Media & Entertainment

Roku Expands Its Smart TV Platform, Will Launch Its First 4K TV This Spring


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If cord-cutting and streaming services are the future of TV watching, then it makes sense that one of the top makers of streaming media players, Roku, is expanding its television footprint. The company announced this morning that it will continue to roll out more models of televisions with Roku’s smart TV platform built-in, with plans to introduce at least 60 new TV models in 2016. It’s also introducing its first 4K TV set early this year, in partnership with TCL.

The Roku TV platform debuted at CES two years ago, as a way for TV manufacturers to build television sets that run the same software (Roku OS) that powers the company’s line of streaming media players. That includes Roku’s personalized home screen, access to over 3,000 streaming channels, plus search and discovery features that help consumers find what to watch across a growing number of streaming services.

The Roku TV software was met early on with rave reviews – The Wall St. Journal said at the time that the Roku Tv wasn’t just an “easy choice for cable cutters,” but was also a “wake-up call for other TV makers.” CNET, meanwhile, noted the promise of the Roku TVs, given that Roku’s streaming boxes earned its “Editors’ Choice Award” over competitors like Apple TV and Google Chromecast. (Remember, though, this was before the new version of the Apple TV with the App Store had launched.)

At the time, Roku was partnering with Chinese manufacturers Hisense and TCL to produce the first six sets which would debut in fall 2014. The following year, it introduced 40 TV models from partners including Haier, Hisense, Insignia, Sharp and TCL. LG started selling Roku TV last year as well, CNET discovered – a significant move, given LG’s investment in its own smart TV OS.

Today, Roku claims an 8 percent market share in the U.S. with one million Roku TVs in homes by the end of 2015.

To further capitalize on the growing momentum for cord-cutting here in the U.S., Roku is now planning to introduce 60 TV models this year. It’s also again expanding outside the U.S. Last year, it launched Roku TVs in Canada through Insignia and Sharp, and in the first half of this year, TCL will roll out Roku TVs in Mexico.

In addition, Roku has updated its smart TV platform with support for 4K UHD TVs – not a surprising move, given that the company also rolled out its first 4K streamer, the Roku 4, along with upgraded 4K-ready software this October. Just like the Roku 4, the new Roku TVs will be able to point consumers with 4K TVs to 4K UHD streaming channels and other 4K content. The first OEM to introduce a 4K UHD Roku TV will be TCL, which plans to launch multiple models in spring 2016. Other partners will roll out their own 4K UHD TVs later in the year, says Roku.

The updated smart TV platform will include other features that arrived with the Roku 4, including the “Roku Feed,” for tracking favorite titles, actors and directors and voice search via the Roku mobile app for iOS and Android.

Also announced today is Roku’s introduction of the Roku TV HDR reference design, which will allow TV manufacturers to build sets that support HDR (high dynamic range) content. HDR TVs will likely be one of the big trends at this year’s CES, as companies tout their support for this new tech that expands TV’s contrast ratio and color palette to offer more realistic images than what’s available today.

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