Roku has decided that too many customers are dissatisfied with the default speakers that come built into TVs and think it’s also too much of a headache to set up and use an external speaker system. Those customers want better sound and easier-to-use hardware, in other words, which is why the company on Monday announced it’s launching a wireless speaker line this fall that will retail for about $200 — speakers that will, no surprise, work exclusively with Roku TVs.
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This is a hardware play, of course, but what it really amounts to is an attempt by the company — whose TVs accounted for one out of every four smart TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter — to use its hardware to more tightly wed customers to its platform. To give them a better overall experience. Bolstering this point, Fast Company noted today that the company is now making more money from services than hardware, a trend the wireless speaker announcement apparently won’t disrupt.
Preorders are under way now for the speakers, which are priced at $149.99 through July 23. After that, the preorder price jumps to $179.99 through October 15.
“Picture quality, a tremendous selection of content, value, and ease of use make Roku TVs some of the most popular smart TVs on the market today,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood in a statement about today’s news. “Adding great audio dramatically enhances the way people experience their favorite entertainment. With Roku TV Wireless Speakers, we’re able to offer our customers a simple and affordable way to further immerse themselves into the TV, movies and music they love, while providing them with a better whole home entertainment experience.”
The speaker bundles come with a Roku TV Voice Remote and a Roku Touch tabletop remote. The latter is a battery-powered tabletop voice remote with a press-and-hold design for voice commands, playback control buttons and programmable preset buttons.
Users will set up the speakers using Roku’s Connect technology, and once they’re paired, audio can be enjoyed from any streaming channel on the Roku platform and live TV from an antenna or other devices like a cable set-top box. The speakers support Bluetooth music streaming from mobile devices and also offer a way to automatically lower the volume on loud scenes and boost the volume on quieter ones along with Dialog Enhancement to make speech easier to understand.
For some context behind this, Roku exec Chas Smith explained to FastCo that even though the company has been moving away from selling hardware in the past few years, today’s news still fits comfortably within its overall strategy. It’s about making Roku TVs “more compelling” — and leaving the ecosystem a harder thing to do.
“The reason for doing this is not for Roku to sell a piece of hardware,” Smith told the magazine. “We’re actually looking to increase the engagement on the platform. We believe that by making the television speakers more immersive for TV shows and movies, by making the audio better, we’re making TV itself more immersive, and it will drive higher use and more stickiness to the platform.”