It is hard to believe that the first Roku Player was announced 14 years ago this year. Originally Roku was just a device to stream Netflix Roku players have come a long way, and now 1 in 3 smart TVs sold in the United States run the Roku OS.
Roku, as a company, predates the first Roku streaming player. Roku was founded back in 2002 after founder Anthony Wood sold ReplayTV, a leader in early DVR technology. Roku released several audio products to stream audio from your PC to your stereo system back when that was not easily done.
In 2007 Anthony Wood started to work with Netflix to build a streaming player that would become the Roku Player we know today. Once the project was completed, Netflix decided having their own streaming player could upset other manufacturers that Netflix hoped to put their apps on. So Netflix gave Anthony Wood the streaming player and allowed him to sell it as a Roku product.
Now Roku has released ten generations of streaming players. Roku has also sold exclusive versions of Roku devices through partners like Walmart and even has its own Roku-branded smart TVs.
What dose the future hold for Roku?
Increasingly in 2023, the Roku Player is no longer Roku’s main focus. Roku has said they see the future of streaming as smart TVs and wants to make the Roku OS the way smart TVs are powered. So far that plan has gone well as 1 in 3 TVs sold in the US are now Roku TVs.
Roku is also increasingly focusing on its ad platform as a way to grow its business. Now Roku makes more revenue by selling ads vs selling hardware sales.
Roku seems to be following Google and Amazon on the idea that if you sell the device cheaply, you can make up the money by selling ads and services.
To help grow Roku’s ad business, Roku launched The Roku Channel. A free streaming service that is full of both original and 3rd party content. Roku hopes by promoting more ad-supported viewing, it can generate more revenue through its ad platform.
For now, the question is what is next for Roku. In recent months Roku launched a line of smart home devices, including cameras and lightbulbs. But what is next for Roku as the ad market slows and streaming players are increasingly built into TVs. For now, though Roku seems to be riding high on strong device sales and ad revenues.