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Roku is coming for Netflix’s European streaming dominance

Roku CEO Anthony Wood on stage at IFA 2019 Digital Trends

Roku may be the king of the streaming services in the U.S., but it’s much less well known in Europe. The company has previously rolled out some devices in the U.K. and France, and it offered a TV stick in Germany created with Sky. But it has never really taken off here the way it did on the other side of the Atlantic. Now, Roku aims to change that and to challenge Netflix’s European dominance. At IFA 2019, Roku CEO Anthony Wood announced the company is starting a push into the European market, starting with a TV launch in the U.K.

Roku is partnering with Chinese manufacturer Hisense to launch a range of TV models running Roku’s operating system, set to drop later this year. Wood says the real focus of the customer experience is quality content. “The best part of TV is watching TV shows,” he said, which anyone who has binged a whole season of Mindhunter in one go will surely agree with. To that end, Roku will offer “thousands of streaming channels” including regional U.K. channels like BBC, ITV, and Channel 4.

Hisense’s 65-inch Roku TV for the U.K. on display at IFA 2019 Digital Trends

The TVs will run in sizes of up to 65 inches, and pricing is not available yet but Roku promises they will be “affordable.” We got a close-up look at the 65-inch model, and it seemed competent in terms of color and clarity. It’s hard not to compare it unfavorably to the beautiful OLED displays we’ve seen here, but it’s clearly intended as a cheaper and more accessible alternative to high-end displays.

The Roku rep we spoke to said the version of the software launched in the U.K. would be largely similar to the version available in the U.S., with just a few small tweaks. In the U.S., for example, there’s an option on the home screen to view 4K content which will be absent from the U.K. version. The U.K. version will still support 4K content where it’s available, but relatively few U.K. channels offer 4K shows so there’s less need for a dedicated 4K section.

The Hisense TVs are just the beginning, though. Roku is also making its reference designs and operating system available to other TV manufacturers so they can build Roku TVs as well. The company is hoping that TV manufacturers will take up its OS and make it available throughout Europe and beyond. There are currently more than 100 models of Roku TV available in the U.S., so if the company can replicate that uptake in Europe there could be a big range of Roku devices available here in the next few years.

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