In case Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant weren’t enough, Roku is now throwing itself into the highly-competitive voice assistant space at CES 2018. Although we’ve seen some rumors in recent months that it may be unveiling its own wireless speaker, the popular streaming media player manufacturer has today announced that it will be licensing out its software to third-parties.
Roku has been doing this with its software for years in partnership with TV brands such as TCL and Sharp. This is, however, its first foray into the world of voice assistants. Along with today’s news is word that Roku will be introducing a new partnership with Magnavox to bring even more budget-focused displays to market in 2018.
The new Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable users to control the company’s streaming media platform with their voice. While Siri and Alexa can perform other tasks, such as pulling data from a variety of sources, Roku’s new software is focused on simply controlling your entertainment system. Details are rather unclear at this time, but it looks like the service will be similar to what Spotify Connect has been doing for a few years.
Today’s news does make perfect sense for Roku, as the streaming media player market is both highly competitive and overly saturated. Expanding into the audio space allows Roku to welcome even more third-party manufacturers into the fold in hopes of expanding further. Roku Connect is expected to make its debut sometime in 2019.
CES 2018 also brings news that Roku will be partnering with Magnavox on a line of upcoming budget-focused TVs. Like its relationships with TCL and others, this is an easy and effective way to continue to grow the streaming platform without the need for an external add-on. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but you can expect more to come in the next few months.
Roku Unveils Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program to Enable OEM Brands to Build Audio Devices for Roku TV and the Roku Ecosystem; Announces Roku Entertainment Assistant for a Voice-Controlled Experience
LOS GATOS, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Roku, Inc. (Nasdaq: ROKU) today unveiled plans to make it easier for consumers to enjoy streaming entertainment around the whole home. Roku plans to make it especially easy for Roku TV™ customers to add great audio to their TV experience. The new whole home entertainment licensing program will enable OEM brands to build soundbars and smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems that use Roku Connect software to work together as a home entertainment network. With Roku Connect devices working together they will be able to connect wirelessly and be controlled by voice commands and a single remote. In addition, OEM brands will be able to license smart soundbar and smart speaker hardware reference designs along with the Roku operating system, Roku OS. TCL is our lead OEM partner and will announce its plans to offer the first device under the new program at its press conference at CES on Jan. 8.
Roku also announced plans to develop and launch a voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, that is optimized for home entertainment. It, along with Roku Connect, is expected to be rolled out as a free software update to the Roku® operating system by this Fall to most Roku TV models and Roku players. When launched, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable consumers to use voice commands to enjoy entertainment on voice-supported Roku devices. For example, customers will be able to say, “Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room” and a smart soundbar with Roku Connect will begin playing music – even if the TV is turned off.
“We’ve always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs, and with an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood. “Consumers will love the benefits of a home entertainment network, such as having more affordable options, adding one device at a time, using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control. And, of course, OEM brands benefit by offering their products in a more appealing way to our already large and engaged audience of millions of active accounts.”
A New Era of Home Entertainment
Four years ago, Roku unveiled its TV licensing program, simplifying the smart TV and making it easy for OEM brands to delight consumers. Today, the Roku TV licensing program is flourishing. Roku TVs accounted for more than one out of every five smart TVs sold in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2017. Roku also today announced that Magnavox joins the program as the ninth brand – bringing new Roku TVs to market this Spring.
Roku believes that the home theater market is ready for a modern approach encompassing the whole home. By expanding its licensing program to allow for easy ways for audio devices to become part of the Roku streaming ecosystem, OEM brands can build smart devices for home entertainment. This is expected to make Roku TV even more appealing to both OEM brands and consumers, and allow Roku to continue to grow active accounts and increase engagement. Roku monetizes active accounts as users engage with content and advertising on its platform.
OEM brands can choose from:
- Roku TV – A smart TV powered by the Roku OS. To be updated with Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant by this Fall.
- Smart Soundbar – Enhances the TV audio experience. Designed to work with any TV that has a HDMI ARC, and expected to have features to allow it to work better with a Roku TV. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
- Smart Speaker – Stand-alone speaker or extends audio from another device for a multi-room experience. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
- Roku Connect – Enables OEM brands to build home entertainment devices that connect wirelessly to Roku OS powered devices and other Roku Connect devices within a home entertainment network. Roku Connect devices will be identified by a Roku Connect logo.
OEM brands can license the Roku Connect software (which has a hardware requirement) for free. In addition, Roku does not expect licensing revenues, if any, from smart speakers and smart soundbars to be material in the foreseeable future.
OEMs interested in learning more or meeting at CES can contact OEM@roku.com.
About Roku, Inc.
Roku pioneered streaming to the TV. We connect users to the streaming content they love, enable content publishers to build and monetize large audiences, and provide advertisers with unique capabilities to engage consumers. Roku streaming players and Roku TV models are available around the world through direct retail sales and licensing arrangements with TV OEMs and service operators. Roku is headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif. U.S.A.
Cautionary Statement Regarding Roku Forward-Looking Statements
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Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements represent our beliefs and assumptions only as of the date of this press release. These statements include, but are not limited to predictions on the timing and availability of enhancements to our operating system, the successful implementation of our licensing program, the acceptance of the products, features and licensing programs contemplated by this press release, our partners ability to develop products that achieve market acceptance on a timely basis, and our ability to grow active accounts and increase engagement. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements publicly, or to update the reasons actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future. Important factors such as the effect of product offerings from competitors, as well as other factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially are detailed from time to time in the reports Roku files with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, including our Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2017. Copies of reports filed with the SEC are posted on Roku’s website and are available from Roku without charge.