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Power

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.

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Power

What TV remotes tell us about power struggles in streaming

TV remote controls are a major battlefield in the TV wars, which are fought one branded button at a time.

LG's 2021 smart TV remote control features a total of three buttons for voice control.

Image: LG

Don't touch that dial: As TV manufacturers are unveiling their 2021 models at this year's virtual CES, they're also giving us a first look at the remote controls that will be shipping with those big, shiny and smart TV sets.

There were a few surprises. LG's remotes come with built-in NFC to transfer videos from mobile devices to the TV, and Samsung's remotes incorporate solar cells that are meant to reduce battery waste. The new crop of 2021 TV remotes also perfectly encapsulates the conflicts and power struggles in the TV industry, from streaming services vying for attention to voice assistant platforms' fierce competition.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Power

Roku is becoming the most powerful company in streaming

A growing user base will give it even more power in content negotiations.

Roku's emerging as one of the streaming war's biggest winners.

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

Roku's bet on smart TVs is paying off: Seven years after the company first began licensing its operating system to TV manufacturers, it has become a market leader in North America. Roku and its hardware partners sold more smart TVs in the U.S. in 2020 than competitors like Samsung, LG and Vizio, according to data from the NPD Group released by Roku on Friday.

Roku TVs had a 38% market share in the U.S. and a 31% market share in Canada, according to NPD's data. Roku also announced earlier this week that it had ended 2020 with 51.2 million active accounts, adding around 14 million accounts over the past 12 months. Altogether, consumers streamed 58.7 billion hours of entertainment through their Roku devices in 2020, according to a news release.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Power

LG has acquired TV ad tech startup Alphonso

Alphonso could help LG build out its smart TV advertising business.

Alphonso could help LG monetize its TVs with ads.

Photo: LG

Korean consumer electronics giant LG has acquired a controlling stake in TV advertising measurement startup Alphonso, investing more than $80 million in the company. LG announced the acquisition Wednesday, a day after Protocol first reported that a deal was imminent. With the acquisition, LG is looking to beef up the advertising business on its smart TV platform and better compete with companies like Samsung, Roku, Amazon and Vizio.

"Our investment in Alphonso is a key component of our digital transformation strategy focusing on AI, big data and cloud to fundamentally change how consumers interact with their devices," said LG Home Entertainment President Park Hyoung-sei. "With Alphonso's TV data analysis capabilities, LG will be able to provide even more customized services and content to consumers and we are proud to welcome Alphonso to the LG family."

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Deepdub uses AI to dub movies in the voice of famous actors

Fresh out of stealth, the startup is using artificial intelligence to automate the localization process for global streaming.

Deepdub promises AI dubbing at the click of a button.

Image: Deepdub

The streaming wars aren't just about domestic viewers anymore: Netflix, Disney, HBO Max and the like increasingly compete around the world. Around a third of Disney+ subscribers, for instance, are based in India, and the company is looking to further grow its international audience in Europe and Latin America.

Tel Aviv-based startup Deepdub wants to help streaming services accelerate this kind of international rollout by using artificial intelligence for their localization needs. Deepdub, which came out of stealth on Wednesday, has built technology that can translate a voice track to a different language, all while staying true to the voice of the talent. This makes it possible to have someone like Morgan Freeman narrate a movie in French, Italian or Russian without losing what makes Freeman's voice special and recognizable.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

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