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Roku CEO Says Customers Don’t Want To Talk Their TV

Michael King

Together, Roku and Amazon own more than 70% of the streaming marketplace in terms of hardware, according to recent research from Parks Associates.

But while Apple and Google have been banking on the capability for consumers to control their streaming appliances — along with everything else in their households, Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood says that is not what people want.

Wood sat down with CNBC’s Alex Sherman to discuss not only interactivity but Roku’s new focus on the content business.

“Many companies just don’t really understand the attitude people have when watching TV. They want to sit there, drink their beer, and watch TV,” Wood said. “So, we’re looking for other ways to help people discover content that’s interactive in its nature.”

Wood does not think that the idea of talking to televisions — much as people do with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri — is the wave of the future. “I don’t think people want to talk to their TV,” he said.

When it comes to entering an email address or searching — what he calls “tedius” tasks — Wood says it makes sense. But in other areas, like scrolling, or using the power button, he says it’s far easier to use the remote itself.

Interestingly enough, Roku did just launch the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which provides hands-free voice access to features like turning on your TV and searching for content. They also have integrations with Amazon Echo and Google Assistant for those with smart speakers.

Part of the success of Roku, according to Wood, stems from its basic, unchanging user interface and relatively simple remote control. Customers, Wood says, prefer to have simplicity.

“But I always lose my remote,” CNBC’s Sherman said. “Well, that’s why we let you use your phone as a remote,” Wood replied. “We also have a cool feature called remote finder, where we help you find your remote for you. We’re big believers in remotes.”

After starting Roku, Wood worked at Netflix for CEO Reed Hastings for about nine months during the foundation of Roku, when it was only 15 employees. “My relationship to Netflix was obviously very important to Roku,” Wood said. “It was nine months. It was a great experience.”

Wood has credited some of Roku’s success to the concept of “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” as coined by noted business author Clayton Christensen. Based on the concept, existing companies could not focus on streaming video because they were too busy protecting their older, linear television concepts.

But, now it seems like everyone is trying to play catch-up – with Roku trying to help other monetize their content either through their own apps or The Roku Channel.

They company has 53.6 million active accounts with over 18.3 bill hours of streaming. Roku is also pushing into original programming with the series “Cypher”, all of Quibi’s content rebranded as “Roku Originals”, the acquisition of “This Old House”, and a new deal with Saban Corp.

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