung still dominates the market in revenue (36.9%) due to its larger screens across its product line and higher price points.

“As uncertainty mounts around a possible tariff-driven rise in costs, these brands have been bolstering shipments to protect against any potential disruption,” Paul Gagnon, research executive director at IHS Markit, said in a statement. “Given that margins for TVs are relatively low compared to other consumer-electronics categories, any tariff increase would have a major impact on sales.”


NPD: Size Matters on New TV Purchases

The NPD Group June 18 reported that consumers looking to upgrade their television are focusing on larger screen size, in addition to enhanced picture quality.

Of consumers who purchased a 4K/UHD replacement television, 45% wanted a larger screen, 39% sought better picture quality, and 24% purchased because pricing became more affordable.

Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD cited the data on a survey of 5,300 U.S. consumers, aged 18+ between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8.

The number of consumers that reported replacing an existing TV with a 4K/UHD TV grew from 23% in November 2017, to 28% in February. Desire for a high-quality TV in the living room has been a primary factor in the increase in demand for 4K/UHD, as nearly 62% of 4K/UHD replacement TVs purchased were installed in the living room.

“Approximately 90% of the installed base of TVs in the U.S. is not yet 4K/UHD, meaning there is tremendous opportunity to accelerate the replacement cycle with updated, quality TVs,” Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor at NPD, said in a statement.

Through February, TV sales of 55-inch and larger screens have grown by 8%, now representing 33% of U.S. unit sales volume. Many of these big screen purchases are being made to replace smaller screens in the home – most notably in the living room.

According to NPD, the average size of a replacement TV intended for the living room was 52 inches. For all other household rooms, the average replacement TV screen size is 43 inches.

“While the number of installed TVs per U.S. household has shrunk slightly in recent years, consumers are continuing to spend on the primary TV in their home, upgrading it to the biggest screen and the best picture they can afford,” said Baker. “Despite the fact that content viewership is splintering among devices, it’s important to note that demand for a great TV to occupy a prominent position in home is not diminishing.”

Panasonic Bows New Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Players

Panasonic has unveiled four new Ultra HD Blu-ray players offering support for Dolby Vision and/or HDR10+, the royalty-free metadata high dynamic range platform co-created by Samsung, Fox and Panasonic.

The players – revealed at a Los Angeles press conference prior to CES 2018 – include the latest generation HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processors (developed at Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory) and voice control technology through Amazon Alexa and Google Assist AI.

Models DP-UB320, DP-UB330, DP-UB420 and DP-UB820 feature Ultra HD Premium certification through the Ultra HD Alliance specifications.

The HCX processor reportedly reproduces Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K streamed video images with optimal brightness. The players can also convert full HD to 4K resolution.

The HDR10+ supported UB820 and UB420 models add dynamic metadata technology to the basic HDR10 for claimed superior color, tone mapping and highlights on a scene-by-scene basis.

For HDTVs without HDR, players include standard dynamic range conversion, which claims to reproduce video images with superior brightness than Blu-ray Disc.

The new UHD Blu-ray players are slated to begin shipping in the spring. Prices haven’t been disclosed.

Chinese TV Maker Hisense Selects Amazon Alexa

Following an industry trend linking voice-activated technology with consumer electronics, Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Amazon Jan. 3 announced the ecommerce behemoth’s voice-control system Alexa will be available for the first time on select models of Hisense 4K Smart TVs – including a 100-inch UHD Laser TV.

Hisense’s Smart TVs include apps from Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, among others. In addition, Alexa-enabled Hisense 4K Smart TVs will offer a wide variety of voice features to help users control certain primary functions, including voice commands, changing inputs and controlling volume.

Alexa also connects to music services like iHeartRadio and Pandora, in addition to myriad skills enabling users to shop for groceries, gifts and ordering take-out. Alexa also enables users to connect to other smart home products, including lights, air conditioner, heater and other connected devices.

“While content providers and other TV manufacturers tend to focus on quantity of content, Hisense recognizes that the future is all about simplicity, making it easy for consumers to find and watch their favorite content, play music, control their smart home and more,” Mark Viken, VP of marketing, said in a statement.

Notably, Hisense entered the U.S. market manufacturing branded Roku TVs, while opting not to use the streaming media device pioneer’s new voice-activated technology. Indeed, Hisense has a history of incorporating Alexa in smart home products.

“[Hisense is] bringing Alexa directly to customers’ living rooms,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP, Amazon Alexa. “This means customers can do things like turn the volume up, control their smart home, get a movie recommendation or even order dinner on select models – with just their voice.”