As streaming surges globally, Roku is falling behind abroad

The streaming device maker is strong in the U.S., but it has some catching up to do in other markets.

Streaming services

Conviva's report shows that some of the pandemic-related viewing trends of 2020 are here to stay.

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Getty Images

Roku continues to rule streaming in the U.S., but is falling behind in other markets, according to a new report from streaming media intelligence company Conviva. The company's latest "State of Streaming" report shows that Roku is losing out to smart TV makers like Samsung and LG, with smart TV usage seeing significant uptick across the globe.

The report also shows that some of the pandemic-related viewing trends of 2020 are here to stay: Viewing has shifted from mobile to the big screen, from prime time to anytime and from live to on demand, with little indication that the growth in streaming and overall internet traffic has led to any significant negative impact on video quality.

streaming growth Streaming is growing worldwide, but has largely matured in North America.Image: Conviva

Global video viewing time grew 36% worldwide in Q1 when compared to Q1 of 2020. The streaming market is showing some signs of maturity in North America, where viewing was up just 18%. South America on the other hand saw viewing grow by a whopping 240% year-over-year, followed by Africa with 149% and Europe with 122%. "We are seeing pretty considerable growth in other markets," Conviva CEO Bill Demas said in a conversation with Protocol this week.

Turns out those markets also have very different device usage trends: 37% of all big-screen viewing was happening on Roku streaming devices and Roku-powered smart TVs in the U.S., but the company's usage share in South America amounted to just 4%.

smart tv market share Roku is strong in North America, but has surprisingly low usage in Europe and South America.Image: Conviva

Surprisingly strong in South America were Samsung and LG, which were able to capture 30% and 23% of big-screen streaming, respectively. In North America, those two companies accounted for a combined share of just 14% of all big-screen streaming, according to Conviva.

Roku began selling devices in Brazil last year, and has been in other Latin American countries as well as parts of Europe for a few years now. However, the company's European business didn't have much of an impact this past quarter, either, amounting just 8% of all big-screen streaming.

And while streaming on TVs has been surging in overseas markets, Roku has been slower than some of its competitors to capture those eyeballs. "We are not seeing them benefit from that," said Conviva's marketing director, Paula Mantle Winkel. Roku's global share of big-screen viewing time fell from 33% in Q1 of 2020 to 30% in Q1 of 2021, according to the company's report.

It's worth pointing out that Conviva doesn't track device sales. Instead, the company is using analytics code embedded in 3.3 billion streaming apps to crunch the date on viewing behavior from 500 million viewers globally, which collectively viewed some 180 billion streams last year.

live vs on demand viewing On-demand viewing is seeing a lot more growth than live video.Image: Conviva

Using that lens, Conviva was also able to take a closer look at the general viewing behavior of audiences around the globe. The result: Lots of the behavior we learned during the height of the pandemic has seemed to stick. Even with sports back, on-demand viewing is growing faster than live viewing, and accounted for 76% of global viewing time in Q1, compared to 72% during the same quarter a year ago.

And with everyone watching on their own time, the traditional TV schedule has gone out of the window. "Prime time changed," Demas said. People who used to watch from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. now increasingly tune in any time from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

But even with the growth in streaming, it hasn't actually led to the kinds of network congestion everyone worried about at the onset of the pandemic. Smart TVs in particular showed less buffering and improved bitrates than just a year ago. "Those fears turned out to be not terribly founded," Winkel said.

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