After years of ready for Roku to supply a greater approach to hold tabs in your streaming companies, the corporate has lastly delivered.
With the Roku OS 11.5 replace coming later this fall, Roku will add a number of new methods to determine what to look at: A “Save Record” characteristic, as an illustration, will allow you to bookmark exhibits to look at later from any streaming service, whereas a “Proceed Watching” part will make it easier to rapidly resume exhibits with out leaving Roku’s dwelling display. To assist in moments of indecision, one other menu part referred to as “The Buzz” will allow you to flip by way of film and present strategies.
Collectively, these options sign a shift in the best way Roku approaches TV. Whereas the corporate’s conventional app grid isn’t going anyplace, it’s changing into much less of a spotlight as Roku comes up with new methods to navigate your streaming choices. That’s a giant deal not only for Roku customers, however for streaming TV as an entire.
Roku opens up
Simply final month, I knocked Roku’s “What to Watch” menu for primarily being too egocentric. Whereas this dwelling display part is meant to assist make sense of streaming, its suggestions have been too fixated on ad-supported video (which is the place Roku makes a lot of its cash).
Roku OS 11.5 is a step in the proper course.
With the “Save Record,” as an illustration, you’ll be capable of bookmark movies from any streaming service, whether or not they have commercials or not. This characteristic beforehand debuted inside Roku’s cell app, however quickly you’ll be capable of entry your record by way of Roku’s “What to Watch” menu in your TV. You could find gadgets so as to add by way of search—which itself is getting some visible upgrades in OS 11.5—or by way of the aforementioned “The Buzz” part.
In the meantime, Roku’s “Proceed Watching” row will not be restricted to Roku Channel content material. For those who begin watching a present on Netflix, as an illustration, it’ll present up contained in the What to Watch menu so you possibly can decide up the place you left off. You possibly can even begin watching on one Roku machine and resume on one other.
These adjustments don’t tackle each gripe I’ve had with Roku’s What to Watch menu—you continue to received’t be capable of personalize this part’s suggestions, or filter out companies you don’t care about—however they will offer you extra of a purpose to go to the part within the first place.
Which streamers are on board?
Roku is hardly alone in making an attempt to interrupt out of the app-grid paradigm. For years, different streaming platforms resembling Hearth TV, Google TV, and Apple TV have supplied their very own common watchlist options and beneficial motion pictures and exhibits immediately from their dwelling screens.
However getting these options to work nicely has been a problem. The “Up Subsequent” row on Apple TV gadgets, as an illustration, doesn’t embody content material from Netflix, and Hearth TV’s “Lately Watched” row solely covers Amazon’s personal video companies. Google TV famously stopped suggesting Netflix originals on its dwelling display quickly after launch, and its “Proceed Watching” row solely works with a restricted variety of streaming companies.
Roku received’t be proof against these points, both.
The Save Record perform, as an illustration, doesn’t at present work with Netflix originals, as I’ve been unable so as to add originals resembling Stranger Issues and The Crown to the Save Record in Roku’s cell app. I assume the identical limitation will apply on TVs. (A Roku spokesperson informed me that “most of Netflix’s content material is supported,” however declined to enter particulars.)
The Proceed Watching row will probably be much more restricted, solely working with Netflix, HBO Max, Paramount+, and the Roku Channel at launch. Whereas Roku says it is going to add extra companions over time, getting them on board will presumably be extra of a slog because it requires a platform-level understanding of what customers have watched. The Buzz’s service assist will probably be restricted as nicely, with Apple TV+, Plex, AMC+, and Starz amongst its preliminary 13 companions.
I’m guessing that’s why Roku took so lengthy to ship these options within the first place. The corporate has all the time been cautious of creating massive adjustments to its platform and introducing new complexities, and it dangers alienating customers if options just like the Save Record and Proceed Watching don’t work as anticipated.
However as extra streaming companies pop up, not doing something has change into untenable. A current survey commissioned by Plex discovered that folks spend half-hour on common on the lookout for one thing to look at throughout quite a few streaming companies, and greater than half of these surveyed mentioned maintaining observe of all the things is a battle. (Plex, by the way, launched its personal approach to handle your streaming choices earlier this yr.)
With Roku OS 11.5, Roku is lastly doing one thing about it, and I’d argue that it’s in a greater place to get streaming companies on board than most different firms. The corporate now reaches greater than half of U.S. linked TV customers in keeping with eMarketer, which implies its dwelling display is prime actual property for streamers resembling Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu. We’ve already seen Roku throw its weight round to get what it needs from streaming companies, so having them take part in options like Proceed Watching ought to now be atop its record of calls for.
Both manner, Roku is lastly taking a stab on the streaming navigation downside in earnest, and I’m excited to see what occurs subsequent.
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