Next TV Summit: Roku CEO Touts End of Linear Viewing

Santa Clara, Calif. -- Founder and CEO Anthony Wood credits Roku’s ability to compete with larger companies in the area of streaming television platforms in part with having been an early innovator in the space.

“Being first is actually pretty important a lot of the times,” Wood said Wednesday in a keynote interview with B&C contributing editor George Winslow Wednesday at the B&C and Multichannel News NextTV Summit.

Wood also touted his company’s focus on one service—streaming content to the television screen—as a competitive advantage, saying Roku has more people devoted to that task than larger competitors have devoted to working on similar products.

“If you’re at Google you’re working on searches,” he said. "If you’re at Apple you’re working phones—or watches, I mean.”

Wood noted that the company’s first set-top box was called “The Netflix Player,” and offered access only to Netflix. Today, he said, Roku offers more than 1,600 channels.

He also touted the downward trend of pricing on Roku’s boxes, which used to cost $99 and now cost $49. Wood was dismissive of competition from video game consoles, which he said work not because they offer a great product, but because “people who play games like to watch TV as well.” He added that Microsoft, when it released its Xbox One last year, touting it as a hub for all living-room entertainment, “really fell down and started losing market share until they regrouped and started to focus on games [again].”

Predicting the death of live television viewing except in cases of major events and sports, Wood said that the world of on-demand viewing presents major challenges to television networks, who will not be able to use linear scheduling to help launch and promote new series. He also said in time, that cable providers will no longer provide customers with set-top boxes—citing Time Warner Cable’s Roku app as an example.

“Play TV is not going away but the boxes are going away. They’re going to become apps on platforms like Roku.”

But one thing Wood does not anticipate is a move by his company moving into content production.

“Our whole business model is we are a platform for distributing content,” he said. “We don’t produce our own content. We have no pans to do that, at least not yet.”