Roku Announces TV Brand Expansion, ‘Roku TV Ready’ Program

Roku announced that 15 TV brands will launch Roku TV models in Canada, Mexico, the United States and the United Kingdom in 2020.

Roku TV brands in 2020 include ATVIO, Element, Hisense, Hitachi, InFocus, JVC, Magnavox, onn., Philips, Polaroid, RCA, Sanyo, TCL and Westinghouse.

In Mexico, new partner brands InFocus, Polaroid and Walmart’s ATVIO will sell Roku TV models, while existing partner brand Westinghouse and others will extend their Roku TV offerings to Mexico. In addition, TCL and Hisense will expand their Roku TV offerings with new Roku TV models launching later in the year.

“2019 was a tremendous year for Roku TV, with more brands, retailers and consumers choosing the platform than ever before,” said Mustafa Ozgen, SVP and GM of account acquisition at Roku in a statement. “We believe that Roku TV represented more than one in three smart TVs sold in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2019, and the number of our licensees keeps growing.”

Roku also announced “Roku TV Ready,” a new program that allows consumer electronics companies to partner with Roku to help their products work seamlessly with Roku TV. The first partners under the program are TCL North America and Sound United, parent company to Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology and Classé, which will feature Roku TV Ready products for select brands later this year. Products under the program will display a Roku TV Ready badge on marketing materials to identify that they have been tested and certified to work with the Roku TV. Consumer electronics companies can add Roku TV Ready functionality at no additional cost to their products, according to Roku.

“Our goal is to make the TV experience incredibly simple, accessible and fun. Roku devices continue to delight millions of consumers for these reasons. And now with this new program we hope to make it super easy to setup and control soundbars and audio/video receivers using just a Roku TV remote,” said Mark Ely, VP, retail product strategy at Roku in a statement. “Meanwhile, consumer electronics brands benefit by offering their products in a more appealing way to our large and engaged audience of millions of active accounts.”

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“Denon is consistently at the forefront of technology trends and services. Our joining the Roku TV Ready program demonstrates a continued dedication to this ethos while offering consumers an incredible value, endless entertainment and new features delivered over time,” said Brendon Stead, SVP, product development at Sound United, parent company to Denon, in a statement. “The Roku TV Ready program enables Denon users to easily access Denon product features via the Roku TV Remote, among other features. In the name of seamless entertainment, this is a boon for watchers everywhere.”

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“TCL and Roku have been working to deliver incredible home entertainment innovation to consumers for many years and we’re thrilled to be extending our partnership to home audio compatibility,” said Chris Larson, SVP, TCL, in a statement. “As America’s fastest-growing TV brand, we’re focused on providing a first-class home theater experience and a big part of that is ensuring consumers know their TCL television will work well with other products throughout the home.”

AVOD: Quiet Before the Storm

With the crush of new subscription streaming VOD services entering 2020, new data from Ampere Analysis suggests ad-supported VOD, or AVOD, will build scale and roll-out internationally this year.

While AVOD use within the United States remains small compared to SVOD (from 3% to 6% of domestic online households), London-based Ampere believes this to be merely the quiet before the storm.

Major AVOD players include Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle, Vudu, IMDb TV, Roku TV, Xumo TV, Shout! Factory TV and pending Peacock from NBC Universal, which will also be SVOD, among others.

Specifically, the researcher contends AVOD is filling the niche previously targeted by SVOD: catalog content. As SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu migrate toward original programming, AVOD streams older content for free — with advertising.

The proportion of Netflix’s catalog more than five years old fell from 50% in Sept. 2015 to 35% in Sept. 2019 — a trend that will continue across the sector. In the meantime, the long tail of older content has been embraced by the new AVOD services, who average nearly 80% of their catalog at five years old by title count, and in the case of Crackle, 70% of content is over 10 years old.

This demand for older content not only provides a new market for licensing deep archive, but also offers a boon for distributors and sales agents, according to Ampere.

“AVOD is coming, and it’s going to make its mark on the VOD landscape rapidly,” Guy Bisson, director at Ampere, said in a statement. “Its impact will be felt not just by the entertainment industry, but by advertising too as the shift that has already disrupted the subscription television market sweeps across the free-to-air sector.”

As advertisers rush to support AVOD, online video advertising will inevitably increase as the platforms spread globally in 2020. To date this form of advertising has remained relatively small — even in developed markets like the U.S. where 27.2% of online ad spend is on video, and in Canada where it’s just 5.85%.

Ampere expects the rush to AVOD to be supercharged by some of the studio direct models such as Disney’s Hulu and Peacock, which are expected to adopt a hybrid SVOD/AVOD model.

“AVOD services are treading a well-trodden path with an early reliance on older content, but as their market position grows, we can expect them to begin acquiring newer content and even moving into original production activity as they battle for eyeballs in an increasingly crowded market,” Bisson said.

‘Kids & Family’ Service Added to the Roku Channel

Roku has announced the addition of the “Kids & Family” service on the Roku Channel, making it easy for children and parents to find a selection of tailored content available for free and through premium subscriptions, according to the company.

In addition, Roku is rolling out parental control features for the Roku Channel.

“We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options,” said Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement, Roku, in a statement. “’Kids & Family’ not only provides a selection of great free, ad-supported content from partners like pocket.watch with ‘Ryan’s World’ and Lionsgate’s ‘Leapfrog,’ but also highlights kids’ entertainment from existing premium subscriptions partners. Parents looking to find great programming for their children will enjoy the ease of going to the Roku Channel as their one place for kids and family entertainment.”

“Kids & Family” delivers a blend of shows, movies, and live linear and short-form video typically found across multiple free and paid kids’ channels and brings them together to watch in a single place, according to a Roku release. In addition to free, ad-supported options, users who have already subscribed to premium subscriptions through the Roku Channel will be able to view subscription-based kids and family content from partners such as Hopster, Noggin and Zoomoo, as well as children’s entertainment from services such as HBO and Starz, directly within “Kids & Family.”

Roku’s in-house editorial team created the “Kids & Family” experience to feature series, movies and entertainment for kids, according to the release. It offers 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes from more than 20 partners such as All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, among others. Programming includes  shows such as “Care Bears,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Leapfrog,” “Little Baby Bum,” “My Little Pony,” “Rev & Roll,” “Super Mario Brothers” and “Thomas & Friends”; live/linear streams featuring 24/7 kids programming available from Moonbug, pocket.watch and partners powered by Xumo, including Ameba, BatteryPop and KidGenius; five exclusive episodes of 22-minute series “Ryan’s World” by pocket.watch available directly on the Roku Channel for the first time; and premium subscriptions from Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, HBO, Hopster, Noggin, Starz or Up Faith and Family through the Roku Channel, featuring such series as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “PAW Patrol,” “Peppa Pig” and movies including Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand and Muppets Take Manhattan.

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“There is a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach with the quickly growing audience on the Roku Channel,” said Chris M. Williams, founder and CEO, pocket.watch, in a statement. “Family time is often enjoyed in the living room where Roku is so successful and we’re thrilled to bring our biggest creator partners, like Ryan from ‘Ryan’s World,’ into the heart of the home through the new pocket.watch channel.”

Kids & Family” will have approximately 40% of the advertising time of traditional linear television, according to Roku. Lego Systems has signed on as the first advertising sponsor of the service.

“Roku offers a custom experience that will help us connect with our kid and family audiences, who are consuming content on an evolving array of platforms,” said Michael McNally, senior director at the Lego Group, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be the exclusive sponsorship partner in ‘Kids & Family’ on The Roku Channel.”

PIN-based playback controls to the Roku Channel help parents set access limits to content based on ratings within the Roku Channel. If the setting is enabled, a PIN will be required in order to view videos on the Roku Channel based on the content rating.

“Kids & Family” is now available to users of the Roku Channel in the United States and will be available on Roku devices, via the Web and on select Samsung smart TVs that access the Roku Channel.

Roku Devices Link With Amazon Alexa

Roku streaming player and Roku TV owners in the United States can now control their Roku devices using Amazon’s Alexa, Roku announced.

“Consumers often have multiple voice ecosystems in their homes. By allowing our customers to choose Alexa, in addition to Roku voice search and controls, and other popular voice assistants; we are strengthening the value Roku offers as a neutral platform in home entertainment,” said Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS at Roku, in a statement. “Roku customers can get to the entertainment they love faster so they can enjoy more of it.”

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Roku users with Alexa-enabled devices — including Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Spot and Echo Plus — can pause a show, launch a streaming channel and search for entertainment with such voice commands as, “Alexa, find comedies on Roku,” “Alexa, pause Roku” or “Alexa, open Hulu on Roku,” according to the Roku press release. Additionally, Roku TV users can turn on the TV, change the volume, mute the TV, switch inputs and change channels if there is an OTA antenna connected by saying, “Alexa, turn on Roku” or “Alexa, turn up the volume on Roku.”

Customers can control Roku devices running Roku OS 8.1 or greater using their Alexa-enabled devices. To access the feature, customers open the Alexa app, go to settings and select “TV & Video,” enable the Roku skill, and link their account.

The Roku OS offers access to 500,000-plus movies and TV episodes via thousands of free or paid channels, according to the release.

Report: Sonos and Roku in Talks to Integrate Technologies

Sonos and Roku are in talks to integrate Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant software into Sonos’ audio devices, according to a report from CNET citing an anonymous source.

The integration would allow voice commands to be sent to a Roku device, such as a Roku TV, via a Sonos speaker.

“The discussions are in the early stages,” the source told CNET.

Sonos spokeswoman Laura Morarity told CNET the company “won’t speculate on any potential future partnerships,” adding “that said, Sonos is committed to bringing the voice services our customers want to our platform. So naturally, we’re open to having discussions with any number of companies crafting innovative voice experiences.”

Roku Bows New 4K Players, Operating System Upgrades

Roku Sept. 24 announced it is expanding its streaming player lineup with the addition of two new devices – the new Roku Premiere and the new Roku Premiere+.

The Roku Premiere ($39.99) and Roku Premiere+ ($49.99) offer streaming video in HD, 4K Ultra HD or 4K HDR. The company also announced updates to its ultimate streaming player, the Roku Ultra, which now features premium JBL headphones and priced at $99.99.

“Tens of millions of 4K TVs will be sold this year; we’re seeing more content, even live sports, produced and streamed in 4K and HDR as each week goes by,” Lloyd Klarke, director of product management at Roku, said in a statement.

Roku Premiere features immersive picture quality in HD, 4K Ultra HD and 4K HDR, quad-core processor and low-profile form factor. It includes an HDMI cable, remote control with channel shortcut buttons, Dolby and DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI.

Premiere+ includes everything the Premiere offers plus a voice-activated remote with TV power & volume buttons.

Roku Ultra features the lost remote finder that can be set to play popular tones, including ESPN “SportsCenter” or HBO’s “Game of Thrones” theme song beginning in November.

The Roku Premiere is available for pre-order at Roku.com and, along with the Roku Ultra, will be available at all major retailers beginning in early October. The Roku Premiere+ will be available exclusively at Walmart and Walmart.com in early October.

Separately, Roku announced a software update for Roku TVs that enables new features for compatibility with upcoming Roku TV Wireless Speakers; and Roku OS 9, a new software release with a variety of enhancements to give users new ways to search and control their entertainment experience.

Roku will soon enable the ability to use Google Assistant devices to control Roku streaming devices. In addition, premium music services Spotify and Pandora Premium support are coming to Roku devices.

“As we broaden the Roku ecosystem, we are in a unique position,” said Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS at Roku. “Our single operating system running across Roku TVs and Roku TV Wireless Speakers give us the ability to innovate how consumers experience audio and entertainment in their homes.”

Roku Introduces Roku TV Wireless Speakers

Streaming device pioneer Roku July 16 unveiled the Roku TV wireless speakers, the first speakers made exclusively for Roku TV.

The speakers are “meticulously engineered and calibrated to deliver powerful, premium audio to Roku TVs,” according to a Roku press release.

“Because Roku controls the software in both the speakers and TV, Roku is uniquely able to provide seamless wireless setup and connectivity, optimize sound for the picture and ensure audio video sync,” the release stated.

Roku TV users can pre-order from Roku.com through July 23 for an introductory price of $149.99. From July 24 through Oct. 15, it’s $179.99. Beginning Oct. 16, pricing is $199.99. The speaker bundle begins shipping to customers by late October. The bundle includes two Roku TV wireless speakers, a Roku TV voice remote, a Roku touch tabletop remote, two Power Cables and four AAA batteries.

“Picture quality, a tremendous selection of content, value, and ease of use make Roku TVs some of the most popular smart TVs on the market today,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood in a statement. “Adding great audio dramatically enhances the way people experience their favorite entertainment. With Roku TV wireless speakers, we’re able to offer our customers a simple and affordable way to further immerse themselves into the TV, movies and music they love, while providing them with a better whole home entertainment experience.”

The speakers can be wirelessly paired to Roku TVs via Roku Connect, according to the release. Once paired, users can listen to audio from any streaming channel on the Roku platform, live TV from an antenna, or other devices such as a cable set-top box through the speakers. The speakers support Bluetooth music streaming from mobile devices. The speakers also offer automatic volume leveling to lower the volume on loud scenes and boost the volume on quieter ones and dialog enhancement to improve the intelligibility of speech.

Roku TV wireless speakers work exclusively with Roku TVs, which accounted for one out of every four smart TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2018, according to the company.

Roku Celebrates 10 Years of TV Streaming with Free Content and Discounts

In celebration of 10 years of TV streaming, Roku May 14 announced it has unlocked free content for Roku customers and is offering discounts on select streaming players.

“The celebration falls just ahead of National Streaming Day on May 20, which encourages people to stream entertainment and recognizes the massive change in the TV industry,” according to a Roku press release. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Roku player, the first ever device to stream Netflix to the TV.”

“For 10 years, Roku has facilitated the massive shift in the way people watch TV and we’re extremely proud of the contribution we’re making to streaming entertainment,” said Matthew Anderson, chief marketing officer, Roku, in a statement. “We can think of no better way to thank our base of nearly 21 million avid streamers than to offer free hit entertainment in partnership with some of the biggest and best TV networks like Shotime, Fox, EPIX, Smithsonian Earth and more.”

Content from select channel partners is available for free in the Roku Channel through May 20, including premiere seasons of the Showtime series “Billions,” “Ray Donovan” and “The Affair”the first season of EPIX’s dark comedy “Get Shorty”; episodes of hits from Fox, such as “The Four: Battle for Stardom,”Beat Shazam” hosted by Jamie Foxx; and “Love Connection” hosted by Andy Cohen; as well as nature and wildlife documentaries from Smithsonian Earth.

Consumers can also save on several Roku streaming players in the United States. For a limited time, customers can get $10 off the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99) and the Roku Ultra ($99.99), as well as $15 off the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($69.99). The offers are available at major retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart.com, and at Roku.com through May 26.

“Roku pioneered streaming to the television with the launch of the Netflix player in 2008. Since then, the company has transformed how consumers enjoy TV, how content providers reach their TV audiences and how brands reach TV audiences,” read the release. “As of the end of the first quarter of 2018, Roku had nearly 21 million active accounts, and during that first quarter alone, Roku users streamed 5+ billion hours.”

Roku-Commissioned Study Finds OTT Ads More Effective

Video ads on the Roku OTT platform are 67 percent more effective per exposure at driving purchase intent than ads on broadcast and cable television, according to a study conducted by MAGNA, IPG Media Lab and Roku.

The study, “Under the Hood of Over-the-Top Measurement,” commissioned by Roku, tracked and measured ads from four brands — Applebee’s, H&M, McCormick and Truvia. The study used the Roku platform to identify households with exposure to linear TV and/or OTT ads. MAGNA surveyed a total of 4,621 consumers — both those exposed to the ads and an unexposed control group. The survey consisted of traditional brand metrics, such as ad recall, brand favorability and purchase intent.

The study also found that consumers consider brands that run video ads on the Roku platform to be twice as innovative as traditional linear TV alone. In addition, consumers found the ads to be more memorable than those on linear TV, due in part to fewer ads on OTT.

“It’s clear that OTT offers advertisers distinct advantages over traditional TV,” says Kara Manatt, SVP, intelligence, solutions and strategy, MAGNA Global. “Given that OTT needs fewer exposures to generate the impact that linear TV provides at higher exposure levels, brands can run campaigns on OTT that are both more efficient and effective.”

Other findings, according to the study: moving impressions to Roku from linear TV provides a 32 percent increase per exposure in perception that brand has a unique story to tell; Roku audience targeting spurs larger brand lift per exposure than linear television; and OTT ads require less exposure than linear TV.

“Consumers are shifting their TV time from linear to OTT, making it important for marketers to also shift their ad investments,” said Scott Rosenberg, Roku GM of platform business. “This study demonstrates that ads on Roku deliver not only incremental reach, but also higher ROI than linear TV ads.”

MAGNA is the centralized IPG Mediabrands resource that develops intelligence, investment and innovation strategies for agency teams and clients. Part of the Interpublic network, the IPG Media Lab identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape and how brands engage with their audiences.

FilmRise’s Ad-Supported Roku Channel Adds Classic Carsey-Werner TV Shows

FilmRise has launched several classic Carsey-Werner TV shows on its ad-supported Roku streaming channel, including the “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

The FilmRise channel ranks at No. 15 among top free channels on the platform, according to a release from the company. The channel generates more than 300 million monthly ad impressions and reaches nearly 20 million users who can watch movies and TV on demand for free, according to the release.

FilmRise will soon launch ad-supported channels on Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, Apple TV, and smart TVs such as Vizio, among other platforms, and is currently in development on iOS and Android for mobile viewing via worldwide apps.

Other Carsey-Werner sitcoms available on the Roku channel include “Cybill,” “Grace Under Fire” and “Grounded for Life.”

“FilmRise’s tremendous growth on Roku sheds light on the power of ad-supported free digital streaming,” said Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise. “By bringing our vast library of quality content to viewers who don’t wish to pay a transactional or subscription fee, we’ve unlocked the potential to reach new and diverse audiences who want to experience the best in film and TV — including timeless TV series and iconic movies.”