Roku CEO Anthony Wood has one big goal that guides his company: to get Roku on every TV.
This might seem like a lofty ambition, but it is also represents a set of compromises. Roku doesn’t need to sell everyone a Roku streaming box, or start making its own televisions, and it certainly doesn’t want to make its own premium content.
These compromises have allowed Roku to present itself as a friendly business partner to both to TV manufacturers, and also content kings like Netflix. This is something that a company like Apple or Amazon simply couldn’t pull off with the same ease.
A Roku insider described the company as Switzerland, and the comparison seems apt.
Nowhere is Roku’s underlying philosophy more apparent than in its “Roku TV” program. This initiative consists of a series of partnerships Roku has made with TV makers, such as Haier and Chinese heavyweight TCL. Roku provides a blueprint that lets the company bake Roku’s technology, including its slick operating system, into its smart TVs in return for a licensing fee.
Roku announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that this program has allowed the company to get itself into 8% of the US smart TV market in less than two years, and to have more than one million Roku TVs sit in people’s homes. And Roku says it expects almost 60 Roku TV models to launch in 2016.
Even so, Roku admits a partnership isn’t appealing for all TV companies. Someone at Roku familiar with the matter says it seems pretty clear that LG and Samsung will continue to develop their own proprietary technologies indefinitely. And it remains to be seen whether Roku can continue to push up from 8%.
But at least five TV companies have already bought into Roku’s plan, which allows these TV makers to not only jumpstart their operating systems, but also buy pre-made relationships to content companies like Netflix or Hulu. Roku has already done those negotiations.
This status as a friendly partner, who is willing to licence its technology, makes Roku fundamentally different from its streaming box competitors like Apple and Amazon. And the company, no doubt, hopes its status as Switzerland will help it thrive even if one of the heavyweights jumps into the TV hardware market.
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