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Recent developments in OTT: How Roku is winning the TV wars

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As a design and development agency, we at WillowTree do our best to pay close attention to market trends in emerging tech. To that end, I’m going to make a bold prediction: You’re going to own a Roku TV device within two years. So will I. So will most of your friends.

I realize that might sound like a long bet. After all, Roku is up against the top giants in OTT here: Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV. To best even one of these at their own game would be remarkable.

And yet, right now, today, Roku isn’t beating just one of them; it’s beating all of them.

A report from emarketer.com last week put Roku in the lead for connected-TV devices sold in 2017.

What is Roku getting so right?

They’re service-agnostic.

Unlike major competitors in this space, Roku doesn’t have its own content store, and isn’t beholden to one parent company’s content revenue strategy. Where Amazon and Google need to push you towards their content stores in order to succeed, Roku’s flexibility and openness allows customers to add content apps from a large number of competing services (including Amazon Video and Google Play!).

They make it easy to publish content.

Impressively, increasingly so. I’d liken the significance of the changes being made to Roku’s development stack to when Apple first opened the iPhone to third-party developers.

At WillowTree we’ve already invested our energy into creating our own proprietary build tools with continuous integration, resulting in faster work and more reliable builds. The flexibility our team has experienced on recent Roku projects is a true game changer in OTT development.

The content library is vast.

Streamlining the process for brands to get their content on the Roku platform has naturally led to a wealth of available content options. At the beginning of 2017, Roku reported a staggering total of 4,500 available channels and counting.

A good portion of that content is free, leveraging an ad-supported revenue model. Deep-linking technology allows customers to make sense of this vast ocean of content by searching across the platform for specific videos, easily linking straight through to that particular piece in their preferred app.

Excellent platform-device compatibility.

Roku’s got two things going for it here. For one, where Apple TV is your only option for tvOS, there are a number of current-gen Roku devices on offer satisfying customers at different price points (including a number of Roku-integrated smart TVs from third-party manufacturers). And the Roku platform runs seamlessly on all of them.

It’s also remarkably backwards-compatible to previous generations of Roku devices; the oldest supported device is from 2011. At WillowTree we keep every model on hand for testing and have been pleasantly surprised by the natural versatility of our builds across devices.


In summary: Roku can deliver more content, faster, for less money. That’s why they’re winning, and why so many brands looking to take their content into the world of OTT are starting here.

As the market for Roku applications rapidly expands, WillowTree has made designing and developing Roku applications a core part of our video and OTT app development offering. In the last twelve months, demand for Roku apps has exploded, especially across our media clients.

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