Roku Rolls New OS

Broader search of OTT channels, new features for integrated Roku TVs built into OS 7.6 release
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Roku has introduced a new version of its operating system that will bring a bevy of new features for integrated Roku TVs as well as its current crop of Roku streaming players.

For both Roku TVs and Roku players, the company’s search platform now ties into more than 300 streaming channels, with NBC and Brit Box, a new SVOD service from BBC and ITV, among the recent additions. Roku said that’s an increase from 150 channels in January 2017, and a 10x increase from the number of streaming channels it was indexing for search about a year ago.

A new More Ways to Watch element, for Roku TVs, will detect the shows being watched on set-tops or over-the-air and present related streaming options for a movie or TV show. That opt-in feature is powered by Audio Content Recognition technology, Dave Sharp, VP of OEM product management at Roku, said, noting that much content is still being consumed through traditional TV inputs.

Roku is starting to roll out the More Ways to Watch feature to HD Roku TVs, and 4K-capable Roku TV models are slated to get it sometime this summer, the company said. Roku’s TV partners include Element Electronics, Hitachi America, Haier America, Sharp, Insignia (Best Buy’s in-house brand), and Hisense.

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Roku is also catering a bit more to users who complement their OTT viewing with over-the-air TV. The new software will allow Roku users to manage their OTA-TV options by setting a list of favorite broadcast channels, when they have a broadcast antenna connected to a Roku TV.

Roku has also added a new component to a Live TV Pause feature introduced last year that shows thumbnail images on screen when the user pauses, rewinds or fast-forwards the live video that’s being buffered – a feature that is already present for many of the streaming apps available on Roku’s platform. Roku’s Live TV Pause component, which lets users plug in a USB-connected storage to buffer up to 90 minutes of live TV, is also adding closed caption capabilities for its Replay feature.

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The new OS also offers a way for users to customize the Roku home-screen by creating input labels for devices that are connected to Roku-powered TVs. Those users will have the option to highlight and then name those individual input tiles (up to 15 characters).

Roku said it had 14 million “active accounts” as of March 31, 2017. The privately held company pulled in nearly $400 million in revenues for 2016, with $100 million coming from its media and licensing division.