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They Must Have Some Fantastic Dirt on Somebody: Roku Raises $60 Million

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trade News | May 30, 2013 | Comments ()


darkknightmoney.jpg

Do any of you have a Roku? Because I know people who swear by Netflix, by Amazon streaming, by their TiVo's ... but I have never heard of a single person in the real world who actually owns a Roku, let alone has a positive opinion of them. And as we all know, the plural of anecdote is data, especially when absence of evidence is used as evidence of absence.

But some rich guys must be really really happy with their Rokus (or they have been presented with astonishingly high resolution photos of their last corporate retreat in Thailand), since investors just sunk $60 million into the company.

Roku plans to use the money in order to develop the technology to cram their streaming stuff right into televisions instead of bothering with set-top boxes at all. Which makes total sense, because the guys who shoehorned a VCR into the bottom of a thirteen inch television in the mid-nineties are like the richest and most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. Oh wait, no, those are the despised vestigial limbs of a previous generation, hanging swollen and useless underneath devices that otherwise still shoulder on. Or the $79 TV-DVD combos. Those were fantastic too. Especially since the DVD player had a tendency to break three days after the warranty ended.

And don't give me that whole, yes, but non-cutting-edge users just want something that is cheap and works, and love it when it is already hooked up. Just plug it in and go!

Except that they've tried this before, repeatedly, in the higher end televisions. I've got a beautiful DLP big screen from Sharp, almost a decade old at this point. It has an internet browser built in, comes with an optional keyboard, is supposed to do all sorts of fancy stuff. I've never used that crap. I plugged in an ethernet cable once, it said there wasn't one plugged in, and then I unplugged it and forgot about the entire thing in order to plug in my Xbox.

Hell, on the cheap end I've got a three year old little flatscreen. The manual and box insist that I plug the ethernet into the back and then can use both Hulu and Netflix. That experiment lasted about three minutes before I just plugged in an old desktop using the television as a monitor. Gosh, now streaming works.

The point is that this is a dead end, that their proposed world shaking business model already exists, and has already failed because there just isn't a market there. If the tech guys who open up TiVos for fun to see if they can can copy the proprietary contents over to a larger drive to quadruple their recording capacity can't manage to get the "just plug it in" stuff to work, it really has no future with the non-tech people.

If they wanted a higher return on their investment, I could be persuaded for a one percent finder's fee to dig pits underneath abandoned warehouses down by the docks and just dump their cash in there.

(source: THR)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • $173399

    Cable-free and LOVE my Roku. I haven't played video games in nearly a decade so I have don't have a modern game platform to stream. Roku is super easy plug-and-play. Amazon prime lets me rent most movies I'd like to see, Netflix streams like a dream on it. I also stream MLB.TV on it like a champ.

  • Lauri

    I have been using Roku(s) for 3 years! They rock. We shit canned satellite/cable years ago. We can't pick up broadcast over antenna, but we don't care. And they've just recently added PBS and PBSkids so we are even happier.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    I have a Roku and I love it. Use PS3 for the downstairs TV and Roku for upstairs. I actually prefer the interface of the Roku to the PS3 and the general usage...mostly because PS3's connection falters more often and PS3 does love to do upgrades at the worst possible times.

  • Aw, I have a Roku. It's pretty nice, though it's an older model and just freezes sometimes. But I like it.

  • Slash

    I've heard of people* who own and love Roku. I don't have one myself. But I don't have an Xbox either.

    * meaning I've read real-people (I assume they're not Roku salespeople or other invested parties) endorsements on websites, and not tech sites but regular sites that discuss a number of different topics

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I do not have a streaming device, and I have found that attempting to access the internet through the tv I purchased just last September is painfully slow, so this is a very helpful comment feed.

  • Adam C

    I have a Roku and it is wonderful. I use it for Netflix and Crackle as well Al-Jazeera live stream and it works beautifully.

  • emmelemm

    Here's what I have to say about Roku, and I ain't got time to read all the comments so I don't know if this has already been re-iterated/hashed to death.

    My mom got a Roku, early generation, thinking it would simplify Netflix for her. It had NO SUPPORT WHATSOEVER FOR SUBTITLES. My mom is very hard of hearing. Not like, just turn your TV up louder, but specifically in the range of spoken word frequencies. She cannot watch anything on TV without subtitles. The Roku was 100% useless to her.

    That is all.

    Other than that, it seems like a great, reasonably simple device to do a lot of different kinds of streaming with.

  • As someone who isn't a gamer, the Roku is perfect for my purposes. It cost around $50 bucks and allows me to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go and Hulu to my t.v. without little to no hassle. On a few, very rare occasions, I have needed to unplug my box for a few minutes to get it to reset, but other than that it has worked perfectly. I've had it almost three years now, and have more than gotten my money's worth out of it.

    Side note: I am the person my grandmother calls to deal with her blu-ray player when she has problems streaming with Netflix, and the Roku is SO much easier to deal with.

  • googergieger

    What?

  • Confucius Jackson

    I have a Roku for my bedroom TV, where it's a lowly 23" old HD model and far away from the ethernet connections downstairs. It works wonderfully for the purpose, as I have one series running on Netflix, one on Amazon prime, and occasionally listen to some live radio feeds on TuneIn to get NHL games through the TV.

    $60M investment?? No, that doesn't make a lot of sense.

  • Jarsh

    I love my Roku. I use it for Netflix, have it hooked up to a friend's Amazon account, and stream baseball on it through the MLB app. I would kill kittens for some football, though.

  • Carrie

    I've got two Roku players, one upstairs and one downstairs. They serve the purpose well (I don't have cable or an antenna, just Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and Amazon), they are tiny (the newer one is about deck-of-cards size), you don't need an ethernet cord, and you can download remote control apps to your phone. The UI is good. I guess I'd rather have an external Roku player than have it built into the TV, but if I did get a smart TV, I'd prefer it's smart be Roku.

  • Greg

    Love my Roku. Didn't know TiVo was even a company anymore...

  • TK the Other (de-lurking)

    My TV is just before the Internet started plugging into them. I'm cable free and LOVE my Roku- Netflix, Amazon, and HuluPlus work great on it. I'm not a gamer (no time for love, Dr. Jones) so I don't have anything else to go through. Roku works for me until I get a new tv, and then it will be great in another room.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    aw, we give newbies thumbs up. Esp for Short Round quotes.

  • TK the Other (de-lurking)

    Not new, just don't comment much. My handle is from when Lost recaps were going up on the site, and I mostly lurk because I try not to contribute to the detritus that floats around the Internet. :) But, it's nice to be loved.

  • ed newman

    I am able to access most content through my DVD player (on my older sets) or directly from my newer Vizio set. All are set up on my wireless network. The Vizio does the best job and is the most convenient since it has the advantage of using a single remote for everything as well as the best UI. I suppose the Roku (and Apple TV) is good but it seems unnecessary with the DVD, Xboxes, and smart TVs performing most if not all the same functions.

    Nevertheless, $60MM is really not that big a cash influx these days.

  • Came here to say I have a Roku and love it to death and found that so do lots of other people 'round these parts. I have ancient TVs that I ended up with for free, a ridiculolus blu-ray/VHS player combo, and a Roku. I could invest in newer, better things, but they're all working and I'm happy. And my Roku has been going strong for three years now without a hitch.

  • Regina

    how do i ROKU? I liked this article it made me want to take apart a tivo and replace the hardrive. it also made me want to plug ethernet cables into other things like butts and iced tea cause i wanna see what it does. cause in the future everything is ethernet. i like turtles.

  • Jill

    " it also made me want to plug ethernet cables into other things like butts and iced tea cause i wanna see what it does."
    Thank you for making me laugh out loud for the first time today.

  • SilverDeb

    There are 2 ROKU adds on this page now.

  • Slash

    Yeah, I noticed that too. LOL

    Roku will get you. It will bide its time ... But it will get you all the same ...

  • SilverDeb

    I bought my Roku last weekend. The new Roku3. It is fantastic! I can plug my headphones into the remote and I don't have to hear the family anymore!

  • specialj67

    I received mine as a Christmas present a couple of years ago and still love it. And paying hundreds of dollars for an xbox or Playstation--when I already have a high-def DVD player that still works perfectly well and no inclination to start playing console video games--would be a waste for me. Roku gives me just what I want with video streaming and nothing more and troubleshooting a problem is usually relatively painless.

  • Regina

    how is arrested development on it?

  • specialj67

    I watched it over the course of Sunday and Monday with no buffering or video quality issues, and if I recall, it was always in full HD.

  • Regina

    hmmm. good to know. if i didnt already have an xbox and ps3. i would prob get one of these.

  • Matt

    Perhaps one of the dumbest, most hyperbolic things I have read on Pajiba...

  • hippyherb

    I for one and glad for the 'dumb and hyperbolic' article. I have learnt something today.

  • Matt

    That the author doesn't get Roku but lots of people seem to really like theirs contrary to the authors assertion?

  • hippyherb

    That there is something called Roku out there :)

  • Smatt584

    I'm still confused

  • TK

    Bullshit. That's fucking BULLSHIT. I've written WAY dumber and more hyperbolic things.

  • poopnado

    I have a Roku, and I like it. Take THAT.

  • Mr_Zito

    Is this the internet from the future I'm reading? I don't know about none of those stuff you are all talking about. I know that PS3 is a video game, I know what a VCR is, what a DVD is, and what Youtube is, but besides that, I'm lost.

  • hippyherb

    Same here. I am from Australia, and apart from the game consoles, we don't don't have these gadgets, as far as I know. I am jealous and relieved at the same time.

  • bblackmoor

    Are you serious? Roku is AWESOME. ... or is this one of those sarcasm things, like "Sure, I use email, but no one I know actually buys anything Amazon."

  • SilverDeb

    Thank you for this article. Well, more thanks to the comments section. I have just been researching Roku. We have XBOX, PS3 and a Smart TV all in the same room. PS3 is best for streaming, followed by the XBOX. Smart TV comes in last because HULU is constantly buffering. I need a streaming device for the bedroom though. When I hook my laptop up in there, it has buffering issues constantly. I'm going to try a cable for my Kindle Fire and see how that works. If not, it is Roku for me.

  • I have a Roku as well as a Sony Media Streamer. In fact, each room in the house is equipped with a streaming box because really, there's no beating that convenient. The Roku is fast, streams from PCs and even has niche channes like Crunchy Roll, Epicurious. It's perfect.

  • Drake

    Agree, I love the niche channels, and the Roku streams better than pretty much any other option in the house (and there are lots).

  • Guest

    As most TVs now have "Smart" features that allow using Apps and access to NetFlix etc, I question Roku business plan unless they partner up with one of the big guns like Samsung or LG (both of which already have said "Smart" TVs). Plus Apple plans to enter the "Smart" TV market which will only hurt Roku's fortunes.

    But anything that promotes a la carte access to programing and helps people cut the cable cord is a good thing. It will also force Hollywood and other content providers to step up and join the 21st century.

  • CoachPenn

    Good points, and I totally agree with cutting the cord. Let me get the channels I want, without all the extra junk. As far as Roku business plan, what they really need is some "can't live without it" content. If you can get netflix/amazon/Hulu+ on your smart tv apps, then I can see not really needing the roku.

  • Scully

    I have a Roku…and I really like it (with the exception that it doesn’t work for HBOGO with Comcast). I have an old TV (HDMI cable only, no ethernet) and an old laptop (not even HDMI capable) and Roku (the non-ethernet cable cheap one) is the only option for me to stream Netflix and Amazon on a big screen.

    Then again, I don’t give a shit about 1080 million parsec Ps nor the 20 Galactic quadrant Hz or the eardrum ‘sploding quantum flux subwoofers, so I’ll just tell you to get off my lawn and go back to watching my Roku.

  • Arran

    It really gives me the shits that Comcast doesn't allow HBO Go streaming through the Roku. I have no clue why they don't.

  • ZestyItalian2

    I have a Roku. I love it. Cut the cord and don't have an XBox. Stream Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon and all sorts of other goodies in high def to my TV. It's fantastic and saves me over a grand a year.

  • Yossarian

    That's really not a lot of money.

    And for people that don't have video game systems the Roku is a good option. I have family members who use it. I prefer the apple TV because of airplay, but it is basically the same thing. It's cheap and reliable and easy to use. And as the emphasis on streaming content increases there are going to be a lot of consumers who want something like a Roku. The only downside for investors is that there are lots of substitute goods on the market, and Roku doesn't really offer anything special.

  • CoachPenn

    I have a Roku and I love it. The "channels" mostly suck, but it allows me to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus to my TV. I have a PS3 on my "man cave" TV that basically does the same thing. The Roku is on the Family room TV. We turned our cable off and just have internet in the house now. The Roku works great. I lowered my monthly bills (no home phone or cable, just cell phones and internet), still watch most of the programming I enjoy (no HBO or SHOW, so no GOT or Dexter), but I can watch the past seasons on Amazon and new episodes as they catch-up. I can still see New Girl and stuff like that on Hulu. Wife loves Modern Family, so she has to watch that on a laptop or KIndle HD as CBS is not Hulu affiliated.

    Streaming TV is coming my friends. It may take years, but Roku is smart. Putting this right in a TV and letting "Unpluggers" like myself ditch the cable company is a smart move. There has been talk of HBO offering HBO TO GO as a separate subscription for non-cable subscribers. Aereo is now streaming live local television (though there is a lawsuit pending) that they pull right out of the air. Entertainment is changing, and this is a step in that direction.

  • Arran

    If we didn't live with elderly in-laws I'd be just about willing to cut the cable right now. HuluPlus negates the need to get network channels, Netflix covers all of one's "random movie watching" needs (as well as providing original content), and while I'd in theory be missing my favourite cable dramas, I could just get those a la carte from iTunes or wherever and still be saving a shitload of money over paying for cable. The only other thing I'd really want is the ability to get HBO without a cable package, which is apparently a possibility in the future.

  • Rochelle

    I agree. My landlord cut off the cable and bought everybody rokus. The only thing I miss is the HBO and Showtime. But, I have amazon prime, so I can pay to see the shows I really want to see.

  • NateMan

    My LG smart LED TV does a fantastic job at streaming Netflix. Less so on Hulu; it's constantly buffering during high-volume times of day. But it works great - as great as my PS3 or iPad? No, but still great.

    And I know several people with Rokus, including network techs, who swear by them. It sounds decent to me.

  • TheReinaG

    Glad I'm not the only LG person who constantly has Hulu streaming problems. I use one of my game consoles to stream Hulu instead of my TV.

  • Allen

    Other than Roku and AppleTV, what ways do people stream Netflix to their TV?

  • My brother uses his Wii, but I find that it's a pain trying to navigate menu sites with the Wii remote.

  • Brooke

    I use my blu-ray player. It has wi-fi so I can use it in any room or take it with me if I need to.

  • My Blu-Ray player works like a charm.

  • Carrie

    In addition to a Rokus, I have a GoogleTV in the another room. I don't recommend the GoogleTV. It has a web browser, which is nice to have, but the UI is lame, and it crashes almost daily.

  • Green Lantern

    My TV has a built-in app for Netflix.

  • Wednesday

    TiVo. I thought about getting a Roku for the second TV in the house, though, but the only time I ever really watch it is for the morning weather report and for anything to entertain me while I'm folding laundry before I go to bed.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Sony Blue-Ray player. The thing has a ridiculous number of apps besides Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, Slacker, Pandora, and a shit ton more that I've never heard of.

  • Guest

    Yep, I have a Sony Blu-ray play and it does everything I need. My only knock is that their products have sh*tty U.I and don't have a proper web browser.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I've got a tablet for when I need a browser. You're right, the UI could be better though. Mine is a lot like the PS3 interface. Not a huge fan.

  • Guest

    Yeah but Sony has a App you can install on a tablet (Nexus 7 in my case) and use it with the blu-ray player.
    It really only works as a fancy controller but is supposed to allow you to use the tablet as a keyboard for the web browser.

    Sony is a mess when it comes to fully taking advantage of all of their products and media properties. It should be one of the biggest companies in the world but has totally f*cked up integrating and marketing all of their divisions together as one product.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I have the 7 too! Is it worth getting the app?

  • Guest

    Not really I.M.O, but its free and worth trying.

  • lowercase_ryan

    cool thanks

  • NateMan

    For me, via my smart TV in one room and my PS3 in the other. PS3 has a better interface but they both work well.

  • Arran

    I reckon doing it through an Xbox or PlayStation is probably the most common way, since a lot of people have those anyway.

  • DataAngel

    Most game consoles can be set up for it.

  • Guest

    And it will only get better (or worse depending on you point of view) with xbox1 and PS4 coming out later this year. MS is already pushing the xbox1 as a cable box replacement.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I don't think the Xbone will work as a cable box.

  • Guest

    In Canada 360s can already used as set top boxes and dvrs with TELUS.

    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-3...

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Maybe, but the new one obviously hasn't got the function. Else it would have been mentioned in the article you linked.

  • DataAngel

    I absolutely adore my Roku. It streams better than the computer does (probably because it's not always checking email or downloading gorram Windows security updates).

    Also, the Roku uses WiFi. If I want to move it to another TV in the house (or someone else's house) I don't need to worry if the ethernet cable will reach. I just need to be able to plug it into an outlet and jack it into the TV.

    I don't think I'd want something that is built into my TV. If the Roku dies, I just get a new box. If the built-in thing dies... I don't want to get a whole new TV. And if the TV has built-in WiFi pickup, then I can't go watch it in a different place unless I want to lug the entire TV around.

  • Batesian

    Yup, I've been a big fan ever since I got a Roku box a couple years ago. But same concern on building it into the TV. I'd rather they focus on miniaturizing the tech -- an HDMI-compatible USB WiFi type thing would be pretty sweet.

  • myjetski

    Agreed. I love mine. I even take it on vacation with me. Plex lets me easily use my laptop as a server, matching up metadata as it goes. I have all the standard steaming services, the news feeds are nice, the new PBS and PBS Kids apps are great, and using Pandora and Spotify are nice touches. I like it better than AppleTV. Oh, and the headphone jack in the new remote is a genius move.

  • Arran

    I have a Roku. It's great. And easy to set up. Worth $60m in investment? Well, makes more sense than paying $1b for Tumblr, at least.

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