Roku Is the King of All Streaming Players. But Can It Make Money (and Survive)?

February 13, 2020 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RokuStreamingStreaming ServicesCableTVTechnology

Roku Is the King of All Streaming Players. But Can It Make Money (and Survive)?

I say it can. But what does Wall Street think? 

A few weeks back here in these very “digital pages” I noted how I was not a fan of my LG OLED TV for one simple reason: I hated the operating system that powered it.

Let’s face it, having a good user interface that powers an even better user experience is key for any TV or streaming device these days. Users of all types want a fast, easy and effective way to sign up for, locate, download or find content—nothing more, nothing less.

And boy, did I get some pretty strong reader feedback. The resounding response was: Hello, can you please go online or to Walmart or Best Buy and get yourself a Roku player? Why are you even complaining when the fix is so simple?

That’s a completely fair point, and I acknowledge it for sure. My argument was that a high-performing TV with great picture quality should also have a great user experience and OS, but hey, you can’t have everything. And if you are going to add a Roku for a better streaming overall TV experience, you can’t go wrong—I love Roku and have it built into my TCL 2018 series-6 TV. It has access to any app I want, is easy to use, offers constant updates and has a low cost—I am not sure there is anything out there that is any better.

Roku, at least for me, is clearly the king of all streaming devices. As someone who has Amazon firesticks, Samsung OS-powered TVs, and other ways to stream, Roku is what I crave to use. Heck, I even tend to favor my TCL TV, despite some issues that truly should concern you, overall my other—and more expensive and better quality picture—TVs.

But can Roku turn popularity and customer loyalty into cold, hard cash? At least on the surface, the company has some strong fundamentals that any investor would have to appreciate. According to a recent report detailing 3rd quarter 2019 sales, revenue was increasing at a good clip, over 10.3 billion hours of streaming are done on the service with now over 32 million active Roku accounts—all very impressive when you consider that Roku makes money on ad revenue. While at the time, Wall Street was not happy and punished the stock, other analysts saw a bright future, especially as Disney+ and other streaming platforms coming online that will make Roku in even hotter demand. And of course, because of this, the stock has recovered nicely, part of an all overall 300% rise in 2019.

The good news is today Roku will give us 4th quarter 2019 numbers today after the closing bell. So far, most speculative reporting on total earnings seems mostly positive. But I would argue that many analysts discount or totally forget about the potential of Roku’s new Smart Soundbar. That new device, which truly delivers at a low cost, also opens up Roku to many new potential customers.

If I had a crystal ball, I would predict the future looks strong for Roku. I would wager they will make strong profits, see solid growth for years to come and will end up being a fixture in our living rooms, bedrooms or part of any content-viewing experience for years to come.

Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest and Executive Editor of their publishing arm, the National Interest. His work and ideas have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, USA Today, The Week, The Hill, the American Conservative and many other outlets across the political spectrum. Harry enjoys writing about technology issues and products from a real-world perspective, having previously worked in the telecommunications industry from 2000-2011. You can follow him (or yell at him) on Twitter: @Grecianformula.

Image: Creative Commons License/Flickr.