Roku Unveils Its Own Smart TVs (CES 2023)

Roku smart TV
(Image credit: Roku)

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Already a dominant supplier of TVOS in North America via its OEM relationships with TV manufacturers, Roku has unveiled two new product lines of its own branded smart TVs.

Set to hit the market in the spring, the Roku Select and Plus Series TVs will include 11 HD and 4K models, spanning screen sizes of 24 - 75 inches and ranging in price from $119 - $999.

Roku is unveiling its new smart TVs at CES 2023 in Las Vegas this week. The company also flew in a small cadre of tech and business journalists, Next TV included, to its San Jose, Calif. headquarters in early December to give a quiet overview of its new smart TV product lines.

All 11 models will feature a Roku voice remote, with higher end "Plus Series" models featuring the rechargeable Roku Voice Remote Pro device. Plus Series models will also include other nifty features, such as ambient light sensors.

Roku is also unveiling the latest iteration of its reference designs for smart TVs, this one focused on OLED. These are schematics upon which Roku's smart TV original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners build sets based on the Roku operating system.

Roku, however, didn't disclose the name of the manufacturing partner for its new line of Roku-branded smart TVs.

Also read: Roku (Not Surprisingly) Mulls Building Its Own Smart TVs

The introduction of Roku-branded sets had been anticipated, especially with rivals including Amazon already in the market with their own branded smart TVs for over a year.

'Purpose Built'

As reporters engaged in presentations by numerous Roku team leaders at the company's San Jose HQ, Ken Krakow, director of hardware engineering for Roku, perhaps summed up the impetus for the new proprietary smart TV products best: "This allows us to strategically invest in new features," he said.

Roku has had its "TV program" in place since 2014, and is now engaged with 15 OEM partners including KTC, TCL, HKC, Hisense, Philips, Walmart's .onn brand, Sharp, RCA, Westinghouse, JVC, Hitachi and InFocus, among others. For the past eight years, these manufacturers have built sets based on Roku reference designs, which allow them to use relatively minimal computer hardware to run the "purpose-built" Roku TVOS on their products.

Also read: Roku Enters the Smart Home Biz

A third of the sets sold in North America today are powered by Roku's TVOS. Roku is currently engaged in a fierce battle in Europe, where the TVOS market is more wide open.

Indeed, the TV gateway platform business, as it's also known, is highly competitive. Most of Roku's OEM partners also build sets powered by rival OS systems from Google and Amazon, among other software tech suppliers.

Meanwhile, Roku has other peripheral product lines that rely on its TVOS, ranging from audio devices like smart sound bars to the company's new line of smart home products.

Having engineering control of the master device (i.e. the smart TV) better enables Roku to holistically manage and market its broader tech product portfolio.

In terms of go-to-market strategy, think end caps in retail destinations like Walmart, with Roku audio and smart home peripherals sold side by side with the new Roku-branded TVs. Or maybe bundled product offerings.

Still Committed to Its OEMs

Roku stressed that it remains "committed" to its smart TV OEMs, and is publishing its "OLED Reference Design" to support them.

Since 2014, Roku has published 11 reference designs, instructing OEM partners on how to build Roku-powered sets using 2K, 4K and 8K resolutions. The new spec outlines build guidelines for smart TVs using the Organic Light-Emitting Diode display technology.

Roku says its OLED Reference Design will help its partners cost-effectively build sets with "inky black levels, outstanding contrast, highly saturated colors, smooth motion and superior viewing angles."

A New Spoke in the Wheel

Roku reported 65.4 million active users for its TVOS platform as of the end of September -- a figure that's grown mainly by adoption of smart TVs into homes that previously didn't use Roku.

Entry into a new line of gadgets comes as Roku continues to bleed money in its hardware operation. It lost $17.5 million in the third quarter, holding the line on pricing for streaming sticks and pucks, as well as other gadgets, amid sustained pressure from global supply chain issues. (Roku's third-quarter metrics can be viewed here.)

Maintaining price integrity is crucial to sustaining unit sales of Roku devices ... which propels user growth and expansion of Roku's core business, selling ads.

Billing Roku as the next Netflix less than 18 months ago, Wall Street is now highly dissonant to the company, trading its shares at around 1/8th of the price they were valued at back in July 2021.

Any perceived growth deceleration in Roku's active user base or its ad revenue has only served to perpetuate the sustained downward cycle of Roku's Nasdaq fortune.

However, touring Roku's HQ on that blustery San Jose Wednesday on December 7, the team of veteran technologists seemed impervious to the current state of their employer's market capitalization.

They continue to build a complex web of gadgets, software and entertainment content, aiming to create a diversified video streaming business with dominant market share not only in North America, but in Europe and other global hot spots.

With the introduction of branded smart TVs, Roku has yet another tool to keep building out that agenda. ■

Daniel Frankel

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. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!