Roku’s next episode will stream on smart TV 

Contact: Scott Denne

Roku has withstood an onslaught of competition from the world’s largest tech companies, yet it faces challenges on a new front as it readies its initial public offering. The maker of appliances for streaming video devices was able to flourish as Apple, Amazon and Google entered its market, but now faces a threat from smart TVs.

Amid a bevy of streaming alternatives, Roku expanded its topline by 25% in 2016 to $399m. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Connected User Landscape survey, Roku leads the market for streaming media devices – 41% of respondents that own such a device use one from the company. It also sits ahead of the competition in daily usage and customer satisfaction rankings.

Most of Roku’s revenue comes through sales of its hardware ($294m in 2016), although most of the growth and profit margin comes via its advertising, licensing and revenue-sharing activities, which (at one-third the size) generated nearly twice the gross profit as the hardware segment. While Roku remains in the red, losses have decreased through the first half of the year, and modest increases in marketing spend – atypical of a venture-backed IPO – have fueled its gains.

Roku’s IPO heads to Wall Street as the market for streaming video accelerates. More than 21% of people in that same 451 Research survey said that they pay for three or more streaming services – double the number from two years earlier. Yet, much of that content is being consumed on smart TVs, which obviate the need for separate streaming devices, like Roku’s, and whose use ticked up by one-quarter over the last year, per our survey.

The company has begun to license its Roku OS software to TV makers, and needs to do so to continue to scale its audience reach – the lifeblood of the most profitable part of the business. While Roku showed that it can last through a heated battle with the biggest in tech, the company’s next phase will call for a subtler mix of partnership and competition with and against TV manufacturers.

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Posted in IPO