Televisions with built-in smart TV platforms are taking over the global TV market with increased momentum, particularly those models in North America that are based on the Roku TV operating system.

That’s according to a smart TV market analysis from IHS Markit. The tech market analytics firm said that in recent months the Roku TV operating system enjoyed significant growth due, in part, to increased North American demand for brands from China, which have adopted the system over their own systems or third party rivals like Android or Fire TV.

Chinese TV makers have also enjoy an artificial spike in orders early in the year as vendors and retailers began stocking up on inventory in advance of threatened (and later delivered) tariffs on imports from China.

Interesting to note, televisions based on the Roku TV platform currently are not available in most markets outside of North America. But in the U.S. and Canada, the Roku TV sales spike was significant enough to pass Samsung’s Tizen OS as the No. 1 smart TV platform, according to IHS Markit data.

In an IHS blog posted Wednesday announcing the research, “The boom in Chinese TV sales put Roku at the top of the North American market for the first time since the third quarter of 2017,” wrote Paul Grey, IHS Markit research director. “Roku outstripped Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s webOS because of the popularity of the low-priced Chinese smart TVs. In turn, Chinese TV prices dropped due to the unforeseen consequences of the tariff threats, leading to a short plunge in pricing.”

The report indicated shipments of Roku-based sets represented 37% of the total North American smart TV market in the first quarter, up from 23% in the fourth quarter.

“This made Roku the top smart TV OS in the region in a given quarter for the first time since 2017,” Grey revealed.

IHS said that due to the regionally weighted distribution, the Roku TV OS holds only an 8% share of smart TV shipments worldwide.

The market research firm previously reported that early ordering of China-made televisions helped push TCL, the leading brand of Roku TVs, to the No. 2 market share position in the North American market, behind Samsung.

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In addition to TCL, Roku TVs are also made and sold by Chinese TV brands including: Element, Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, JVC, Philips, RCA, Sharp and Westinghouse. Several of those brands are made and sold under exclusive distibution agreements with U.S. big box retail chain Best Buy.

Roku TV models range in screen size and performance capability, with some of the best being capable of presenting 4K Ultra HD resolution and high dynamic range (HDR), including the Dolby Vision profile.

North American mass market consumers have increasingly gravitated toward Roku TVs due to the comparatively low price points, generally good picture and sound quality, and the simple-to-use layout and operation of the Roku interface. Users also benefit from Roku’s large library of supported streaming apps, including all of the most popular video and music streaming services and Roku’s own assortment of free to view ad-support movies and programs.

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Over and above the success of Roku TVs in North America, IHS said smart TVs have taken over the global television business.

The research firm previously reported that China hardware and streaming services brand Xiaomi has moved into the top TV market share position in its domestic market, leveraging low selling prices subsidized by connected streaming service subscriptions.

Similarly, IHS said Samsung has been adapting TVs running its Tizen smart TV OS to tie in seamlessly to apps that connect to local pay TV services in Europe.

“These valuable features mean that for most consumers buying a non-smart TV is inconceivable,” Grey pointed out.

In fact, the momentum is now so strong behind smart TVs that IHS adjusted its previous forecasts showing smart TV shipments in all regions to account for more than 60% of total television shipments in 2023.

“In North America, Western and Eastern Europe, China and Latin America, smart TVs are forecast to rise to more than 85% of shipments in 2023,” IHS said.

A full report of the IHS Markit TV Design & Features Tracker is available for purchase from IHS here.

By Greg Tarr

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