Roku Updates OS, Adds News, Announces Best Buy TV Deal

Roku is upgrading to OS 12, which will offer improvements including to streaming live TV and sports, among other things. A concurrent mobile app update features a new home screen and new tools for account management and photo storage. The company also announced that new Roku-branded TVs will be sold exclusively through Best Buy and online. Unveiled at CES 2023, the Roku Select and Plus series TVs made by Roku are now shipping, with 11 models spanning two lineups that offer sizes ranging from 24- to 75-inches. Pricing starts at $150 and scales to $1,200.

“The software updates are aimed at helping Roku better compete with rivals — particularly in the area of live TV, which is becoming a key selling point for customers who are overwhelmed with paid streaming subscriptions and are looking for alternatives,” including FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels and services that provide access to free content, writes TechCrunch.

Roku currently makes available more than 350 free live channels via software, and is in the process of adding local news.

U.S. Roku users “will be able to personalize their live TV streams by selecting channels from major cities nationwide,” TechCrunch explains, noting that the company will be using artificial intelligence to add news recommendations, with personalized suggestions auto-generating based on “customers’ streaming habits, location, save lists and more.”

Thanks to machine learning, the recommendations will improve over time as the system absorbs users’ streaming patterns.

“Home Screen Menu items like Featured Free, What to Watch, and Live TV will also be positioned based on the customer’s use of these features for more convenient access and fewer clicks,” TechCrunch reports. A golf zone featuring live tournaments, more Spanish-language coverage and the addition of CBS Sports, MLB TV, the NBA app and more are other improvements.

Roku is also updating its “Continue Watching” feature, which lets users bookmark content they were previously viewing so they can almost instantly pick up where they left off. “New partners — including Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+ and ViX Plus — are also now supported in this feature along with the debut partners, Netflix, Paramount+, HBO Max and, of course, The Roku Channel — Roku’s own free streaming hub,” according to TechCrunch, which says additional channels including BET+, Frndly TV, Freevee and STARZ will soon join.

As for its own white-label Roku TVs, CNET says “it looks like Roku will not be pushing the technical limits,” voting TCL’s 6-series Roku TV as offering the most for the money. As for its own Select and Plus series TVs, CNET says not to expect anything extraordinary, though they “do come with local dimming and QLED, which should help improve image quality.”

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