Roku now touts 55 million active users. And with most of those customers situated in the U.S., Roku dominates the domestic video operating system market.
But beyond its most recent Wall Street dip, small indicators keep emerging that suggests Roku is going to have a problem with Google as it tries to transition its U.S. interface dominance to the global marketplace.
The most recent example: The New York Times' "Wirecutter" tech column just named Chromecast with Google TV its "best media streaming device" of 2021, unseating Roku, which had been top dog dating all the way back to 2012.
Beyond advanced silicon that supports features including 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the Times' Chris Heinonen is most high on Google TV's search and recommendation features.
"Instead of presenting a home screen with a bunch of separate streaming services (such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and the like), Google TV groups all your recently watched shows and movies together along with your watchlist of preferred content—making it easier and faster for you to find what you want to watch," Heinoen wrote.
Notably, the author ranked the Roku Streaming Stick+ second. But the device Heinoen reviewed, which lacks features like Dolby Vision support, doesn't appear to be the updated 4K streaming stick Roku unveiled earlier this week.
The notable thing here, however, isn't necessarily the advanced tech features found in these two $50 streaming sticks. It's the fact that the superior search and recommendation features being developed for the Google TV interface is getting noticed by key influencers.
As it begins to deploy Roku-enabled smart TVs in Europe with its most important OEM partner, China's TCL, Roku is increasingly concerned with Google's own OS plans. The fact that TCL has begun to also ship its high-end QLED TVs with the Google TV interface is certainly exacerbating that anxiety.
As TV[REV] analyst Alan Wolk noted in a Next TV column earlier this week, as much as 42% of the global streaming device market is still "up for grabs."
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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