Smart TVs today consist of a wide range of platforms, many of which are built in-house or are licensed from one of several different companies: LG’s WebOS, Firefox OS, Samsung’s Tizen OS, and plenty of other platforms that can run a handful of apps including Netflix. The other side of this includes set-top boxes, additional devices that connect to your TV to give you functionality: Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, TiVo, Fire TV, and others are all competing in a small but growing market.
At this week’s Collision Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of Roku, Anthony Wood, was interviewed by Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel. Roku not only makes set-top boxes for consumers, but works with TV manufacturers on smart TV platforms and selling advertising on streaming content. They see advertising as an important part of their business, where they’re trying to bring smarter, more focused, interactive ads.
On the subject of competition, Wood said:
All TVs not made by Samsung are going to be powered by Roku or Android TV, the two biggest players licensing technology to smart TVs.
Google is likely the closest to Roku in terms of not only selling a platform to manufacturers, but invested in better advertising as well. With that being said, the two companies also contrast in other ways. Google’s multi-angle approach means they’re developing both a cord-cutting box as well as cable through Google Fiber. This approach means Google is more invested in the idea of unlocking set-top boxes and allowing third-parties to create their own. This would let them merge Android TV and Google Fiber to create a much more cohesive experience to all consumers.
These deals would probably help Google transition to an Internet-based cable service, something that Apple has been unsuccessful at. Roku meanwhile has not been in favor of this rule. Wood himself wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the cable industry is already moving to apps and Internet-based streaming and there isn’t a need to add regulations. He directly mentions Google in the article, believing that they would scrape the channels on top of their own interface without the burden of entering licensing deals with networks.
It’s interesting that he didn’t mention Apple, Google’s rival in several other technology industries. Perhaps it’s because Apple’s rumored plans have fallen flat, or he doesn’t believe Apple is very ambitious in the TV market right now.
As the industry matures, we’ll probably start to see manufacturers picking certain platforms and building just the hardware. It’ll be interesting to see what operating systems will still be competing. Will Roku end up being Google’s greatest competitor in the TV space, and will Samsung continue to use Tizen on their TVs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.