Last year, Roku announced a partnership with TV makers HiSense and TCL to integrate its content device directly into an HDTV.
This year, the company is increasing its number of TV partners and will also be working on a prototype 4K Roku TV product.
Roku has sold more than 10 million of its streaming players in the U.S. alone. Much of its growth has been organic, driven by word-of-mouth, as well as increased interest in original programming from services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Still, the company sees plenty of room for expansion. A recent Nielsen survey showed that 88% of U.S. households don’t have a streaming player and 89% don’t have a smart TV. Roku sees itself uniquely positioned to offer an affordable, highly usable smart TV experience.
To that end, the company is expanding its partnership with TCL to increase the number of Roku TV devices. Right now TCL has four Roku TV models; that will expand to 12 models this spring. Screen sizes will start at 32 inches.
Roku has also signed a partnership with Insignia, Best Buy’s house brand. This spring, Insignia TVs will be available with built-in Roku TV features. These will be sold in Best Buy stores and at BestBuy.com.
In Q3 2015, Roku will also be coming to Haier TV sets. The Haier Roku TV 4 Series smart LED TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 32-inches to 65-inches.
Although any TV can technically become a Roku TV, thanks to the Roku Streaming Stick, the advantage of having the technology built in is that the interface can be accessed from one remote, without forcing the user to switch inputs.
Roku tells us it has worked hard on making sure its interface is optimized for the big screen experience. The company sees its broad content selection — which includes Netflix, Google Play, HBO Go, Amazon, Hulu and thousands of other services — as something that sets it apart from the pack.
4K Roku TV reference designs in the works
Roku is also working with TCL on a 4K reference model, bringing ultra-HD 4K content to its platform for the first time.
The company is optimizing the Roku OS for 4K compatibility, and working with manufacturers on the right kind of hardware needed to support its platform. The maker (in this case, TCL) can then design the TV as it wants; the Roku platform will power it.
Roku has already confirmed that Netflix in 4K will be supported on its platform. We pressed them for 4K support from other vendors — such as Amazon or M-Go — but the company said it had nothing else to announce at this time.
There is no price or release date for a 4K Roku TV. But given Roku’s focus on the low-cost sector, a 4K Roku TV could be one of the first truly affordable and content-rich 4K devices on the market.