Roku Bows Streaming Media Devices in Germany

Germany has a new government … and Roku streaming video consumer technology. The day after Germans narrowly elected a new political party to replace longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, Roku launched its line-up of streaming devices, including the Roku Express, Roku Express 4K, Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Roku Streambar.

The Express, Express 4K and Streambar are available starting tomorrow (Sept. 28) from MediaMarkt, Saturn, Amazon, Expert, Euronics and Otto.de. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K will be available from the same retail partners in October.

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At launch consumers will be able to watch entertainment from a wide selection of local and global services, including:

  • Movies & TV: ARD Mediathek, ZDF, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Apple TV, STARZPLAY, Sky Ticket, TVNOW (soon RTL+), KiKA, Netzkino, ProSieben, Sat.1, Kabel Eins, Pluto TV, Rakuten TV, watch4.com and more.
  • News: Tagesschau, Bild TV, TRT World, Deutsche Welle, Bloomberg and more.
  • Sports: Sky Ticket, TVNOW (soon RTL+), DAZN, Motorvision.TV, SPORTTOTAL, The Tennis Channel etc.
  • Music: Spotify, VEVO, Berliner Philharmoniker and more.

 

Notably missing from the presser: The Roku Channel.

“We are excited to launch our award-winning streaming players and platform in Germany, with a great selection of entertainment to watch for German consumers,” Bart Bomers, VP EMEA at Roku, said in a statement.

New data from Digital TV Research projects that Germany will surpass U.K. in SVOD subscriptions in 2026, with 52 million to 51 million subs.

Roku, together with Netflix, co-launched the subscription streaming video market in 2008. Based in Los Gatos, Calif., Roku leads the streaming device market, along with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. The company’s success recently spurred Comcast to launch its own line of Xfinity-branded streaming devices.

Report: Smart TVs Account For 50% of TVs Overall; Found in 70% of TV Homes

New data from Hub Entertainment Research shows that smart TVs are now in a large majority of TV homes, and account for over half of all TV sets.

The findings underscore the fact that in the streaming video ecosystem, how consumers access content is changing.

Ownership of a smart TV set is at 70% of TV households this year, a notable milestone in their adoption. Overall, 52% of all TV sets are now reported to be smart TVs, up from 45% in 2020. This indicates accelerated replacement of older, non-smart TVs with smart TVs. Homes with kids or younger adults are more likely to own smart TV sets. Greater proportions of smart TV ownership are found in homes with children under age 18 (59% of all sets are smart TVs), or in homes where the oldest person is under age 35 (61%).

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These findings are from Hub’s “Connected Home 2021” report, based on a survey conducted among 5,000 U.S. consumers. Interviews were conducted in February and March 2021 and covers consumer ownership of many types of media-related technologies.

The Hub study also revealed increasing ownership of TV sets with built-in operating systems from Roku or Fire TV — more than two in five TV households now have one of these sets. More than half (57%) of TV homes now say they have a Roku/Fire TV streaming device or a Roku/Fire TV set — a large increase over our year-ago measure (51%).
Households using televisions streaming content from the internet rose to 77% of all homes from 74% a year ago. Overall, 56% of all homes stream video using a smart TV at least once a month — up from 48% in 2020. In 2019, 42% of consumers planning to buy a new TV set said they would shop for it and buy it in a store; while 27% planned an online purchase.

During the pandemic, the numbers reversed: Only 29% said they planned to buy at a retail store, while 43% planned to buy online.

“The wider adoption of smart TVs and replacement of non-smart TVs turns up the pressure on connected devices like streaming boxes, streaming sticks, and video game consoles,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “This ‘eliminating of the middleman’ will have a direct impact on how future revenue is split on advanced TV businesses like streaming, interactive shopping, and addressable advertising.”

The Roku Channel, Amazon Fire TV Partner, Consolidating Streaming Video Influence

The Roku Channel and Amazon Fire TV have inked a distribution partnership affording the former’s 100,000 ad-supported content titles and 115+ live TV channels onto the Fire TV platform. This includes Fire TV smart TVs, soundbars and streaming devices with Alexa voice commands, according to a blog post.

On the surface, the partnership would seem to make little sense considering the competitive business models. The Roku Channel, which launched in 2017, has about 43 million registered users. Combined with Fire TV’s 40 million active users, the two platforms represent gateways to 70% of the domestic streaming media device market, according to Comscore.

“We’re building on our commitment to make The Roku Channel even more accessible by expanding onto [third-party] streaming devices,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement at Roku, said of the Fire TV deal in a statement.

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The Roku Channel typically operates revenue-sharing agreements with content holders. The Roku platform, which generated 69% of Roku revenue in the most-recent fiscal period, affords users access to third-party SVOD services such as Netflix and Disney+. Roku is likely splitting ad-revenue with Amazon in order to put The Roku Channel onto Fire TV, according to observers.

At the same time, Fire TV does not allow access to its third-party SVOD services directly via Roku, despite the fact Amazon’s Prime Channels platform (featuring third-party SVOD services) is available on Roku.

This means that Roku users wanting to stream services such as Showtime OTT, Starz, Epix or HBO on their Fire TV, can do so only by subscribing to those services directly through the Roku platform.

It’s a similar situation HBO Max finds itself in. WarnerMedia’s high-profile SVOD platform is not available on Roku or Fire TV. NBCUniversal’s Peacock just inked a deal with Roku, which should significantly enhance its access to OTT video consumers.

“An expanding and increasingly engaged audience makes The Roku Channel a more attractive place for content owners to share their series and films,” wrote Adam Levy with The Motely Fool. “More content makes it more attractive to viewers, creating a virtuous cycle for Roku.”

Roku Offering Free 90-Day Access to Apple TV+; Introduces New Ultra Media Player, Branded Sound Bar, Operating System

Roku Sept. 28 announced it would give customers who purchase and activate a Roku device between Oct. 23, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, three months of free access to Apple TV+, the SVOD platform launched last November. The offer is available to new Apple TV+ subscribers only and must be redeemed by Feb. 2, 2021. Apple TV+ costs $4.99/month after free trial. Plan automatically renews until canceled.

Roku is also offering 30-day free trials to Showtime, Starz+ and Epix via The Roku Channel through Oct. 4, 2020 with the purchase and activation of an eligible Roku device.

The subscription streaming video-on-demand co-founder (with Netflix) unveiled its new streaming lineup for the U.S. to include a redesigned Roku Ultra ($99.99) media player, in addition to the Roku Streambar ($129.99). Roku also announced a new OS 9.4 operating system. The news sent Roku’s stock up 1.6% in early-morning trading.

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“We are focused on delivering a variety of innovative, top-performing products at an incredible value to our customers so they can get to the content they care about quickly,” Mark Ely, VP of retail product strategy, said in a statement.

The Roku Ultra features upwards 50% more range and Bluetooth support with Dolby Vision picture quality and Dolby Atmos sound when paired with compatible devices. The device also comes with voice remote featuring TV power and volume controls, personal shortcut buttons, and headphones for private listening, a lost remote finder and HDMI cable. The Roku Ultra can also be controlled by speaking to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices.

Later this year, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit capabilities are expected to begin roll out on select 4K Roku devices. With Apple AirPlay 2, users can stream videos and music to the big screen, and with HomeKit, they can control their Roku device using the Home app and Siri.

Additional features include access to music streaming services Spotify Connect and three-month free trial of Pandora Premium with purchases a Roku device through Nov. 6 and redeemed by Nov. 8, 2020.

Report: Streaming Media Devices Top 1.1 Billion

The rise of over-the-top video distribution, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, has pushed the global number of streaming video devices (including connected TVs) in homes past 1.1 billion, according to new data from Strategy Analytics. The finding from 27 countries underscores the role of television manufacturers in OTT video distribution in homes.

Samsung tops the market with 14% of devices in use, followed by Sony (12%), LG (8%), Hisense (5%), TCL (5%) and Amazon Fire TV (5%). It follows then that Samsung’s proprietary operating system (Tizen) accounts for 11% of deployed devices, followed by WebOS (7%), PlayStation (7%), Roku OS (5%, Amazon Fire OS (5%), Android TV (4%) and Xbox (4%).

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The research highlights the fact that streaming video is increasingly viewed on TV screens rather than mobile devices, particularly during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and connected TVs have become a leading platform in video streaming.

“Over-the-top TV and video streaming to the TV is a complex and evolving landscape compared to mobile devices, where only two platforms dominate,” David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement.

David Mercer, VP of media and intelligent home at Strategy Analytics, said that as pay-TV declines, so too will traditional television and video platforms. TV streaming, Mercer says, represents the future of television and video.

“Over the next decade or so we expect Internet streaming to dominate consumption of television and video content across much of the world,” he said. “This research reflects the early stages in the evolution of the platforms which will come to dominate this ecosystem for many years to come.”

Netflix Dropping Support for Older Roku Players

Netflix and Roku in 2008 created the subscription streaming video market with the launch of a branded “Netflix” player made in China by Roku.

Eleven years later Netflix is reportedly dropping support for some original Roku devices due to technology advances that render the players nearly obsolete.

Cord Cutters News reports that Roku devices unable to accommodate Netflix’s autoplay function would most-likely be affected. Devices include:

  • Roku DVP (N1000)
  • Roku SD (N1050)
  • Roku HD (N1100)
  • Roku HD-XR (N1101)
  • Roku HD (2000C)
  • Roku XD (2050X, 2050N)
  • Roku XD (2100X ,2100N)
  • Roku LT (2400X)
  • Roku 2 HD (3000X)
  • Roku 2 XD (3050X)
  • Roku 2XS (3100X)
  • Roku LT (2450X)
  • Roku HD (2500X)
  • Roku Streaming Stick (3400X, 3420X)

Netflix isn’t alone shunning old-school technology.

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Roku itself in 2015 began dropping support for some of its classic devices manufactured between 2008 and 2011.

“We have made the difficult decision to no longer launch new streaming channels, update existing channels, push firmware updates, or develop the Roku mobile app for classic players,” the company said in a statement at the time.

Last year, Disney-owned Hulu sent out emails to select subscribers informing them about no longer supporting older Roku devices.

“In 2017 we turned Hulu into a personalized TV experience like no other. Among other things, our app went through a complete design overhaul and we launched Hulu with Live TV. In order to do that, we had to let some devices go.”

Hulu now supports the following Roku devices:

  • Roku Ultra
  • Roku Premiere and Premiere+
  • Roku Express and Express+
  • Roku 3 and 4
  • Roku 2 (model 4210)
  • Roku Streaming Stick (model 3500 or later)
  • Roku TV

 

Roku Partners with Walmart for New Soundbar Distribution

Roku and Walmart Oct. 7 announced a partnership that enables the streaming media device pioneer to distribute its new soundbar and wireless subwoofer throughout the world’s largest retailer.

The onn Roku Smart Soundbar and wireless subwoofer will be exclusive to Walmart and Walmart.com for $129 each.

Walmart was one of the first retailers to offer Roku devices linking TVs to the Internet more than 10 years ago.

“We know our customers shop with us for quality products at an affordable price,” Ryan Peterson, VP of consumer electronics for Walmart, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be working with Roku to deliver a new category of audio and streaming products in time for the holiday season that are easy to use and come at an incredible value.”

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Featuring HD, 4K UHD, and HDR video, the onn Roku Smart Soundbar offers simple set up and an easy-to-use home screen, while providing access to 500,000+ movies and TV episodes and millions of songs via thousands of paid and free channels.

Advanced audio modes include automatic volume leveling, night mode and speech clarity. Automatic software updates are expected to deliver new capabilities over time.

The optional subwoofer expands the high-quality audio of the soundbar with deeper, richer sound for a claimed theater-like experience in the home.

“The Roku Smart Soundbar gives consumers an easy way to add better sound instantly to nearly any TV, plus with a 4K Roku streaming player built in, it provides easy access to tons of great movies, TV and music entertainment,” added Mark Ely, VP of players and whole home product management at Roku. “Roku and Walmart have worked together for years to enhance the entertainment experience for millions of people who have purchased Roku TV models and Roku streaming players. Now, we’re looking forward to getting these new audio products on shelves to provide consumers with better sound for their TV experience at a great price.”

 

Amazon Debuts Updated Fire TV Cube Streaming Media Device

Amazon Sept. 4 announced the all-new Fire TV Cube, the second-generation hands-free, Alexa-enabled streaming media device, priced at $119.99.

The player features far-field voice control built directly into the device and is now available for pre-order in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.

“Since launching [Fire TV Cube] last year we have gathered a wealth of feedback from customers about how they use voice in the living room,” Marc Whitten, VP of Amazon Fire TV, said in a statement.

Whitten said new features include an ultra-powerful hexa-core processor, which claims to be more than twice as powerful as the first generation Fire TV Cube, multi-room music, follow-up mode, and Alexa communications.

Fire TV Cube users can stream Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, HBO, Showtime, CBS, Tubi, IMDb TV, Pluto TV, and others. Plus, tune to live TV channels with cable or satellite boxes from providers like Comcast, Dish, AT&T TV/AT&T U-verse, and more.

The all-new Fire TV Cube features instant access to Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content at up to 60 frames per second, as well as the audio clarity of Dolby Atmos on the all-new Fire TV Cube.

In addition, Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) comes with “Local Voice Control,” which is a new on-device processing feature that lets you more quickly execute some of the most frequent voice commands. For example, “Alexa, scroll right,” “Alexa, go home,” “Alexa, select number one,” and more, are up to 4 times as fast as before.

The all-new Fire TV Cube features “far-field” voice recognition with eight microphones and advanced beamforming technology that combines signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, content currently playing, and even competing speech to make sure Alexa clearly hears your request when placed next to your TV.

When combined with the new processor, users can search and navigate content using just their voice, whether it’s through your cable or satellite boxes; streaming apps like YouTube and PlayStation Vue; or HBO, Showtime, and Starz through Prime Video Channels.

In addition, Fire TV Cube uses multi-directional infrared technology, cloud based protocols, and HDMI CEC, that when combined with Alexa, let you control your compatible TV, soundbar, A/V receiver, cable or satellite box, as well as other smart home devices.

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With the built-in speaker, Fire TV Cube lets users dim the lights, check the weather, listen to the news and more—even with the TV off. Since launching last year, nearly 80 percent of customers are using Fire TV Cube for home automation requests and there are tens of thousands of Alexa routines used every week.

The all-new Fire TV Cube (amazon.com/firetvcube) is available for pre-order on Amazon in the United States for $119.99, in Canada for $149.99, the United Kingdom for £109.99, Germany for €119.99, and Japan for ¥14980.

It ships with an IR extender cable and Ethernet adapter beginning on Oct. 10 in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. It will ship in Japan on Nov. 5. Customers can also pre-order the all-new Fire TV Cube and Ring Video Doorbell 2 together for $249.99—a savings of $69 (amazon.com/firetvcube-bundle).

In addition, customers who pre-order the new Fire TV Cube are eligible for an Amazon Music Unlimited 90-day extended free trial of the premium music subscription.

Parks: Streaming Media Player Ownership Flattening With Roku and Amazon Leading Space

More than a third (39%) of U.S. broadband households own a streaming media player, but that’s a mere 1% increase from 2018, according to new research from Parks Associates.

Ownership has flattened, the firm noted, although purchase intentions are higher for 2019 compared to previous years.

The report, 360 Deep Dive: Adoption and Use of Connected Video Devices, found connected video device manufacturers may need to shift focus from hardware sales to service and advertising revenue, as ownership reaches saturation, according to Parks.

“Streaming media has reshaped how U.S. consumers interact with entertainment content and services, so as the market matures, sales increasingly come at another vendor’s expense,” said Parks senior analyst Kristen Hanich in a statement. “Video-quality features are the most important factors when consumers buy a connected video device, although Roku and Amazon have certainly benefited among streaming media players by having broad product portfolios that include lower price points.”

Among streaming media players, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV are the clear market leaders with almost 70% of the installed base of streaming media players in the United States, according to the firm. Consumer-reported data reveals that between Q1 2017 and Q1 2019, Roku’s share of the U.S. streaming media player installed base grew from 37% to 39%, while Amazon’s share of the installed base increased from 24% to 30%.

The report looks at the state of the connected video device space, including smart TV platforms, streaming media devices, smart set-top boxes and gaming consoles, examining the changing roles of these devices and how consumers are engaging with new functionality, such as voice control and live TV integration.

“As the addressable market shrinks, rivalry increases,” said Parks senior analyst Craig Leslie in a statement. “The combined installed base for Roku and Amazon is three times larger than the nearest competitor. The adoption of Roku and Fire TV streaming media players continues to grow at the expense of Chromecast and Apple TV.”

Amazon Reveals 34 Million Fire TV Users, Topping Roku

Amazon has quietly staked the lead in active users of streaming media devices. The ecommerce giant disclosed it has 34 million Fire TV users – about 5 million more than Roku.

Amazon revealed the data May 14 in a presentation by Jen Prenner, global head of marketing at Fire TV, at the Pay TV Show in Denver.

The tally, first reported by TechCrunch, represents a 13.3% increase from the 30 million users Amazon disclosed in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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Amazon now claims Fire TV has become the No. 1 streaming media device in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, India and Japan.

Roku, by comparison, claims its operating system was embedded in 33% of all Internet-connected smart TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter.