The trend towards cord cutting has helped streaming media device maker Roku reach a new milestone, the company announced this morning. Roku now has 15 million monthly active user accounts across its platform, as of June 30, 2017 – a figure that’s up by 43 percent over the same time last year, and up from the 13 million accounts it announced in January.
The figure isn’t a proxy for Roku device sales, however – it’s about user engagement. Along those same lines, the company noted that its users streamed nearly 7 billion hours on its platform during the first half of the year, or a 61 percent increase over 2016.
These numbers are notable, as the industries around streaming TV continue to heat up. Not only is there competition among both the on-demand video services like Netflix and Amazon, a new crop of live TV services – like Sling, Vue, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Now, for example – is also emerging. But beyond choosing what to watch, consumers have to decide how.
For some, that’s using a low-cost dongle or stick like Chromecast, Fire TV Stick or Roku’s own stick, while others go for more high-end devices like Apple TV.
Last year, Roku addressed consumers’ interest in low-cost devices by updating its Roku 1 to be called Roku Express – a 75 percent smaller form factor, with double the processing power, at $30 – only a few dollars more than Chromecast is right now.
The problem with many of the streaming devices on the market today is that they’re not agnostic when it comes to content – they’re in the business of supporting their own ecosystem and content storefronts. Amazon and Apple, for example, have allowed their rivalry to impact consumers for some time. Apple only this March announced it would finally allow Amazon Video on Apple TV this year.
Roku, on the other hand, aims to enable any content it can, no matter the provider. It can’t play your iTunes purchases, of course, because they’re locked into Apple’s ecosystem, but it supports nearly all the other digital storefronts and streaming services, with the exception of brand-new ones like Hulu live TV (whose Roku app is in the works).
In the U.S, Roku today offers 5,000 streaming channels, enabling access to 500,000 movies and TV episodes, the company says. More than 500 of the top channels’ content can be searched using the Roku OS’s built-in search feature.
With 15 million active users, Roku isn’t necessarily running away with the market, nor is it lagging behind. According to eMarketer data from last fall, the Chromecast in 2016 had 30.6 million U.S. users, while Apple TV lagged with 20.5 million U.S. users. At the time, the Fire TV was predicted to capture 27 percent of the U.S. market share by 2020, followed by Chromecast (29.5%), Roku (22.7%), and Apple TV (12.8%).