Roku Bows 4K+ Streaming Device, Rechargeable Voice Remote, Updates Operating System, Among Other Changes

Roku April 13 unveiled the all-new Roku Express 4K+ ($39.99), which offers 4K streaming and the Roku Voice Remote Pro ($29.99), which features a rechargeable battery, lost remote finder and voice controls for users looking to upgrade their streaming experience.

The Roku Express 4K is a Walmart exclusive in the United States and features a basic Roku remote for just $35. This model will also be available in Canada, Mexico and the U.K. in the coming weeks.

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The Express 4K+ features Roku OS 10, which introduces a variety of new features getting users to content faster, improving network and input configurations, offering new ways to customize the experience and performance enhancements.

“The new Roku Express 4K+ is a huge value in 4K streaming as 4K has become a benchmark in technology and entertainment,” Mark Ely, VP of retail product strategy at Roku, said in a statement. “The Roku Voice Remote Pro is delivering on major consumer pain points with rechargeability and the voice activated lost remote finder. We believe consumers are going to be impressed with the quality they can get from Roku at these price points.”

Roku also launched an updated Streambar Pro ($179.99), billing it as an evolution of the Roku Smart Soundbar. It features two-in-one 4K streaming and cinematic sound and includes a Roku Voice Remote with personal shortcut buttons and private listening, Roku headphones and the new Virtual Surround feature.

The subscription streaming video market co-founder (with Netflix) is also offering a 30-day free trial of AMC+ on FAST platform The Roku Channel through July 2. The service costs $8.99 monthly after the free trial.

Report: Samsung Tizen Smart TVs Top Global Streaming Operating Systems

In a streaming ecosystem, connecting consumers with over-the-top video platforms is just as important having as a high-speed internet connection.

New data from Strategy Analytics found that among commercial operating systems, Samsung Tizen Smart TVs led the market in 2020 with 162.4 million units in use, followed by LG WebOS with 93.4 million units.

Samsung is projected to have 184 million TizenOS units in the market by the end of 2021. By comparison, Roku OS and Amazon FireOS systems each ended 2020 with 81.9 million units in use, up 40% and 35%, respectively. Google Android TV’s market share increased 42%.

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Roku, which co-created the subscription streaming VOD market with Netflix, remains the top streaming platform in the U.S., with about 20% market share. Strategy Analytics said TizenOS tops nearly 90% of the 25 countries surveyed, followed by WebOS with 52% market share.

“Samsung’s smart TV market leadership gives it a great foundation to sustain Tizen as the leading TV streaming platform for years to come,” David Watkins, director of TV streaming platforms, said in a statement. “However, several other major players are also growing rapidly, and many have the resources to build a serious challenge to Samsung if the strategic ambition is there.”

Comcast Eyes Leasing X1 Software to TV Manufacturers

Comcast is reportedly considering licensing its X1 set-top box software to third-party consumer electronics manufacturers of smart televisions. Such a move would put Comcast in competition with Roku, Google and Amazon, among other tech companies affording TV manufacturers with Internet-connected consoles.

First reported by Protocol.com, citing sources familiar with the situation, Comcast engaged in initial discussions with TV manufacturers in January at the pre-COVID-19 CES confab in Las Vegas. The cable operator, which is slowly coming to grips with a changing pay-TV market — underscored by the departure of more than 815,000 subscribers through June 30 — currently licenses X1 technology for third-party set-tops to Cox Communications and soon Charter (Spectrum TV Plus).

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Roku cut its teeth licensing its operating system through set-top devices manufactured for the former 21st Century Fox’s NOW TV. Comcast now owns NOW TV through its acquisition of Sky from Fox. Samsung, one of the world’s largest TV manufacturers, has begun licensing its Tizen OS smart TV technology to third parties.

Comcast’s move into software licensing could be accelerating after attempts to sell NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service through the Roku platform fell through. Similarly to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Peacock is also not available on Amazon Fire TV.

Launched in 2012 as Comcast’s antidote to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, cloud-based X1 platform now represents about 60% of the cabler’s pay-TV subscriber base. Since then X1 offers subs access to Netflix and YouTube apps. Comcast also launched broadband-only Xfinity Flex online TV platform.