2019 was certainly an exciting year – we witnessed the birth of the new streaming platforms Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus, which started their battle for dominance using competitive pricing and attractive content. Parallelly, we see interesting developments on the hardware side of things – competition thickens as newcomers are making their bold steps on new markets. Roku’s announcement about the company expanding its licensing program into Europe made the headlines in Q4.

Today (January 2020), Europeans can already experience Roku officially by purchasing a model from the new line of Hisense TVs.

What is Roku?

Already a household name in the US, Roku is relatively little known in other markets. The company’s low popularity in Europe is quite surprising given that in the US it outsells much bigger streaming brands like Google, Apple and Amazon.

It is best known for its reliability and simplicity, which makes it a perfect choice for non-technical people. No bells and whistles here, which may just be the key to its popularity. The limitations come at a cost, though – because Roku devices are completely bare-bones, you should forget about integrating them with your smart home devices like the Nest thermostat.

Roku does not offer Chromecast-like streaming convenience – forget the “Cast to Chromecast” button in your Netflix or HBO GO windows. What saves the Roku experience, however, is the impressive library of very intuitive Apps that get the job done in just as many steps.

Roku is both a software and hardware company. But it’s not a video streaming platform unto itself, which makes it service-agnostic, and very likely contributes to its commercial appeal. Roku universally supports Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video, HBO and Showtime, Google Play TV and Movies, YouTube and many, many other platforms.



What Roku’s presence in Europe means

Most smart TVs today come with at least one streaming platform on board (you can choose a TV that runs Android TV, Apple TV, and LG’s webOS). This means that soon consumers will no longer need to use those standalone devices and dongles from manufacturers like Roku, Google and Amazon. And while Roku is typically associated with the players you connect to your TV’s HDMI port and stream the media, the battle for dominance has shifted to an entirely new frontier.

To gain consumer market share, manufacturers of streaming hardware are increasingly working their ways to new markets by partnering with TV manufacturers and encouraging them to use their operating systems. Even Apple is rumored to be working on its own television set powered by tvOS, as well.

Roku currently produces its line of TV players: Roku Express, Roku Premiere (4K) and Roku Streaming Stick+ (4K). Still, it also partners with various hardware manufacturers to provide the software and help develop other compatible devices: TVs – known as Roku TVs – and other devices like soundbars. Roku OS is currently licensed to various third-party manufacturers: TCL, RCA, Toshiba, and Hisense. Roku TV brands in 2020 include ATVIO, Element, Hisense, Hitachi, InFocus, JVC, Magnavox, onn., Philips, Polaroid, RCA, Sanyo, TCL and Westinghouse.

What does it mean? Starting with the UK, Roku has launched a line of Hisense Roku TV models – 4K Ultra HD resolutions and HDR screens, in sizes ranging up to 65 inches. First reviews are already in, confirming the Hisense TVs are a solid bang for the buck and offer an overall good user experience.


Hisense Roku TV. Source

As Roku CEO and Founder Anthony Wood, put it: “the ability to quickly bring to market a leading smart TV experience that is regularly updated by the platform and is packed with entertainment gives TV manufacturers an edge in the competitive TV business. We are pleased to bring the Roku TV licensing program to Europe and look forward to the first Hisense Roku TVs in the market this year.”

Those goals are ambitious but firmly rooted in reality. Considering the platform’s solid footing in the US, replicating the success in Europe is not entirely impossible.


In the States, there are currently more than 100 different Roku TV models. Replicating this level of adoption could pave Roku the way to wider adoption and commercial success in Europe.

But Roku isn’t the only company targeting Europe with its TV platform. Amazon has already announced more than twenty new Fire TV streaming devices, fifteen of which were TVs running Fire OS. Many of these are aimed at European consumers by partnering with various local brands and retailers.

Another platform may add some extra layer of complexity to TV shopping decisions, but at the end of the day, competition is a good thing. It may drive better quality and lower prices for the consumers. Just sit and wait.