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Streaming Media East: Roku Rethinking its Approach as More MVPDs Sign On

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The TV app market continues to grow and thrive, both in terms of quantity of content and diversity of business models, as more and more content owners use apps to reach viewers on multiple devices. But the single device that most people associate with TV apps is the Roku, and the company said today at Streaming Media East that it's "starting to edge up on the top five MVPD networks," and so is having to rethink its approach to reaching different audiences for its more than 1,200 apps.

That's according to Scott Rosenberg, Roku's VP of business development, content & services, during a panel called "The Business of TV as an App," on which he was joined by speakers from EPIX, A+E Networks, and LG Electronics, and moderated by Joel Espelien, senior analyst at TDG.

"We're no longer a little company where we can treat all our viewers the same," Rosenberg said. "We need to ask who is the History Channel audience, whois the WWE audience, and how can we speak to them. Thankfully, as an IP-based set-top box, we've got more tools than a cable company might have to reach those different audiences."

Espelien pointed out that the Roku experience is changing, and said he's beginning to see "more TV experiences versus video experiences" on the device.

"The authenticated experience is a big part of the overall user experience," said Rosenberg. "It's a big focus for us to get the TV Everywhere experience on the Roku, we've got A+E, EPIX, Fox Now, Time Warner has a really innovative app, but it's only available in 10-15% of our homes."

Espelien asked about MVPDs not authenticating on devices that connect to the TV, while none of them block access on phones ore tablets.

"The MVPDs perceive the phone and the tablet as less threatening than on devices that connect to the TV and deliver the same content to the same screen but through a different input," says Rosenberg, "but that's beginning to change with providers like DirecTV, Comcast, Disney, and Fox now beginning to offer access."

Rosenberg says that while Roku doesn't necessarily have insight into viewer usage for all of its partners' apps, new content such as recent TV episodes or movie premieres is driving increased audiences. The challenge, he said, is helping consumers figure out where they can watch the new content they want, without necessarily paying extra for it. "I discovered I had bought a few extra episodes of The Americans when I could have watched the latest ones for free on Verizon FIOS," Rosenberg says.

That's not necessarily something that could have been prevented in the current Roku ecosystem, but it points to the larger issues of integration and search and recommendation across platforms. Beyond the set-top box, Roku announced integration with TV manufacturers including Hisense and TCL at this year's CES, "We're going to play directly into the glass of the TV experience," Rosenberg says. "We don't look at the set-top box or the TV as an either/or, however. The set-top box offers advantages, and the TV offers others."

Roku now boasts 8 million devices sold in the U.S., and Rosenberg says that most of them are active, with the average box streaming about 14 hours of content per week. He also said that, in Roku households, Roku usage accounts for 25 percent of all video viewing.

Watch the full discussion below:


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