January 18, 2018
Roku debuted its Roku Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program, which will partner with original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners to integrate voice search and other entertainment-related features into smart soundbars and speakers. The options for the new licensing program includes Roku Connect, a free program for its OEM partners that will enable them to build high-end wireless speakers that both connect to the Roku ecosystem and synchronize multi-rooms. A logo will identify the speakers as part of the program.
Broadcasting & Cable reports that, as part of the Roku Connect program, “the company is also developing the Roku Entertainment Assistant, a free software update for existing customers that will also be built into new products.”
Other options for the licensing program include Roku TV, which will be integrated with both Roku Connect and the Roku Entertainment Assistant; a Smart Soundbar reference design for Roku TV makers and other OEM partners, that uses the Roku OS for voice control, content access and wireless audio streaming; and a Smart Speaker reference design using the Roku OS again for the same features as the Soundbar, set up for single and multi-rooms.
“Roku doesn’t expect to generate much, if any, licensing revenue from speakers and soundbars,” but the company expects the new program will provide a “material increase in the frequency and intensity of the relationships we have with our customers.”
“We believe that that consumers want a very simple, easy to set up and easy to enjoy home entertainment network,” said Roku vice president of product management Mark Ely. “We fundamentally envision a broader Roku ecosystem where TV is the center of the home entertainment experience, but from your TV you can easily connect a smart soundbar to add better sound, wirelessly add surround sound speakers to create a full, immersive multichannel experience.”
The first products are expected to appear by fall 2018.
One of those products was reported by The Verge, which noted that, at CES 2018, Roku “offered a preview of the soundbar that it’s plainly branding as the TCL Roku Smart Soundbar” (above), which will be “part of TCL’s new Alto line of audio products.” The TCL Roku Smart Soundbar is slated to ship in late 2018.