Roku Inc. of Los Gatos, CA, was founded in 2002 by digital video recorder (DVR) inventor Anthony Wood; the company’s name means “six” in Japanese and it was the sixth company which Wood founded. In late June, Roku announced that it has 15 million active customer accounts, a 43 percent increase from the same period last year. For the first half of 2017, Roku users streamed nearly 7 billion hours of video content.
In 2008, the Roku set-top box opened its platform to video streaming services like Netflix. By 2014, Roku sold 10 million units in the United States. In 2016, Roku had taken the lead as the most popular brand of streaming media players, accounting for 30 percent of all streaming media player sales between 2015 and 2016, beating sales of devices from competitors like Amazon, Google, and Apple. As of mid-July, The Wall Street Journal reported that Roku Inc. plans on going public by the end of 2017, seeking a valuation of $1 billion.
Although Roku is gaining popularity in the U.S., the sale of Roku devices is now banned in Mexico after Mexican cable provider Cablevisón asked the courts to ban the devices over concerns that hackers were accessing pirated content from HBO, ESPN and other content providers. Roku had been selling their devices in Mexico since 2015 but an early July ruling from a court in Mexico City upheld the recent ban on Roku devices.
Roku offers 5,000 streaming channels through its Channel Store and, to help consumers find interesting content more easily, it has developed a channel-targeting technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8627388 titled Method and Apparatus for Channel Prioritization. This patent protects a method by which the maximum amount of channels that the client device can use are filled with available channels of targeted content, usually based on the most popular channels or those channels which are accessed most often by the client device. The increasingly large amount of data, video, audio, and gaming options that Roku users can choose from makes it harder for the user to find favored content from a desired content provider. The problem is exacerbated by the different ways a user can access content such as renting, buying or subscribing to content. The method this patent protects methods that manage content in a streaming media environment and runs a preloaded channel in the background to reduce lag.
Some of the frustration which content consumers feel when being presented with content options which they find undesirable is addressed by a Roku technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8788578, titled Method and Apparatus for Customized Provisioning of On-line Application Channels. This patent protects a method for a computer system that involves receiving attribute data including demographic info and purchasing habits to determine available channels matching a consumer’s attributes. This patent protects a technology that would advise users about available shows without simply rehashing the same titles multiple times.
The availability of new content creates a need to update content listings, a job which is accomplished by the technology disclosed by U.S. Patent No. 8938755, titled Method and Apparatus for Recurring Content Searches and Viewing Window Notification. This patent protects a method implemented by a server that notifies the user of newly available content, content coming soon, or expiring content which would also fall under searches previously undertaken by the client device. By displaying a viewing window containing these category of contents, this method ensures that the user both will find content which fits their viewing tastes and won’t miss content before its expiration date.
With more people continuing to cut the cable and seek other methods of viewing it will be interesting to watch Roku’s growth over the remainder of 2017 and beyond.