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Roku CEO calls Apple TV a money loser, shrugs off new Amazon streaming device

The streaming wars between leading set-top box providers Roku, Apple, and Google have remained civil to this point, but things just heated up. Among many “speculative” comments made during an interview at a Re/Code conference yesterday, Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood said that Apple “lose(s) money” with its Apple TV, and also brushed off predictions of a new Amazon streaming box expected to launch at an event next week in New York.

First reported by CNet, the outspoken Roku leader said of Amazon’s expected device: “Every year about this time, the Amazon box comes up that they’re about to launch…” He went on to categorize Apple’s popular streamer as little more than “an accessory for the iPad.”

Wood claims Apple TV is little more than “an accessory for the iPad.”

Wood’s somewhat vitriolic comments come on the heels of news by Apple that its self-described “hobby” device put up revenue of an estimated $1 billion last year alone, which includes figures from Apple TV hardware, as well as content sold through Apple’s iTunes store. It’s hard to imagine the company is losing money with that kind of revenue on an estimated 10 million units sold last year, but then again, that’s why Wood said he was speculating.

With streaming devices rising on all sides, Apple TV, Google’s extremely popular Chromecast, a forthcoming Amazon device, and multiple other devices, from gaming consoles to smart TVs, Roku’s fearless leader seems to be anything but worried. But that’s how Roku has always played the game.

Roku’s success in a circle of great white sharks is anything but coincidence, though. Wood said part of the answer to his company’s ability to thrive in competition is that, unlike his titanic adversaries, Roku has remained focused directly on the platform business.

While many of its competitors offer only a single device from which to stream, Roku has developed a multi-tiered approach to its hardware. The company sells a variety of devices which start at the $50 mark, rising to its top-tier Roku 3, which sells for $100, lining up directly with the Apple TV. 

Apple’s box originally sold for a whopping $250 when it was released in March of 2007, but eventually dropped its price, ostensibly to compete directly with the Roku. According to Wood in his latest interview, when Apple dropped its price down to the $100 line, Roku sales doubled. Apparently a high streaming tide raises all boxes. And when the $35 Chromecast opened up its SD kit to programmers, Roku answered by revamping its own Streaming Stick, which offers all of Roku’s features in a $50 dongle.

roku-3-reservoir-dogsApart from the company’s wide variety of hardware choices, it has also always offered an extremely intuitive interface. And then there’s the apps. Roku’s wide stable has pushed to over 1,200, far surpassing others in the field. Compare that massive number to the 17 or so apps currently available for Chromecast, and you can start to get the picture as to why Wood is so brazen in the face of his peers.

Playing defense

Still, as more and more companies lineup for their piece of the streaming pie, Roku must play harder defense. Apart from basic streaming, an entirely new form of Internet-TV may be on the way. Recent news that Apple is in negotiations to strike a deal with the all powerful Comcast for a new piece of Internet-TV hardware, looking to gain access to the fast lane of Comcast’s streaming pipeline, could mean a whole new front for which Roku will have to account.

But with reams of ways to use Roku’s services, including an updated Aereo app that allows users to tap into Aereo’s ‘rogue’ streams of broadcast TV, the company seems to have a knack for finding new and innovative ways to keep up with the Johnson’s of the streaming world.

As the streaming marketplace seems to expand exponentially, Roku seems ready for the challenge. Ask Anthony Wood if he’s worried and you can probably guess the answer.

(Image courtesy of Re/Code)