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Roku moves further beyond hardware with its new mobile app

A previous version of its mobile app primarily appealed to consumers who also owned Roku devices.

Roku moves further beyond hardware with its new mobile app

The new app, which is scheduled to launch in the coming weeks for iOS and Android, will allow people to stream ad-supported on-demand content without registering for a Roku account.

Image: Roku

Streaming device maker Roku is taking another step to grow its user base beyond its hardware footprint: The company is launching a dedicated mobile app for the Roku Channel that will offer consumers access to thousands of free, ad-supported movies and TV shows as well as subscription video channels.

This move has the potential to further grow Roku's advertising revenue and pit it more directly against other ad-supported video services. However, it also shows how challenging it can be for a company that is still largely synonymous with streaming sticks and boxes to evolve its brand and widen its appeal to attract new audiences.

The new app, which is scheduled to launch in the coming weeks for iOS and Android, will allow people to stream ad-supported on-demand content without registering for a Roku account. The app will also offer free access to around 115 live and linear streaming channels. People who sign up for a premium add-on like HBO or Showtime through Roku's devices or website will be able to access it via the app as well. Roku isn't selling these subscriptions on mobile to avoid paying app store fees to Google and Apple.

The app is a notable expansion for the Roku Channel. However, it's not the first time for Roku to make this content available on mobile. Roku already integrated the Roku Channel into its mobile companion app in 2018.

That app has been popular among Roku users, but getting people who don't own a Roku device to download it has been challenging, admitted Roku VP Mark Ely. "Most people download the Roku app to use it as a remote control," he said.

Roku does have ways to grow the audience of the Roku Channel without having to rely on third-party platforms. On Monday, the company also announced two new streaming devices, including an ultracompact sound bar with integrated streaming device that will retail for just $130. In addition, Roku also continues to expand internationally. Just this month, it began selling its streaming adapters in Brazil.

Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

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Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Fintech

Hippo’s plan to reinvent insurance: Fix homes before they break

Hippo, which is going public via a SPAC Tuesday, is using tech to prevent claims from happening.

Hippo CEO Assaf Wand wants to catch homeowners' losses before they happen.

Photo: Hippo

Home insurance, a $108 billion legacy industry that depends on troves of data, is a natural area for fintech companies to target.

That change is starting to happen — and one company is getting fresh capital to tackle the opportunity. Hippo, led by co-founder and CEO Assaf Wand, is going public today through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company Reinvest Technology Partners Z. The SPAC is run by LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

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Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Policy

Weak competition could hike your broadband bill by $96 a year

A new consumer survey says that those with the most choice in broadband providers are paying the least and reveals opinions about municipal broadband, internet access, affordability and more.

Broadband affordability has become an urgent issue during the pandemic.

Photo: John Schnobrich/Unsplash

American homes that have lots of choice in broadband providers can expect to pay around $8 less per month for internet than those who are locked into a single company, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.

The median monthly bill for people with four or more broadband providers in their area was $67. It was $75 for those with only one choice, according to the survey of nearly 2,600 US residents. In a sign that consumers are thirsty for increased broadband access, the survey also suggested wide approval for municipal broadband programs run by local governments.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Enterprise

Partners and "co-opetition": Inside the new enterprise cold war

There's a rush of new partnerships within enterprise tech as vendors try to make software that plays nicely with others. But not all partnerships are created equal.

AWS and Salesforce have entered a major partnership.

Image: Protocol

If AWS and Salesforce labeled their relationship on Facebook, they'd probably choose "it's complicated."

In June, the two companies announced a major partnership, one that AWS says is the most comprehensive of all its joint initiatives. For example, customers will have a single login that gets them into both systems, which means users can create blanket data-access policies as well as seamlessly move information across the two platforms. The companies will also jointly build products.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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