By Hope King
Roku is out with new hardware to help grow its...software business.
The streaming TV company launched two new wireless speakers Monday designed to work with pretty much only Roku TVs.
Roku says the speakers will only work with TVs made by its manufacturing partners ー such as TCL, Sharp, and Hisense ー and not with TVs plugged into a Roku box. But in reality, the company's VP of Product Management Mark Ely said they could be used with Bluetooth connected devices, such as a phone or tablet.
“They also include a Bluetooth radio…so you can stream and playback through the speaker,” he told me.
Pre-orders for the new Roku TV speakers began Monday with a promotional price of $150. The price will increase starting next week to $180. Shipping will begin in October when prices go up to $200. The wireless speakers also come with a TV remote and a touch remote, both with voice control only for Roku TV.
The announcement comes a few months after Roku saw its platform business surpass its device business, in term of percent of revenue, for the first time during the first quarter of this year.
The distinction of the speakers' compatibility may seem like a fine point, but for a company competing with evermore wireless speaker brands such as Sonos, and smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and Apple, it’s one that should be made. After all, how many connected speakers do people need in their homes, especially if they can’t all work together? To that end, Roku’s software inside the speakers could enable wider usage in the future.
“We’re always upgrading those systems,” said Ely. “Even the very first Roku TVs we shipped back in 2014 have the latest software.”
To be clear, Roku is not trying to compete directly with the growing smart speaker market here. The company instead is trying to make it easier for existing Roku customers to listen to music, shows, and movies through something other than their TV speakers.
“Our goal is to make Roku TVs the best TVs,” Ely said. “Sound is a critical part of that.” He went on to say that “great sound [means] a more immersive experience, and that drives our business overall.”
As of the end of the first quarter, Roku saw platform revenue of $75.1 million ー about 55 percent of its total revenue and more than double what it was the year before.
Ely said he expects the new speakers to add to that growth because the company is focused on “delivering a great streaming experience [through] really innovative hardware products.”
“The better streaming experiences we can deliver, the more that drives platform engagement, and that drives the growth of our business,” said Ely.
Shares of Roku closed down about 1 percent Monday. The stock is up about 82 percent since it began trading on the NASDAQ last September.
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