IndieWire exchanges emails with Chris Larson, Roku’s vice president of retail strategy, who promises Roku TVs will “offer a TV experience rooted in joy.”
Roku has a moment. It has evolved from set-top boxes to television partnerships to the acquisition and production of original content such as Al Yankovic’s well-reviewed “Weird” parody biopic “Weird,” which premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival premiered. And now, with the announcement that it’s going to start making its own TVs, Roku is looking a bit like… Amazon?
Just as Amazon was developing its Fire TV Sticks, Roku was becoming a major player by manufacturing and selling streaming gateway devices. As well as Amazon via Prime Video, Freevee and now MGM+, Roku is in the original content game with The Roku Channel. (“Weird” in November was Roku’s most-watched launch of all time.)
Amazon started selling its own TVs in the fall of 2021. Now Roku is doing the same thing with 11 models of Roku Select and Roku Plus series TVs available this spring, ranging from 24″ to 75″ (and ranging in price from $119 to $999). . However, it’s worth noting that Amazon Fire TVs haven’t exactly caught fire. (A representative from Amazon’s device business didn’t immediately respond to our questions about the success — or failure — of Fire TVs.)
IndieWire caught up with Roku’s VP of Retail Strategy, Chris Larson, shortly after Tuesday’s announcement. We exchanged emails during his downtime at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You can read our unedited questions and answers below.
IndieWire: Is this the natural evolution of things? From devices to licensing your name in software form to other TV manufacturers to making your own TVs? If so, what is the next step that might be useful later?
Chris Larson: As an industry leader with two decades of experience in TV streaming, it just makes sense to launch a TV made and designed by Roku. The new Roku Plus and Select series TVs are just the first step in our expansion of the Roku TV lineup, and we look forward to expanding our entire Roku TV lineup by continuing to work closely with our OEM -Partners (Original Equipment Manufacturer) work together to develop our own Roku branded TVs. There’s more to come!
Why is this better than the licensing strategy?
OEMs remain the cornerstone of our Roku TV program, both here in the US and around the world. By launching our own branded TVs, we now have the opportunity to test and roll out new features and technology on our own products to ensure we deliver a great streaming experience.
I, like many people, have both Amazon Fire devices and Roku devices in my house. TV manufacturing/sales margins aren’t typically big – how do you avoid cannibalizing your bread-and-butter earnings/profit streams?
Our new Roku branded televisions are an extension of our overall Roku TV lineup, allowing us to bring more innovation to our partners and bring a touch of success to the entire Roku TV lineup.
How Can Custom TVs Take The Roku Channel To New Heights?
CL: The more homes that have a Roku-enabled device, Roku TV (either branded or OEM partner), and streaming devices, the higher the potential engagement with The Roku Channel.
Anecdotally, it seems that Amazon Fire TVs haven’t really been a success. What will Roku do differently/better?
Roku branded TVs focus on the features streamers love and expect from Roku products. By designing our Roku-branded TVs specifically for streaming, we offer our customers a joy-based TV experience with user-favorite features like private listening, Find My Remote, and wireless surround-sound expandability.
https://www.indiewire.com/2023/01/roku-making-own-tvs-1234796053/ Roku now makes its own TVs