Vjeran Pavic, Re/code
His world is about to get more crowded — that’s a phrase that has haunted the coverage of Roku CEO Anthony Wood for the past decade.
Critics are applying the phrase again as the maker of the set-top box that streams Web TV to your TV faces another big rival. By this time next week, Amazon is expected to crash the party with its own set-top box and a new streaming TV service, joining Apple and Google in the Web TV sweepstakes.
Still, Wood, a six-time entrepreneur who invented the digital video recorder (remember ReplayTV?), has survived, if not prevailed.
Joining Re/code’s Peter Kafka onstage at the first-ever Code/Media event in Santa Monica on Thursday evening, Wood appeared unfazed by the entrance of yet another well-financed rival.
“Every year about this time, the Amazon box comes up that they’re about to launch. And the new Apple TV is about to launch … We’ve been competing with Apple TV for six years now, and every year, we’ve grown,” Wood told Kafka. “We’re in the TV platform business. Our goal is to be the operating system for TV.”
Roku will take a step closer to Wood’s vision of providing the software underpinnings of your future TV set this fall, when two Chinese manufacturers, TCL and Hisense, release the first sets running Roku software. Roku gets a cut of revenue from transactions or views that happen on its platform.
Just a few years ago, industry analysts predicted the end of Roku with the introduction of the Apple TV. But Wood told the Code/Media audience that when Apple dropped the price of its Web TV set-top to $99 from $249, Roku sales doubled.
Still more entrants are expected to barge into the sector this year, as viewers watch more TV across more devices. Sony has also committed to creating a new television-streaming service for the PlayStation platform.
And Apple, which once called its television business a “hobby,” disclosed in February that it is now a $1 billion business in sales of content and the Apple TV device. The iPhone and iPad maker also continues to negotiate with television networks and distributors like Comcast for its own differentiated service, which it has been unable to achieve since before the iPad was launched.
“Big companies want to get into [this], and they do a lot of different things. But they are not as focused as us,” Wood said.
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