Roku's Rocking Future

3 min readOct 2, 2017


Roku successful IPO should not hide the big challenges the Los Gatos firm faces and will in the near future.

As a “simple” video/TV platform, Roku is poised to be disrupted by platform systems like Amazon, Apple and Google sooner or later if it does not change.

Roku TV Platform Business Model, Zishan AM CC

Started from smartphones, Android TV and Apple TV are edge platforms built from greater platform systems. On the producer side, Google’s Android Studio and Apple’s Xcode offer full suit of developer tools and services that allow to leverage their myriad services (i.e. maps, analytics, ads…), assets (i.e. material design, devices, tvOS and Android TV OS) in the form of libraries and API calls bundled in a native SDK. Both tech giants have expanded their platform system to cover different devices in order to offer fully coherent, comprehensive and consistent ecosystem to developers, marketers and advertisers but also a frictionless user experience (UX) to their users/audience (pull, capture, match virtuous UX circle).

Both tech firms follow an envelop strategy (@PlatformRevolution from Parker, Van Alstyne and Choudary, MIT Media labs, 2016) to compete against incumbents’ single product and/or platforms to increase traffic and digital content exchange on their respective platform. It avoids multihoming by increasing user’s platform switching costs (i.e. as an iphone user, you may have acquired many apps and content that can’t be played on Android and vice versa).

It follows as what economist called a complement offering (@TheContentTrap from Bharat Anand, Random House, 2016). Two products are complements if a user’s value from consuming both is greater than the sum of her values from consuming alone as Anand described. Like selling hot dogs and ketchup separately, it is OK but together it is tastier and better sell.

More on platform system in this article.

Platform systems (Google, Apple, Amazon) > TV platforms (i.e. Roku) > product/service

Ps > Po > p

While Roku has one of the best of todays TV/Video B2C platform it has number of limitations:

  • Roku platform is not a Platform system
  • Roku is too much TV screen centric
  • Roku OS is today only offering TV centric Ux
  • Roku data capacities are limited compared to GAFA and even Rovi/Tivo
  • Roku infrastructure is limited in terms of geo
  • for the Network — Marketplace — community layer, Roku has limitation in terms of:
  • Multi-screen user friendly UX
  • unified search
  • personalised and smart curation
  • content deep library and tail
  • unified content and aggregation
  • limited Advertising capabilities compared to GAFA and internet players (Twitter, Facebook, Rakuten…)

I believe that if Roku wants to be really competitive in the new TV/Video market reconfiguration, it needs to:

  1. Focus on Software capabilities, pivot positioning to B2B TV/Video platform. Positioned as the Twilio of the TV/Video platforms for Telcos, content and developers
  2. Ditch the hardware, retail and B2C
  3. Strengthen its Network — Marketplace — Community platform layer with following skills:
  4. Multi-screen user friendly UX
  5. unified search
  6. personalised and smart curation
  7. content deep library and tail
  8. unified content and aggregation from linear, non linear, User generated content/broadcast and protected content, represents all genres (music, documentenray, education…) and localized (Indian, Spanish, Chinese…)
  9. Strengthen its Digital, Programatic video, recommendation and analytics capabilities through partnership or acquisitions in the SSP and/or DMP.

However it will not be easy because Roku will then face directly the large bluechip companies alike: Ericsson (media room/reach), Cisco (NDS, Videoscpae), Accenture (AVS) and all Network service providers (Nokia/Alcatel, Huawei etc…)

As such, Roku will then sits between the GAFA and the traditional TV/Video platform vendors Ericsson et al. I feel that Roku’s products are superior than the traditional incumbents one however, having the best product does not guarantee success (remember Apple Newton or Sony eReader or Mp3 players?).

Through my discussions with operators, I see a lot of them resistant to Android. Roku can be a viable alternative.

Briginghtcove has succeeded in pivoting from a C2C platform to a B2B OVP platform. Roku can do it but will require bold moves.

Let see ˆ_ˆ


Republished from my blog: October 2, 2017zishanmohammadEdit”Roku needs to pivot to survive”