Ahead Of Rumored Apple TV Refresh, Roku Updates Streaming Media Player Lineup And Launches Roku 3 In The UK

Streaming media hardware company Roku, which is holding it own in a market that includes tech industry heavyweights including Apple and Google, has just introduced new models of its streaming players. The small set-top boxes include redesigned versions of the Roku LT, Roku 1 and Roku 2, bringing some features from the Roku 3 flagship player to the company’s more conservatively priced offerings.

Each new Roku gets a hardware design refresh, with bubble-style rounded sides instead of the straight lines and hard edges of the older versions. The designs are a bit more whimsical, and an improvement over the previous, somewhat Apple TV-like puck style design. The lineup gives access to Roku’s Channel Store for expandable content options. Third-party channels available for Roku number over 1,000 in the U.S., but cap out at just over 450 in the UK, Canada and Ireland.

The entry-level LT is pretty much the same as its predecessor in a brand new shell, but the Roku 1 gets a considerable upgrade with support for 1080p video (the old one supported just 720p), while the Roku 2 adds a new headphone jack and dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities, which previously were features exclusive to the Roku 3. Roku tells TechCrunch that 40 percent of its customers said the headphone jack was the reason they opted for the Roku 3, so this should bump up sales of the lower cost unit. The LT retails for $49.99, while the Roku 1 is $59.99 and the Roku 2 is $79.99.

Roku’s SVP of Product Management Jim Funk says that it’s adding new channels at a rate of about one to two a day, and that it’s seeing 13 hours of streaming per week on average. The company is also working to bring Netflix’s DIAL AirPlay-type service to Roku’s platform, which will allow users to stream content from their phone to the players directly. That integration will come sometime in the next few months, according to Funk.

Roku_family_pileRoku has also added support for M-Go in the U.S. starting today, which brings that transactional video-on-demand company’s catalog of curated content to the streaming platform. M-Go is a joint venture between DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, and offers access to 16,000 movies and TV shows, with 20,000 anticipated in its library by year’s end. The M-Go partnership arrangement is a revenue sharing opportunity for Roku, Funk explained, and it puts the service right in Roku’s centralized “TV Shows” and “Movies” tabs, giving them an advantage by taking them out of the general fracas of the 1,000-strong channel guide.

All the new Roku devices are available in the U.S. for pre-order, with expected shipping in October, and the new LT is a U.S.-exclusive for now. In Canada, the UK and Ireland, the Roku 1 and 2 are available for pre-order with shipping anticipated in October, and the previously released Roku 3 makes its way to those territories with immediate availability from Roku’s website. The hardware revamp comes ahead of speculation that Apple will update its own Apple TV streaming media device sometime soon, possibly alongside new iPads, so we could see a lot of competition for holiday dollars in this space.