Entertainment

​Streaming video is big business. Now, Sonos wants a piece of it.

The company is hiring people with smart-TV experience for a new “Home Theater OS.”

CEO Patrick Spence

To date, Sonos has built apps to control its speakers for mobile devices and desktop PCs but not TVs.

Photo: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Sonos appears to be getting ready to play a bigger role on the TV: The company is hiring multiple staffers for a new “Home Theater OS” project, with job descriptions hinting at plans to run apps or experiences directly on the TV. This comes after the company considered various ways to play a bigger role in TV streaming in recent years, according to multiple sources who spoke to Protocol on the condition of anonymity.

A Sonos spokesperson declined to comment.

The company recently started searching for a “UX Lead — Next Generation Home Theater Experience,” who will work “across device surfaces (mobile, television, tablet, and HW remote) to deliver a next generation content delivery experience.” Applicants need to have multiple years of experience designing for mobile “and/or TV.”

To date, Sonos has built apps to control its speakers for mobile devices and desktop PCs but not TVs. The company’s existing home theater products also don’t ship with a hardware remote and can instead be controlled with third-party TV remotes.

Another job listing is for a future “Principal Platform Product Manager” to develop an “OS & Media Platform roadmap”; the listing asks for applicants to have experience with modern operating systems, including Android/Android TV. And a “Head of Partnerships, Home Theatre” will “play a pivotal role in connecting users to the content and services they love with Sonos quality experiences they’ve come to expect,” according to another recent listing.

That listing was promoted on LinkedIn by Sonos Chief Innovation Officer Nick Millington, who said he was working on “a new home theater project.” Millington noted that the gig would be a great match for people with experience with streaming media, including “audio, video, games, sports, music, news, movies, TV, news, podcasts.”

Sonos released its first soundbar nearly a decade ago and has seen revenue from home theater projects grow significantly as people embraced streaming video services. In its fiscal Q4 of 2019, the company’s soundbar revenue nearly matched its smart speaker revenue (Sonos stopped breaking out home theater products in its earnings reports in subsequent quarters).

Sonos has been exploring a variety of ways to further capitalize on the growth of streaming, according to multiple sources with knowledge of these discussions. One approach, which was floated internally several years ago, was to partner with smart-TV manufacturers to equip their TV sets with Sonos speakers, similar to the way the company has been partnering with car-makers like Audi.

Another idea under consideration involved turning the company’s soundbars into full-fledged media players capable of running smart-TV apps. Roku, JBL and other companies have developed similar products in the past, with mixed success.

It’s unclear whether the current “Home Theater OS” plans are related to either of those ideas. Technically, it would be possible for the company to take other avenues, including running its own apps on third-party smart TVs, to achieve similar goals.

Whatever the ultimate product may look like, the new job listings make it clear that Sonos wants to play an even bigger role in the living room and shift its business model to benefit from the recurring revenue streams of the streaming media market. The “Head of Partnerships” is supposed to help the company develop a “a platform monetization strategy,” among other things. Applicants are supposed to have a “background in digital media and/or media/application distribution platforms & technologies” as well as “working knowledge of platform monetization technologies (AdTech, billing, audience measurement, etc.).”

Sonos has in recent years taken some first steps to generate recurring revenues with services. The company launched

an ad-supported radio service two years ago, and has since also rolled out an ad-free radio subscription. Thus far, services have been a relatively minor contributor to the company’s overall revenue, but executives have hinted at plans to grow this in the future. Sonos CFO Brittany Bagley called services “the long-term game for us” during an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference this month.
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