Roku is jumping on the whole-home audio bandwagon, announcing the new Roku Connect platform that will make it easier for owners of Roku TVs and players to wirelessly integrate smart soundbars and speakers into their home entertainment setup. Roku has also announced that it is developing a more advanced voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, to make better use of these new whole-home capabilities. Both of these technologies are expected to be rolled out as free software updates to Roku TVs and players in Fall 2018.
Roku, Inc. has unveiled plans to make it easier for consumers to enjoy streaming entertainment around the whole home. Roku plans to make it especially easy for Roku TV customers to add great audio to their TV experience. The new whole home entertainment licensing program will enable OEM brands to build soundbars and smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems that use Roku Connect software to work together as a home entertainment network. With Roku Connect devices working together they will be able to connect wirelessly and be controlled by voice commands and a single remote. In addition, OEM brands will be able to license smart soundbar and smart speaker hardware reference designs along with the Roku operating system, Roku OS. TCL is our lead OEM partner, and will announce its plans to offer the first device under the new program at its press conference at CES on Jan. 8.
Roku also announced plans to develop and launch a voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, that is optimized for home entertainment. It, along with Roku Connect, is expected to be rolled out as a free software update to the Roku operating system by this Fall to most Roku TV models and Roku players. When launched, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable consumers to use voice commands to enjoy entertainment on voice-supported Roku devices. For example, customers will be able to say, "Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room" and a smart soundbar with Roku Connect will begin playing music-even if the TV is turned off.
"We've always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs, and with an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs, and audio around the whole home in a modern way," said Roku CEO Anthony Wood. "Consumers will love the benefits of a home entertainment network, such as having more affordable options, adding one device at a time, using their voice, having a simplified setup and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control. And, of course, OEM brands benefit by offering their products in a more appealing way to our already large and engaged audience of millions of active accounts."
A New Era of Home Entertainment
Four years ago, Roku unveiled its TV licensing program, simplifying the smart TV and making it easy for OEM brands to delight consumers. Today, the Roku TV licensing program is flourishing. Roku TVs accounted for more than one out of every five smart TVs sold in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2017. Roku also today announced that Magnavox joins the program as the ninth brand-bringing new Roku TVs to market this Spring.
Roku believes that the home theater market is ready for a modern approach encompassing the whole home. By expanding its licensing program to allow for easy ways for audio devices to become part of the Roku streaming ecosystem, OEM brands can build smart devices for home entertainment. This is expected to make Roku TV even more appealing to both OEM brands and consumers, and allow Roku to continue to grow active accounts and increase engagement. Roku monetizes active accounts as users engage with content and advertising on its platform.
OEM brands can choose from:
• Roku TV - A smart TV powered by the Roku OS. To be updated with Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant by this Fall.
• Smart Soundbar - Enhances the TV audio experience. Designed to work with any TV that has an HDMI ARC, and expected to have features to allow it to work better with a Roku TV. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
• Smart Speaker - Standalone speaker or extends audio from another device for a multi-room experience. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
• Roku Connect - Enables OEM brands to build home entertainment devices that connect wirelessly to Roku OS powered devices and other Roku Connect devices within a home entertainment network. Roku Connect devices will be identified by a Roku Connect logo.
OEM brands can license the Roku Connect software (which has a hardware requirement) for free. In addition, Roku does not expect licensing revenues, if any, from smart speakers and smart soundbars to be material in the foreseeable future.