Roku says it tops other manufacturers in smart TVs sold

Roku’s operating system on a smart TV. (Photo: Handout)

An executive with the streaming hardware company Roku said this week the company sells more smart TVs in the United States and Canada than any other manufacturer.

The comment was made by Steven Louden during a virtual technology conference on Wednesday.

“Roughly one in three TVs sold in the U.S. and Canada is running the Roku operating system,” Louden said, later clarifying that 38 percent of sets sold in the U.S. and 31 percent sold in Canada were running licensed versions of Roku’s smart operating system.

“We’ve gone from no market share to number one in five years ,and we’re making tremendous progress in Mexico,” he said.

Roku was one of the first streaming hardware companies to license its operating system to third party manufacturers. Element, Hisense, TCL and Best Buy’s Insignia are among some of the manufacturers to incorporate the operating system natively into their TV sets. Analysts say smaller brands that offer budget TVs are attracted to Roku’s licensing deals because it means they can offer access to top-tier apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube and Disney Plus without having to develop an operating system and a development platform themselves.

Other dominant manufacturers, including Samsung, LG and Vizio, have spent years developing their own streaming TV operating systems in an effort to maintain a direct relationship with consumers. While these platforms typically support the major streaming services, they often lack newer services that come to market: LG’s WebOS streaming service still does not have AT&T upstart HBO Max, while Samsung’s Tizen operating system lacks access to Comcast’s Peacock streaming service. (Both are available on Roku, though they weren’t initially offered.)

But Roku isn’t above its own criticism: Some manufacturers have started easing off the company’s operating system after Roku shifted its strategy from being a welcoming platform for any app developer into a gatekeeper of streaming services contingent upon its own business deals. Roku was largely unaffected when it decided not to offer HBO Max or Peacock until those services accepted certain commercial terms, but it rankled long-time customers who bought into the company’s earlier promise of being an open, welcoming platform for all services to co-exist.

Over the last year, companies like TCL have seemingly responded to this shift by offering customers the option of purchasing Roku-native sets or ones running Google’s Android TV operating system. Others, including Toshiba and Insignia, have inked deals with Amazon to incorporate the tech giant’s Fire TV operating system into their sets (Fire TV runs on top of a modified version of Android).

Still, other manufacturing partners weren’t shaken by Roku’s gatekeeper status. Louden said additional Roku-native products are coming down the line, including a new soundbar developed by Element that will be compatible with a new Roku-developed audio standard. TCL, Bose, Sound United and others are also selling Roku TV Ready sound products, he said.

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