These days, just about any cheapo Blu-ray player or game console can stream video from Netflix or Hulu, so what’s a company that makes a slew of low-cost video streaming boxes to do to stand out from the pack? Well, if you’re Roku, the answer is you raise a ton of money and set your sights on software too.
AllThingsD reports that Roku has just raised another $60 million in funding in a round led by Fidelity, and ATD’s Peter Kafka goes on to note that Roku is looking to use that infusion of capital to bolster its software partnerships with television manufacturers.
In addition to pushing out cutesy streaming video boxes, Roku wants its software to be baked directly into a new generation of smart televisions — an especially savvy move given just how ferociously players like Microsoft are attempting to take over people’s living rooms. After all, the promise of streaming content from services like Netflix, Hulu, and Crackle is one that’s been fulfilled nearly every major game console, not to mention by number of Roku’s rivals. A cheap streamer box like the ones Roku makes only hold so much appeal when compared to a truly multi-purpose device like the Xbox 360 (to say nothing of the seemingly media-centric Xbox One) or a hot-seller like the Apple TV (which has outsold Roku’s boxes by more than 2 to 1), so Roku’s attempt to move up the stack directly into televisions could give the company a leg-up as the amount of hardware competition continues to grow.
For what it’s worth, Roku has already spent time wooing OEMs for its “Roku Ready” partner program — the company announced back at CES 2013 that a full 14 home electronics brands were committed to support Roku’s then-new streaming video dongle. So far the list includes Coby Electronics (yes, really), Harman Kardon, Hisense Electric, and Westinghouse Digital just to name a few. Granted, some of these names aren’t the most prominent, but it’s a nifty little stable of companies that have already expressed interest in offering Roku’s media service in one form or another. While Samsung and Sony may have the know-how and the wherewithal to cobble together their own media ecosystems, these little guys probably don’t, and Roku is apparently aiming to bridge that gap while still churning out its own hardware.