Roku is taking the price of going over the top below $20, pricing its limited-edition HD-only Roku SE streaming device at an industry-low $17 and selling it exclusively at Walmart on Black Friday.
Introduced in 2019, the Roku SE is an entry-level streaming device similar in profile to the Roku Express HD, only bigger, and it comes in white instead of black. It lacks features like an Ethernet port, which is useful for those who want to avoid the pangs of spotty WiFi.
Indeed, like popular Breaking Bad pizza delivery chain Venezia’s, which famously didn’t cut its pies, Roku passes the savings onto you.
It should be noted that Roku’s competitors having been doing this ultra-low pricing limbo, too, with sticks and dongles: Amazon’s HD-only Fire TV Stick, for example, is currently priced at $13.99. And there are a bunch of OEM versions of Google’s Chromecast HDMI dongle priced at $20 and below at and on Walmart.
But having Roku, currently the biggest hardware brand in streaming, go below 20 bucks is notable.
Roku is also giving pricing haircuts to other devices for Black Friday:
> The Roku Premiere, normally $39.99, will be on sale for $24.99 from Nov. 20-30 directly from Roku, or from Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon.
> The Roku Streaming Stick+, normally $49.99, will be priced at $29.99 directly from Roku, or from Best Buy and Amazon.
> The high-end Roku Ultra, regularly $99.99, will be priced at $69.99, directly from Roku, or from Walmart, Best Buy or Amazon.
> And the recently introduced Roku Streambar will go for $99.99 after launching at $129.99, directly from Roku, or from Best Buy or Amazon. (Notably, the price to purchase a smart sound bar with Roku circuitry was $170 just a few months ago, before Roku introduced a cheaper second-generation smart soundbar model.)
Roku is also charging 99 cents for two months of Showtime and Starz premium channel subscriptions through the Roku Channel.
These are heady days for Roku, which saw its market capitalization zoom past $30 billion this week (it stands at over $32.5 billion as of midday trading Thursday).
During a bullish third-quarter earnings call last week, Roku reported that “player” revenue, which is the money Roku makes from selling streaming boxes and sticks, and licensing its OS to smart TV makers, was up 62% to $132.4 million.
But just as it is for competitors Amazon and Google, Roku’s real objective is to proliferate its operating system, which as it also revealed, had 46 million active users worldwide as of the end of September.
As it moves to a number like, say, 100 million active users, Roku investors are pondering a near future in which the company has extensive control over distribution to streaming content, much the way Apple App Store and Google Play control the mobile app world.
“If the platform provider can capture a large enough global scale of consumers who are essentially using it as a bundling agent—as an intermediary—then they’re going to have market power over the suppliers of the content, and they will emerge to use that market power to get a pricing or access differentiator, and they’ll build a business based on it. I think the reason you see so much market cap flowing to Roku right now is because they seem to have developed an independent separate public company platform that is becoming essentially a channel store of scale,” Liberty Global Chairman John Malone said at a Paley Center virtual event last week.
One way to achieve that market is to undercut Amazon and Google at Walmart over Black Friday on streaming devices.