CES: Roku Adds TV Partners, Sets 4K Plans

Roku, looking to stay a step ahead of Android TV and other competing platforms, has added Haier America and Insignia (Best Buy’s house CE brand) to a growing group of CE partners that will introduce hi-def TV models that integrate Roku’s operating system and apps platform.

Extending its view beyond HDTVs, Roku has also set plans to support 4K/Ultra HD streaming in future integrated Roku TV models. It has already developed a Roku TV reference design for connected 4KTVs that it will license to original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners. Word of the new partners and 4K plans come as the International CES gets underway this week in Las Vegas.

Regarding its newest integrated TV partners, Haier plans to launch its Roku TV models in the third quarter of 2015, starting off  Roku TV Series Smart LED TVs in sizes ranging from 32-inches to 65-inches. Haier’s coming 40-inch and 65-inch Roku TV models will also support “Full HD” resolution and an enhanced “Sound Chamber.”  Haier also announced that the 3.5 series of Roku Ready TVs will be available in the first quarter of 2015.  Those Roku Ready models are non-connected sets that are bundled with Roku Streaming Sticks that support Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) technology.

Insignia, meanwhile, expects to introduce several Roku TV products this spring and sell them exclusively at Best Buy stores and at BestBuy.com. 

Roku's first TV integration deals were announced last year with TCL and Hisense, which started to ship Roku-based models last fall. 

Roku has not announced how many Roku TVs have been sold so far (those products have “been well received by consumers,” the company said), but such integrations are key to its plan to expand its platform in a competitive market that includes Google’s new Android TV platform, the Apple TV, and emerging ones such as Tizen, which will be used in all of Samsung’s 2015 smart TV models.  

And Roku, which has shipped more than 10 million streaming boxes and sticks in the U.S. so far, believes that there are still plenty of opportunities to build its market reach. Jim Funk, Roku’s senior vice president or product management and strategy, cited Nielsen figures showing that most consumers still don’t have streaming players or smart TVs.

“It’s becoming mainstream, but not yet become ubiquitous,” Funk said, noting that Roku, which now offers more than 2,000 apps/channels, delivered more than 3 billion hours in streams last year.

More 4K Details

Roku said TCL is its initial partner to build 4K-capable Roku TV models, adding that it’s working with Netflix to provide 4K content for streaming via the Roku platform.

“As one of the first streaming services to offer 4K Ultra HD content to our customers, it’s important for Netflix to work closely with partners like Roku to give consumers more streaming options,” said Neil Hunt, chief product officer of Netflix, in a statement. “We look forward to bringing Netflix 4K Ultra HD content to Roku customers.”

Roku has not announced a roadmap for standalone streaming boxes or sticks that can support 4K streaming, but UHD is clearly becoming an important factor.

“We are very bullish on 4K as we believe that streaming will be instrumental in its adoption,” added Anthony Wood, Roku’s CEO. “Bringing 4K to the Roku platform will give consumers even more choice and control of their entertainment viewing, and deliver the best streaming experience available.”