Roku, the Internet set top box maker and streaming video provider, is carefully hedging its bets as it tries to become one of the dominant players in the future of television. With cable TV cord cutting growing, Roku is rumored to be working on a new, simpler way for premium cable junkies to keep up with their favorite shows even after they switch to the company’s Internet-based service.
With the legions of cord cutters likely exceeding 15 million households soon, the battle for the future of television seems to be splintering between two visions. On one side is just an Internet-style update of the 500 channel past. Think of AT&T’s (T) DirecTV Now or Sony’s PlayStation Vue, basically just low cost, Internet delivered packages of dozens of regular cable TV channels.
The alternative is fueled by the explosion of new forms and new creators. Examples include Amazon’s (AMZN) Twitch network, which broadcasts little more than video gamers video gaming in realtime, or the biggest TV disrupter among young people, YouTube, with its millions of cat videos, comedy clips, and how-to bits.
Roku started out as one of the leaders in helping viewers find and control new, niche Internet programming for big screen TVs. But it has also made its boxes compatible with apps from major entertainment companies like CBS’s (CBS) All Access service and Disney’s (DIS) ABC News.
Some people who drop cable service still want to watch their favorite cable shows, it turns out.
Now Variety reports that Roku is going to try to better blend its old and new offerings. Using a rumored upcoming service, customers would be able to subscribe to traditional cable-type channels in a marketplace, but all of the available shows and movies would then be integrated directly into a single interface. Customers wouldn’t need to remember whether a show they want to watch is on a specific network and then have to find that network’s app. Searching for desired programs should be much easier, too.
Roku is also said to be working on a new behind-the-scenes payment service to make it easier for customers to subscribe to programming, Variety reported.
Roku’s stock price has more than tripled since it went public last fall, as ad revenues on Internet shows have grown even faster than set-top box sales. It closed up 4% to $44.93 on Monday after Variety’s report. The company declined to comment .
The rumored moves by Roku follow the disclosure that Amazon’s similar offering, which lets customers subscribe to premium cable channels and integrates the individual shows into the company’s Prime Video interface, has taken off. More than half of all customers who subscribe to HBO outside of a standard cable TV package now do so via Amazon, for example. Seven in ten non-traditional subscribers to CBS’s Showtime network come via Amazon.
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