Skip to main content

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
How we test streaming video devices
The box for the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

One of the benefits of being Digital Trends is that we get to test a lot of things that simply aren’t easily available or replaceable should they not work out for the average person. That’s why we put so much work into testing TVs, for one example. Or full soundbar setups, for another.

Other times it’s because we’re able to take products for a test drive before they go on sale. Like video games, or computers and phones. That’s good because it helps you make a relatively expensive and important purchase decision.

Read more
Formula E adds Roku for streaming and expands on CBS
Formula E is coming to The Roku Channel in 2024.

Formula E is coming to The Roku Channel in 2024. Roku handout photo

The next big event horizon for streaming is, of course, live sports. That's not particularly new, but all of the players are finally realizing just how important live sports are (and have been) for bringing in — and keeping — subscribers. To wit: Roku is now getting into the game with its first live sports deal for Formula E.

Read more
The Digital Trends guide to FAST streaming services
Amazon Freevee.

When you talk about the best streaming services, you typically talk about video-on-demand (VOD) services like Netflix. Or Disney+. Or Amazon Prime Video. Or Hulu. And for good reason — they have a ton of paying subscribers. Netflix alone is closing in on a quarter-billion. Disney+ is about halfway there.

And while the numbers drop off a good bit from there, another flavor of streaming should constitute a good bit of the discussion. FAST services — that's the industry acronym for free advertising-based streaming television — continue to grow both in numbers and in popularity. Think of FAST like the streaming version of broadcast TV, or your cable box. Shows are on at the same time for everyone, and everyone is watching the same thing, with ads. Only unlike YouTube TV or Hulu With Live TV, you don't have to pay anything upfront. It's all supported by advertising — you just don't get the "good" channels like you will on the paid services.

Read more