Roku to start selling streaming hardware in Germany

Roku Ultra
Germany will be the fourth country in Europe where Roku's platform and hardware are officially supported, following earlier launches in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. (Roku)

Roku will start selling its streaming players in Germany and is reaching out to content creators with information on how they can update their video applications to support the German market, Fierce Video has learned.

The company's plan to sell its streaming players in Germany was foreshadowed earlier this month in a letter to shareholders that accompanied Roku's latest quarterly earnings report.

Roku has yet to disclose the exact hardware it will sell in Germany or when it plans to officially enter that market. Mike Duin, Roku's director of communications, offered no specifics on the company's plan for Germany, telling Fierce Video that additional details will be released "over the coming weeks."

Some details have already trickled out, with Fierce Video obtaining a note to developers that said Roku is now allowing app designers to distribute their channels in Germany. Additionally, Roku has activated a monetization feature through its Roku Direct Publisher program that will allow app developers to make money from their products distributed in Germany, the United Kingdom and in other European Union countries where the platform is supported.

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"To make sure your channel is available in the German Channel Store as soon as Roku streaming players go on sale, you’ll need to update your channel properties from within the Developer Dashboard," a blog post published for developers by Roku said.

Germany will be the fourth country in Europe where Roku's platform and hardware are officially supported, following earlier launches in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. The company's early rollout in the United Kingdom included the launch of the "Roku Powered" licensing program, a white-label solution that is used by Comcast's Sky satellite for its Now TV streaming service.

Andrew Freedman, a senior communications analyst at the media research firm Hedgeye, said Roku's expansion to Germany was a "logical next step" for the company's international growth plans.

"They've been slow [to expand] in Western Europe, [but] if you look at the largest pay TV markets across Europe, it's Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain," Freedman said in an interview. "So Germany makes a lot of sense for them to go into."

Freedman pointed to an explosion in streaming services that began in the United States and have since gone international. Some are doing it at a surprising pace: Within the last two years, Comcast, the Walt Disney Company, AMC Networks, AT&T's WarnerMedia, Discovery and ViacomCBS have either launched or announced plans to launch their domestic streaming services internationally as they leverage their expansive portfolio of content in their pursuit of global subscription and advertising revenue.

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"There's going to be more of a need for a streaming platform — a smart device that will allow users to consume all of these streaming platforms," Freedman said. "I think where Roku has a good leg up internationally is that it's a low-cost operating system, which I think is going to help them compete in these other countries."

The biggest hurdle for Roku's European expansion is they're not the only game in town: While Roku and Amazon Fire TV dominate the streaming hardware market in the United States, the scale tilts heavily in Amazon's favor overseas, where Amazon mainly competes with budget devices running Android TV. Roku's international market share hovers around 5%, Freedman said.

"Roku is going to have to claw their way in to get the market share," Freedman warned. "It does remain to be seen if they can take the playbook from the U.S. and bring it international, replicate it successfully."

But Freedman is still optimistic Roku will perform well in Germany and other countries as it continues to plot its international expansion.

"The average number of TVs per household is around two, and all of those are going to become smart TVs, or they're legacy TVs that will need to be converted into a smart TV with a device like a stick or a dongle," he said. "So that also benefits Roku as they sell into the marketplace."