Science & Technology

Report: Roku Considering Building Its Own Smart TVs

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(Photo: Roku)
If the rumors are true, Roku will soon do more than stream content to your flatscreen—it’ll manufacture your flatscreen, too.

Known most for its plug-and-play streaming devices, Roku recently conducted a focus group in which it alluded to a future in smart TV manufacturing, according to a source for Business Insider. The group moderator showed the participants a selection of smart TVs in “different models, feature sets and names, sizes, [and] price points,” all the while making it clear that Roku was interested in breaking into a whole new realm of devices. 

Those who are even a bit familiar with Roku’s business model likely don’t find this news surprising. Aside from making streaming devices, the $22 billion hardware company already licenses its operating system to established TV brands. (This is why your friend may claim to have a “Roku TV,” when in actuality they own a Hisense or TCL TV with Roku’s OS built in.) But now Roku’s partners are facing hardware component shortages just like everyone else, leading those in charge to wonder whether the company could exercise more control over a TV manufacturing chain it actually owns.

The closest thing to a “Roku TV” that currently exists is another company’s TV with the Roku OS pre-installed, like this TCL flatscreen. (Photo: TCL)

Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood declined to comment on the company’s interest in making TVs during an earnings call on Thursday, saying, “In terms of us making our own TV, there are rumors around that. We don’t speculate on rumors.” In the same breath, though, Wood mentioned the pressure of the supply chain on retail pricing; not only are panels scarce, but larger electronics are more expensive to ship, which makes the end product less affordable for the consumer. By cutting out the middleman, Roku may be able to bring costs back down, creating the perfect window of opportunity for an entry into TV production.

While its streaming sticks remain popular, Roku has a vested interest in maintaining its base of customers who use smart TVs with the Roku OS built in. Such customers make up a significant portion of Roku’s revenue, according to those on the earnings call, and have been partially responsible for making Roku the number one TV platform in the US, Mexico, and Canada. 

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