The busy month of connected TV device launches continues today, with Roku unveiling the Roku 4. The latest offering from Roku supports 4K, runs the new Roku 7 operating system, includes “Roku Feed,” which notifies users of new TV and movie releases and introduces Hotel and Dorm Connect for faster sign-in when on-the-go, among other features. The Roku 4 can be pre-ordered today for $129.99 with availability in October.
Roku 4’s support for 4K puts it on a par with the new Amazon Fire TV and TiVo BOLT, and ahead of the new Apple TV and Chromecast, which don’t yet support 4K. In reality, it’s still early days for 4K content, with just a smattering of titles available from SVOD providers and TV networks. However, 4K TV deployments have soared to over 3 million global units in June '15, according to IHS, which is 14% of all TVs sold. IHS forecasts 20% of all TVs sold in 2016 will be 4K.
All those 4K TVs will clearly incent content providers to increase their 4K output, in turn benefiting devices that support 4K. Roku is also helping 4K content discovery by including a curated 4K Spotlight channel which highlights available 4K content.
One of the key new benefits of the Roku 7 OS is the update to Roku Feed, which allows users to follow movies, TV shows, actors and directors in order to receive updates about when and where certain titles become available online and at what price (the feature was introduced earlier this year, but limited to movies only). Roku 7 will also be a software update to current generation Roku players and Roku TVs.
A handy new feature in Roku 4 is Hotel and Dorm Connect, which allows users to sign-in to out-of-home WiFi networks via their mobile device or computer and have a connected Roku 4 enabled on the network too. Also handy is the new Remote Finder feature which prompts the remote to make a sound when a button on the device is pushed, so the remote can be located.
Roku also updated its mobile app for iOS and Android for quicker access to Roku Search, Roku Feed, Remote Control, Play on Roku and Voice Search. The mobile app also acts as a remote control to display photos and videos on the TV as well as cast photos to the big screen.
Taken together, Roku 4 is a solid new offering which keeps Roku in the conversation for anyone looking for a connected TV device this holiday season. On the one hand, Roku benefits by being an independent device provider, providing equal access to all content apps (now over 3,000). No doubt that helped it stay in in Amazon even as Apple TV and Chromecast were ejected last week. However, on the other hand, as Apple, Google and Amazon further develop their ecosystem strategies to differentiate themselves by closely tying content services and devices, Roku is the odd man out.
As Colin and I have discussed on our weekly podcasts (here, here, here), the connected TV device space remains in flux, with lots of innovation coming to market. Roku 4 is the latest example. All of this is very good news for both consumers and for OTT content providers who depend on these devices to usher them into the living room.
(Note: You can win a 50-inch Sharp Roku TV by registering early for the Dec. 1st SHIFT // 2015 Programmatic Video & TV Advertising Summit)