Giant Steps in the Digital Mediascape with Roku

If you’re delivering content, you need to be where your customers are. And so we are. Renderyard Roku On September 13, our first Roku channel went live bringing long-standing client Renderyard, the cutting edge short film distributor based in the United Kingdom to living rooms. (For those keeping track, we also published a Tabby Award-nominated iOS app for Renderyard earlier this year, so, yes, we’re fans of independent film.) Roku already boasts hundreds of channels and Renderyard is just one of a number of projects we’re planning. This little streaming device has been around since 2008 and has proved to be a popular and effective entry point for households seeking easy-to-use access to both the big digital platforms (i.e.: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) and smaller up-n-comers (i.e.: FlixFling). In an August article, CNET noted:

In a survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households with streaming media devices, Parks Associates found that 37 percent primarly use a Roku, while 24 percent use an Apple TV. Further, Roku is the most used streaming set-top box in the U.S., the poll found.

Digital distributors that hope to maximize their exposure to the rapidly expanding digital marketplace, and the home entertainment dollars to be found there, would be wise not to choose one over the other. “Both” is a viable answer and could be a beneficial business decision for obvious reasons.

The overall market for connected devices is expected to double by 2017 to 330 million per year. That number includes set-top boxes as well smart TVs, gaming consoles, and Blu-ray players. Prices of these devices will drop over the next few years, according to Parks. At the same time, annual sales are expected to jump 100 percent by 2017.

Roku offers some very interesting monetization models as part of their development package, presenting a powerful way for distributors to directly connect with their fans. We’re looking forward to exploring this further for some of our own ‘skunkworks’ projects, and for our current and future clients. For those who may be wary of the Apple vs. Roku dynamic, thinking back to the HD DVD vs Blu-ray format war, it really isn’t an apt comparison. Each device accesses the online platforms via the internet, offering different channels and but essentially delivering content via the same source.

[As of April, 2013], Roku has sold a total of five million players in the U.S. …[and] have delivered a total of 8 billion streams so far, and that one out of four Roku players now streams more than 35 hours to TVs — a pretty impressive number, but one that also includes music consumption. The average U.S. consumer watches 33 hours of traditional TV a week, according to Nielsen.

My own domestic focus group has a Roku in the living room and an Apple TV upstairs. They have different interfaces and ways of presenting selections and channels, but I’ve found them to be pretty comparable in terms of quality. Apple dominates in a number of other areas of the entertainment business, aided by their excellent design and technical innovation. It’s good to see another player giving them a run for their money AND providing choice to consumers.