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Roku Inside

Roku’s announcements from this year’s CES are a big deal. Fast Company has a comprehensive review and analysis here, but I wanted to briefly summarize and make a few points about what this could mean for the future intersection of content and technology (our sweet spot at Ripcord).

Briefly, Roku is revealing that it is inking deals with TV manufacturers (with more on the way) to embed Roku inside smart TVs, so consumers who buy said TVs in the future will not need to purchase separate Roku hardware. This has been part of Roku’s strategy for years, but the announcements from CES indicate that these deals are picking up steam.

If you like Roku’s product, then this is good news for developers, which means it will be good news for consumers. Technologically, the Smart TV landscape is a mess. And this isn’t wholly surprising; it’s still new. Many great apps aren’t available across devices because it’s simply too difficult or costly to build them for every single native Smart TV environment. I love the PBS Roku app, but when I visit my parents’ for the holidays I can’t get my Frontline fix because the app isn’t available on their Panasonic Smart TV.

When it’s possible for developers to build once for Roku (and maybe again for Apple TV and/or Chromecast), more apps and updates will be available at greater velocity. Right now, there are scores of Smart TV platforms that developers need to address to reach significant market share with a single app. A marketplace more closely resembling mobile will be easier for developers to cover (where iOS and Android cover most devices), making more apps and content available to more consumers. Roku is #1 and has 29% market share in US streaming media, as compared to Android, which is #1 in US smartphones and has 52% market share.

Theoretically, this could be good news for innovation at the intersection of content and tech. It can be tough to justify significant investment in experimental Smart TV apps, or experimental forms of content that might be delivered exclusively to Smart TVs. One reason is that the audience simply isn’t big enough, because it is too fragmented across devices. To the extent that Roku becomes more of a standard available to more consumers, “Roku Inside” could help companies get over that hurdle by more rapidly deploying new products to a wider audience.