Roku Revamps Streaming Player Lineup

Roku has launched a revamped and partially renamed streaming video device lineup as the OTT specialist gears up for the all-important buying season and a competitive field that includes rivals such as Apple, Amazon and Google.

Looking to appeal to different consumer segements, the new lineup factors in a range of pricing and capabilities that aim to run the gamut, including entry-level devices to models that support 4K and HDR and other bells and whistles.

-Roku Express: About 75% smaller while doubling the processing power of the product it’s replacing, this one for TVs with HDMI connectors fetches $29.99, supports 1080p video, WiFi (802.11b/g/n), support for Roku’s mobile app, and an IR remote. Notably, Roku is now providing its private listening feature (integrated with the remote control) across its product line.

-Roku Express+: This $39.99 version includes composite connectors for older TVs.

-Roku Streaming Stick: Of the group, this model is the same one that Roku introduced in April 2016. And the price remains unchanged, at $49.99.

-Roku Premiere: Supports 4K, plus an IR-based remote, and costs $79.99. It’s about 40% smaller than the 4K-capable Roku 4 that was introduced last fall, and includes a new quad-core processor, 802.11ac dual-band WiFi with MIMO, and removes the fan that was part of the Roku 4. The device also supplies access to Roku’s 4K spotlight channel.

-Roku Premiere+: Includes the features of Premiere, but adds support for HDR, RF-based remote with a headphone jack, a microSD card slot for added storage, and Ethernet for wired connectivity. Sells for $99.99.

-Roku Ultra: At $129, it represents the fully-loaded option of Roku’s lot, tacking on a voice-capable remote, headphone jack, and gaming buttons, audio optical out port (to connect to a receiver or soundbar), USB port for local media playback, and a lost remote finder feature.

All of Roku’s new 4K-capable players also feature a dynamic, night listening mode that will dampen the sounds of loud noises.

The new Roku Express, Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra streaming players will be available for pre-order beginning today from Roku, Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers, and are expected to be in stores by Oct. 9. The Roku Express+ will be available exclusively at Walmart, Roku said.

Roku’s players complement integrated Roku TVs from makers such as Hisense, TCL, Sharp, Haier, Insignia (Best Buy), and Hitachi.

About 4 billion hours of content was streamed on Roku devices in the first half of 2016, versus 5.5 billion hours for all of 2015, said Lloyd Klarke, Roku’s director of product management. “It’s a monumental time for television,” said.

Roku is privately held, but has said the company pulled in $300 million in revenues in 2015, a figure that includes player sales, licensing and advertising. Roku has about 10.6 million active accounts, meaning that they have done some streaming in the last 30 days.

Roku is also nearing the launch of an Xfinity TV app that support’s Comcast’s pay TV platform.

According to Parks Associates, Roku was the top-selling streaming media player in 2015, accounting for 30% of units purchased.