Monday, January 5, 2015, 9:51 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Roku has added two more TV manufacturers to its Roku TV lineup - Best Buy's in-house Insignia brand along with Chinese brand Haier. The Insignia Roku TVs will be available in the spring, with the Haier models available in the third quarter. Roku TVs from initial partners TCL and Hisense became available in 2014. TCL is also expanding its lineup to 12 different Roku TVs in 2015.
In addition to the new manufacturers, Roku has also announced a Roku TV 4K reference design, with TCL as the initial partner. Roku has also teamed with Netflix to bring 4K content to Roku TVs. Netflix began offering "House of Cards" and "Breaking Bad" in 4K in 2014, despite the fact that very few subscribers actually have 4K TVs.
4K could get a nice boost in 2015, depending on when the 4K TCL Roku TVs appear and how aggressively they're priced. In an interview I did with Roku's CEO Anthony Wood last year at NATPE, he explained how he sees Chinese manufacturers growing their U.S. market share at the expense of Korean rivals. With the addition of Haier, it looks as though Roku TV capability is going to be a key differentiator for Chinese brands.
Meanwhile, the new Roku TV partners mean long-form streaming in the living room will continue to become more mainstream. The big appeal of Roku TVs is the seamless transition between traditional TV sources and Roku's 2,000 OTT sources, via one remote control. While adoption of standalone streaming media players (including Roku) continued to surge in 2014, their extra step of switching inputs remains as a point of friction in the viewer experience.
As Roku's living room presence grows, it also helps the company's video ad network initiative, which grew in importance in 2014. Because many of the free content providers on Roku are relatively small, being aggregated into a network, with scale that would appeal to TV buyers, represents a new monetization opportunity.