Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) is known for its lineup of affordable set-top boxes that support the most popular over-the-top (OTT) streaming services as well as its own OTT platform. The company has made impressive progress transitioning away from its hardware business as it grows its platform segment. The majority of new active accounts these days comes from licensed sources -- TVs made by third-party manufacturers that integrate Roku OS -- while platform revenue just surpassed player revenue for the first time last quarter.
Given this progress, it's a bit peculiar that Roku just announced that it's jumping into the speaker market.
Say hello to Roku TV Wireless Speakers
Roku today announced its new Roku TV Wireless Speakers, which are designed to work exclusively with Roku TVs. Since Roku develops the software for Roku TVs, it can better integrate a premium audio experience, the company says. That makes setup easy, and should ensure that the audio and video are synced up well.
There's a potentially large addressable market for the speakers, as Roku notes that a quarter of all TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter were Roku TVs. The speakers also support Bluetooth, which allows users to stream music from their mobile devices. Along with a standard Roku Remote, a new Roku Touch is also included, which is a small puck-sized remote that is supposed to sit on a tabletop and can recognize voice commands.
Roku TV Wireless Speakers are expected to ship in late October, and will be priced at $200 at that time. Leading up to launch, Roku will be offering promotional pricing of $150 starting today through July 23, 2018, and then $180 from July 24, 2018, through Oct. 15, 2018.
In speakers, Roku will have a lot of catching up to do
In releasing the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, Roku is looking to compete with the likes of Sonos, one of the dominant players in the premium home audio market. Sonos, which is preparing to go public, offers a comprehensive product portfolio of TV speakers and wireless speakers, and has earned a reputation for superior sound quality.
Meanwhile, the broader context is that smart speakers are gobbling up the market, being one of the fastest-growing consumer electronics product categories in terms of adoption. Roku TV Wireless Speakers are decidedly not smart speakers: They don't integrate directly with any music-streaming services, and there is no embedded virtual assistant yet. The company is working on its Roku Entertainment Assistant, but for now it's mostly just voice commands.
The news isn't that surprising, considering the fact that Roku unveiled a wireless audio platform called Roku Connect at CES earlier this year. The company suggested that the platform was meant for third-party manufacturers, instead of making first-party speakers. The new speakers are the first product to utilize Roku Connect, but Roku still plans on licensing Roku Connect to third-party manufacturers.
If the goal is mostly to jump-start the Roku Connect ecosystem, that's one thing, but if Roku plans to stay in the speaker market for the long haul, that could be a misguided strategy.