LAS VEGAS -- Although it's been nearly two years since Time Warner Cable launched an app for its pay-TV service on the Roku streaming video platform, few others have followed in its wake.
Now, however, Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) has announced it will stream to Roku Inc. devices when it debuts Sling TV later this month. And, according to Roku, additional pay-TV apps are in the pipeline.
When asked point blank at the CES show if more US service providers would bring their apps to Roku this year, Senior Vice President of Product Management Jim Funk declared, "Yes, absolutely."
Roku has had a number of announcements this week, including deployments on new smart TVs and the introduction of a 4K reference design that the company plans to release to hardware partners in the near future. However, the most important aspect of Roku is the content it provides, and pay-TV services continue to be largely absent from the platform's roster.
Many cable companies were originally hesitant about moving their content to unmanaged devices because they wanted to maintain control over the viewing experience. But that attitude has shifted significantly, thanks to the explosion of smartphones and tablets. And Roku -- unlike, for example, Boxee -- has had staying power in the market, making it a logical potential target for pay-TV providers.
Outside of the US, pay-TV apps on the Roku platform have gained some traction. British Sky Broadcasting Group plc in London has delivered its Now TV service on Roku boxes since 2012, and Sky Deutschland Fernsehen GmbH & Co. KG plans to offer a new IP-based service on the Roku platform in Germany and Austria. Roku would clearly like to bring more operators on board and extend its reach both in the US and abroad. (See Roku Pursues Pay-TV Providers.)
As further evidence of Roku's ambitions, Vice President of Programming Doug Craig noted elsewhere at CES that he believes there will ultimately be "a handful of operating systems for televisions." Roku clearly aims to be one of them.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading