Altice USA Bows 4K Streaming Device for Broadband-Only Cable TV Subs

Borrowing a page from Roku, Altice USA has launched a new standalone 4K streaming device available to its broadband-only subscribers, dubbed “Optimum Stream” and “Suddenlink Stream,” respectively.

Powered by Android TV OS, the “Stream” device offers broadband-only subs access to a wide variety of video content, including thousands of apps and streaming services on Google Play and over 50 free live streaming channels.

The new streaming device is available for free to Optimum and Suddenlink broadband-only subs who select 1 Gig service or the highest broadband speed available in their service area. It is available to all other Optimum and Suddenlink broadband-only customers for $5 monthly surcharge.

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“As more consumers turn to streaming content for their entertainment needs, we are pleased to introduce Stream,” chief operating officer Hakim Boubazine said in a statement.

Subs will have direct access to preselected apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Discovery+. Other apps available to download on Google Play Store. Video can be streamed in 4K HDR and Dolby Vision depending on the user’s television. The Stream device offers voice search across live streaming TV and apps.

In addition to third-party SVOD platforms, Stream offers access to more than 50 free (ad-supported) live streaming channels, including live news from News 12, i24NEWS and Cheddar News, children’s entertainment from Kabillion, lifestyle entertainment from Bon Appetit, Wired and Reelz, among others.

NBCUniversal and Roku Partner for Tokyo Olympics Streaming

NBCUniversal and Roku July 20 announced a partnership to bring the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics to streamers on the Roku platform in the United States.

For the first time, Roku is creating direct access to NBCU’s 5,500 hours of streaming coverage of the Summer Games. Roku users will be able to access in-depth coverage of the Games via the NBC Sports or Peacock channels on Roku devices starting July 20 through August 8.

“As this is Peacock’s first Olympics, we saw a great opportunity to bring the games to life across the Roku platform,” Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships for direct-to-consumer at NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “This experience on Roku makes NBC Olympics content unmissable for streamers.”

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NBCUniversal previously announced that it will present 7,000 hours of coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer across its multiple platforms.

“Streaming has fundamentally changed the way we come together for news, sports and entertainment today and nothing combines these moments together better and on a bigger scale than the Olympics,” said Tedd Cittadine, VP of content partnerships at Roku.

Specifically, Roku users will be offered a dedicated left-side menu on the home screen starting on July 20. The experience will be available on supported devices. Ahead of the Games, a countdown clock will track the time remaining to the Opening Ceremony and users will have access to free Olympics-related content, as well as a quick informational video on how to watch the Games on their Roku devices.

Once the Games begin, the countdown clock will be replaced with a medal tracker. Users will be able to stream free daily highlights, get access to live shows, condensed replays and highlights for free through Peacock. Users can watch live events through NBC Sports.

Roku Adds Apple TV+ Button to Remote Control

In a subtle marketing move, Roku has released an updated remote control that features a button to connect directly with the Apple TV+ subscription streaming service. Though the partnership has been rumored for a few months, the June 30 image release by Roku of the updated remote confirms the scuttlebutt.

While neither company issued comments on the situation, the Apple streaming service — with a reported 40 million subscribers — finds itself significantly running behind SVOD frontrunners Netflix (with 208 million subs), Amazon Prime Video (150 million), Hulu (40 million) and Disney+ (103 million), despite launching a week ahead of the Disney-branded service.

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Wall Street analysts firm MoffettNathanson recently concluded from a proprietary survey that more than 60% Apple TV+ subs are on a promotional plan, with 30% saying they would not sign up for the $4.99 monthly service once the free trial period ended.

Despite a sluggish start with scant original programming, Apple has rebounded with several critically acclaimed programs, including “Ted Lasso,” “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson” and “Central Park,” among others.

“As always, we wonder what Apple TV+ does to stand out in an increasingly crowded field,” analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a note. “We see AppleTV+ as still sputtering versus [its] peers.”

Original Roku remote control

Roku, along with Netflix, co-launched the subscription streaming video market in 2008 with a branded Netflix media player. The SVOD pioneer eventually became one of the original default buttons in 2011 on the Roku remote along with Amazon Instant Video, Blockbuster On Demand in 2013, and M-Go — the latter rebranded as FandangoNow in 2016. Other platforms joining the remote and paying Roku a reported $1 per consumer sign-up included YouTube, Hulu and Showtime.

“For members who want even more convenience when instantly watching TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix, the answer is about to be right in their hands,” former Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said at the time, when Netflix had 16 million subs in North America and no international service.

Roku Launching Original Talk Show With Demi Lovato

Roku June 29 announced that the original series “The Demi Lovato Show” will premiere on The Roku Channel on July 30. Lovato promises a lineup of celebrity guests and experts addressing some of today’s edgiest social topics. The new show will be the first of more than a dozen former Quibi shows rebranded “Roku Originals” to premiere on the ad-supported The Roku Channel.

Each 10-minute episode features a special guest and covers topics including activism, feminism, gender identity, sex and body positivity, mental health, and even interplanetary visitors. Episode guests will be announced at a later date. ​​

“Some conversations can be difficult, but I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking candidly about things,” Lovato said in a statement.

Lovato said the show aims to create a space that normalizes living “your own truth,” where guests can speak, engage and learn together.

“There’s something therapeutic about having raw discussions that people can relate to and with,” Lovato said.

Brian Tannenbaum, head of original alternative programming at Roku, said the times call for a talk show like Lovato’s.

“There’s never been a better time to have honest, frank discussions in a fun, approachable and unfiltered format,” he said.

Roku recently announced performance updates relating to Roku Originals in the first two weeks following its May launch. The Roku Channel has seen record growth this year, reaching U.S. households with an estimated 70 million people in Q1 2021. Roku expects to release an additional 45 Roku Originals this year to complement The Roku Channel’s expansive library of 40,000+ free movies and television programs and 190+ live linear channels already offered to viewers.

Launched in 2017, The Roku Channel licenses and distributes content from more than 175 partners. In addition to Roku devices, The Roku Channel is available on Web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs and can be accessed internationally in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Comcast Seeking to Jumpstart Peacock Sub Growth via Connected TVs

Comcast reportedly is working with Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Walmart to market a line of connected televisions featuring the Peacock app, among others.

The media giant reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups through the first quarter (ended March 31). While the tally may seem large considering the AVOD/SVOD platform’s launch just nine months prior, the number of actual paying subs (10 million, according to The Walt Street Journal) suggests the service needs some help.

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Peacock will figure prominently next month during the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics, streaming some marquee events live — to paid subscribers.

Increasing that paid base — at a time when rivals Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ have a combined 450+ million subs — has become a major goal for Comcast senior management.

Speaking May 26 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, CFO Michael Cavanagh shed further light on the metrics, saying about one-third (or 13.8 million) of sign-ups use Peacock on a monthly basis. How many of them are paying a subscription remains unclear.

“We certainly would like to see more signups, more hours used,” Cavanagh said, adding the platform remains a work-in-progress convincing users to stream live sports (Premier League soccer), original sitcoms such as “Rutherford Falls,” “The Office” re-runs and live news going forward.

Earlier this month, NBCUniversal and Samsung announced that Peacock would available on Samsung Smart TVs. The partnership is noticeable since Samsung markets its own branded ad-supported streaming video platform.

“Samsung is a powerful platform and we are excited to bring Peacock to millions of their dedicated streamers across the country,” said Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships for Peacock.

Indeed, Comcast wants to use Peacock as lure to entice CE manufacturers to incorporate the platform as a conduit for third-party apps linked to the internet, similar to what Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast market.

The Journal reports that under the project name “PlatCo,” the cable TV giant is working to develop a line of connected TVs manufactured by China’s Hisense and sold in Walmart stores under the chain’s onn brand. Walmart also works with Roku for onn-branded soundbars.

“We’re learning as we go [on Peacock],” Cavanagh said. “And that is shaping our plans as we go forward. We’ve brought content production back. Working on getting Peacock on other platforms.”

Roku: Launch of Originals Drives Record Two-Week Streaming Period for The Roku Channel

Roku June 18 provided an update on the recent launch of its branded original content. In late May, Roku added 30 original series to The Roku Channel starring Kevin Hart, Anna Kendrick and Jennifer Lopez, among others, following the purchase of content from defunct streaming service Quibi. The debut helped build significant growth of The Roku Channel, and ad-supported VOD platform, which reached an estimated 70 million people in the U.S. as of the first quarter, ended March 31.

In the two weeks following the launch of Roku Originals, May 20 to June 3, a record number of unique accounts streamed The Roku Channel. Furthermore, the Top 10 most-watched programs on the channel were all branded originals in this two-week period.

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“We always believed Roku Originals would perform exceptionally well as free, ad -supported entertainment on The Roku Channel,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming, said in a statement. “The first two weeks have surpassed our expectations … and provided a further demonstration of The Roku Channel flywheel driving record engagement that’s appealing to advertisers seeking to reach the streaming audience.”

In addition to driving broader discovery of The Roku Channel, Roku Originals saw deep engagement. In the first two weeks, more than one in three users streamed a an original series — with users streaming more than nine episodes on average.

Roku expects to release an additional 45 originals this year to complement the channel’s library of 40,000+ free movies and television programs and 190+ live linear channels already offered to viewers.

Recently, Roku ordered a second season of the Roku Original series “Die Hart,” after the action-comedy series starring Kevin Hart had the largest opening weekend in the history of The Roku Channel. In May, Roku inked a deal with Saban Films to bring the studio’s feature films directly to The Roku Channel after theatrical release — a first-of-its-kind agreement for Roku. In March, Roku acquired “This Old House,” which included the two top-rated home improvement programs in the U.S and a television production studio.

The Roku Channel licenses and distributes content from more than 175 partners and is the home of free and premium entertainment on the Roku platform. In addition to Roku devices, The Roku Channel is available on Web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs and can be accessed internationally in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

TCL Roku TV Models Coming to U.K.

TCL Electronics and Roku are launching TCL Roku TV models in the United Kingdom.

TCL Roku TV models will be available in both HD and 4K UHD resolution, in sizes ranging from 32 inches to 65 inches.

The TVs will be available online at Currys.co.uk. Those who register interest now will get a discount voucher code.

Both the 4K UHD (RP620K) and HD (RS520K) models support HDR Pro which uses Dynamic Color Enhancement through 3D LUT technology to deliver vivid colors for all signal types, including HDR10, HLG and SDR. Both series also feature Freeview Play and an integrated Freeview tuner.

For movie and streaming content, the RP620K series supports Dolby Vision.

“I am thrilled to be launching TCL Roku TVs in the U.K.,” Bernie Chen, TCL’s U.K. country manager, said in a statement. “The combination of our affordable premium TVs with Roku’s operating system offers consumers excellent picture quality and ease of use, alongside a huge variety of features and streaming channels. I am confident that this partnership will help us maintain our strong U.K. sales growth and increase our market share.”

TCL Roku TV models come with Roku’s operating system built-in, offering consumers automatic updates, a customizable home screen, thousands of free and paid streaming channels and advanced features such as search across top channels with results ranked by price, and private listening through the free Roku mobile app. Viewers can control TCL Roku TV models by using voice with Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices. With Apple AirPlay 2, they can stream, control and share content directly from iPhone, iPad or Mac. TCL Roku TV models also support HomeKit, which allows users to control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on their Apple devices.

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“TCL was one of the first TV brands to embrace the Roku OS and together we have created numerous award-winning TVs with great picture quality and ease of use,” said Arthur van Rest, VP, international, at Roku, in a statement. “TCL Roku TV models are powered by the Roku OS offering consumers simplicity, choice and incredible value. The Roku OS offers consumers an always current smart TV experience, it is not without reason that the Roku OS is the No. 1 selling smart TV OS in the U.S. and Canada.”

Popular U.K. streaming services available on TCL Roku TVs include Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, AppleTV+, NOW, BT Sport, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5. TCL Roku TVs also carry The Roku Channel, offering more than 25,000 free movies and TV episodes to British consumers. This includes the recently launched Roku Originals.

Roku Renews First Original Series ‘Die Hart’

Roku June 8 announced that Kevin Hart’s comedy action series “Die Hart” will return to the Roku Channel for a second season titled “Die Harter.” The series is one of several shows Roku acquired from the shuttered Quibi streaming service. The second season, however, marks Roku’s first greenlight of an original new season from Hart’s production company Laugh Out Loud.

Following the series premiere on May 20, Roku reported “Die Hart” had a “spectacular” weekend debut, with a record number of households streaming the series. The first season also starred John Travolta.

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“[The show] exploded out of the gate and has quickly become one of the most watched Roku Originals,” Colin Davis, head of original scripted programming, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to bring an equally hilarious, action-packed second season to the record number of viewers who have watched in recent days.”

“Die Harter” will be produced by LOL Studios’ in-house production division. In addition to returning to his starring role, Hart will also executive produce the second season; Laugh Out Loud CEO and Hart’s longtime business partner Jeff Clanagan will serve as producer on the project. Tripper Clancy, Candice Wilson, Bryan Smiley, and Thai Randolph also serve as executive producers. Eric Appel will return to direct the second season. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.

“The return of ‘Die Hart’ marks a pivotal moment in the continued growth and expansion of LOL Studios,” Clanagan said in a statement. “We’re excited for the opportunity to team up with Roku and be the first Roku Original to get a second season.”

The Roku Channel has seen record growth in 2021, reaching U.S. households with an estimated 70 million people in the first quarter (ended March 31). Launched in 2017, the Roku Channel is the home of free and premium entertainment on the Roku platform. It features a diverse lineup of more than 40,000 free movies and programs and 190+ free live linear television channels. The channel licenses and distributes content from more than 175 partners.

In addition to Roku devices, the Roku Channel is available on Web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs and can be accessed in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

CFO: Roku Original Content Spending to Grow

Roku is releasing rebranded Quibi content, launched an original TV series, inked a  Pay 1 rights deal with Saban Films, and is bowing a weekly content recommendation show. Those are the first steps in a strategic move to increase content on The Roku Channel commensurate with audience scale and advertiser response, CFO Steve Louden told an analyst event.

Roku CEO Steve Louden

Speaking June 7 on the virtual Evercore ISI Inaugural TMT Conference, Louden said the growth trajectory and the average monthly user count has increased to the point that the flexibility to spend more and access content differently is there compared to the past when Roku didn’t have the scale and the budget to do it.

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“The backbone will still be general content licensing and revenue sharing,” Louden said. “But we have an opportunity now that we have more data, more scale to also improve the cost structure of things in certain cases.”

Louden said the dollars invested in content will grow because the Roku Channel doubled year-over-year in audience in 2020, and has grown twice as fast as the overall Roku operating platform.

“We haven’t given specific guidance on how that compares to the other buckets of [operating expenditures], but we’re very bullish on the Roku Channel,” he said. “Remember, the channel is a great place to aggregate a lot of content, because we are the platform owner, we have a first party relationship with consumers.”

Louden contends that Roku’s data set and recommendation algorithms could be finely tuned to structurally assist with the channel’s ability to monetize.

“Since we know who’s watching … we have an advantage over a standalone AVOD which doesn’t know who’s watching,” he said. “We can have premium targeted ads where [standalone AVOD] can’t be as effective as we can. So there’s a great flywheel there for the Roku channel: More content, more engagement, that drives more ad inventory … and allows us to grow the Roku Channel more.”

Walmart Bows Branded Streaming Media Devices

Walmart has begun marketing a pair of streaming media set-top devices that connect the television to the Internet. The world’s largest retailer launched the “Onn” brand several years ago as an in-house CE label whose OEM manufacturers span the industry.

The Onn Android TV UHD Streaming Device retails for $29.88, which is less than the $34.99 Roku Express 4K unit marketed exclusively by Walmart. The chain is also selling an Onn FHD Streaming Stick for $24.88.

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In 2019, Walmart and Roku announced a partnership to distribute an Onn Roku-branded sound bar and wireless subwoofer — manufactured by Roku. Walmart was one of the first retailers to offer Roku devices linking TVs to the Web more than 10 years ago.

Roku, together with Netflix, helped launch the subscription streaming VOD market in 2008 with a Netflix-branded streaming media device.