Streaming TV platform specialist Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) has some major tailwinds at its back, namely the shift of viewers from linear TV to streaming and rapid growth in ad-supported connected TV (CTV). But one smaller and nascent catalyst is often overlooked: Roku's international expansion. Roku CEO Anthony Wood has said that international markets represent "a greenfield with a lot of potential."
In 2019, Roku made key progress on laying the foundation for its international expansion, building out its offering in Canada, Mexico, some parts of Latin America, and Europe.
Throughout 2020, Roku's ongoing international expansion may lead to significant account growth outside of the U.S.
Recent international launches
Roku's latest geographical expansion was in Brazil. The company started selling Roku-powered AOC TVs in the market on Jan. 22. As has been the case in the U.S. and in other countries where Roku has expanded, these TVs come standard with Roku OS, giving users the ability to download channels from the Roku Channel Store and search for entertainment across the apps.
Highlighting how Roku is attempting to localize its platform for the international markets it expands to, the company partnered with the largest streaming Brazilian platform, Globoplay.
"In order to allow users to enjoy direct access to Globoplay's content, the Globoplay shortcut button will be added to the Roku TV remote control in Brazil in the coming months," Roku said in a news release about its expansion to the market.
Another recent international expansion for Roku was in the U.K. In September, Roku announced at a European consumer electronics show in Germany that it was rolling out a TV licensing program for European markets. By November, the company launched Roku-powered Hisense TV models in the U.K.
Roku is getting aggressive
There's likely plenty more international expansion to come throughout 2020. Wood said in the company's third-quarter earnings call that Roku is starting to move "more aggressively" with its international rollout.
The company's international expansion includes hiring in target markets, forming partnerships with TV manufacturers and video publishers in those regions, and allocating more engineering resources toward international efforts.
While international markets were one of the company's investment areas in 2019, 2020 is likely the year that those investments will start to pay off in meaningful account growth. Management explained this timeline in a quarterly update last February:
These are still early days for us on the international front, and thus international distribution is unlikely to be a major driver of 2019 account growth. We expect to start seeing greater benefits of these investments show up in international account growth in 2020 and beyond.
Still, investors will need to exercise patience. Management has repeatedly emphasized that just as revenue growth has lagged account growth in the U.S., this will likely happen internationally as well.