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Is Roku Looking to Enter the Smart Home Market?

Derek Walborn

A LinkedIn job posting for a “senior business development manager of home technologies” by Roku is fueling speculation that the streaming company might be looking to enter the smart home market.

The content of the posting states that while Roku is a leader in the “future of television,” in order to survive amongst the competition the company “relies on investing in IoT-driven technologies for the home.”

The listing goes on to say that whoever is selected for the new role “will be responsible for vetting new partners & developing partnerships to connect Roku with home ecosystems more deeply. In this role, you’ll work with cross-functional teams within Roku. You will work closely with product, engineering, legal, marketing, and finance teams to drive Roku’s business goals.”

Reportedly, hardware sales made up less than 19% of Roku’s first-quarter earnings. Advertising is a different story, however, with its ad sales increasing by 101% in the first part of 2021. This, combined with the current global chip shortage, means that Roku knows hardware will not be a profitable endeavor, but most likely sees an expansion into the “internet of things” as a way to continue to push the Roku brand and possibly pull new users in from outside sources.

How they might plan to do this from a strategic standpoint is unclear. Roku’s competitors Amazon and Google have a robust smart home hardware ecosystem of doorbells, cameras, speakers, and monitors. Google supports Netflix on its Google Nest Hub home automation device, and Amazon has fully integrated their Fire TV into devices like the Echo smart speaker. However, being that both of these companies are heavily diversified, integration with their streaming platforms may simply be more of a no-brainer than a world-conquering strategy.

Roku, on the other hand, would be entering the market from the perspective of a streamer as opposed to an e-commerce giant or monolithic tech company, meaning that it has a pretty high hill to climb if it wants to stand toe to toe with either of them. This is especially difficult with retailers like Walmart offering crazy low prices for devices like their upcoming 4K AndroidTV box.

Roku is not without its merits, however. Roku TV was the top-selling smart TV OS in 2020, allowing the company to surpass 50 million users.

Thus far, Roku has made no public announcement or comment on what it’s up to.

Between this, Netflix’s apparent intention to enter the gaming market, and Amazon standing on the cusp of sealing a deal to purchase legendary movie studio MGM, the streaming wars are starting to get interesting as companies figure out how to think, literally, outside the box in order to continue growth in a saturated domestic market.

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