Roku has introduced a new family of video streaming players, including some fresh models alongside some upgrades to existing ones, that will go on sale on October 1 as the company gears up for the holiday buying season.
Roku also announced the a partnership with M-GO, the Technicolor/Dreamworks Animation-led movie and TV rental and electronic sell-through joint venture that is facing off with Apple iTunes, Vudu and Amazon.
Here’s a brief summary of Roku's the new device lineup:
- Roku LT: This model, considered the low-end of the Roku product spectrum, comes with 720p streaming and Wi-Fi built in using design that’s consistent with the Roku 1 and Roku 2. Suggested retail: $49.
- The Roku 1: Adds 1080p streaming, offering an upgrade from the 720p capabilities supported by the Roku HD model. Suggested retail: $59.99.
- Roku 2: A mid-range model that replaces the Roku 2 XD, the Roku 2 builds in 1080p streaming, dual-band Wi-fi, and tacks on a feature that previously was offered only on the high-end Roku 3 – a remote control with a built-in headphone jack (and a pair of earbuds) for private listening. Suggested retail: $79.99.
- Roku 3: The company’s $99.99 flagship model, first launched in the U.S. in March, comes with the feature set of the Roku 2, plus Ethernet and USB ports.
Roku is making all of those models available across its current markets -- the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. The U.S. product supports more than 1,000 channels/apps, while the international versions each have access to north of 450.
Roku will sell all of the models online at its Web site and via electronic partners such as Amazon. Most models will also be offered at Walmart, Best Buy and other brick-and-mortar retail outlets. Most Roku sales come via traditional retail channels, Roku senior vice president of product management Jim Funk said. The HDMI-connected,$99.99 Roku Streaming Stick did not receive any tweaks or facelifts in this round.
Roku announced in April that it had eclipsed 5 million units shipped in the U.S. It has yet to provide a new shipment figure or announce unit sales from international markets.
New to the Roku Channel Store is M-GO, a service launched earlier this year that offers movies and TV shows for rent and purchase and is considered a competitor to Vudu, Apple iTunes. M-GO has also launched its app on newer LG Electronics and Samsung connected TVs, Vizio TVs and Vizio “Co-Star” media players, Google TV, iPads (via the Safari browser) and the Android platform.
As part of the partnership, M-GO now highlights the "Movies" and "TV shows" shortcut categories on the Roku home screen menu. The movie and TV shows shortcuts powered by M-GO will be available in the U.S. on the new Roku LT, Roku 1 and Roku 2 players, and will automatically roll out as a free software update beginning in October to all current-generation Roku devices – the Roku LT (models 2400 and 2450), Roku HD (model 2500), Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, Roku 2 XS and Roku 3 players as well as the Roku Streaming Stick. An M-GO button will also be featured on the new Roku LT (model 2700), Roku 1 and Roku 2 remotes.
Funk said the average Roku customer streams 13 hours of music and video per week ,and 25% of customers stream as much as 35 hours per week.
The Apple TV, a device that touts a deployment base of more than 13 million units, is widely considered one of Roku’s key competitors. However, Roku CEO Anthony Wood told the Multichannel News/Broadcasting & Cable Next TV Summit earlier this month that he increasingly views Google as his company's biggest threat as both companies pursue direct integration deals with TV makers.''
In May, Roku announced it had raised a $60 million "F" round of funding led by Fidelity and newspaper and TV station owner Hearst Corp. that extended its total funding past the $140 million mark. Other announced Roku investors include News Corp., BskyB, Menlo Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners. Dish Network is reportedly a Roku strategic investor.