Roku Launches ‘Roku TV Ready’ Certification
Roku announced at CES 2020 the expansion of its home audio initiative for Roku TVs through a new “Roku TV Ready” certification program that will enable third-party manufacturers of sound bars, audio video receivers and other audio gear that can connect to Roku TVs to easily and fully integrate the operation of those products through the television’s user interface and remote.
“One of the key objectives at Roku has been to achieve a better streaming experience. A good chunk of that comes down to the quality of the audio that you get with it,” Mark Ely, Roku players and whole home products management VP, told HD Guru. “Many home theater or TV sound products today are frustrating to use for people connecting different brands of audio equipment with their TVs. The process can be difficult to set up, confusing, expensive and frusting to use. We felt the Roku way to handle this was to make the process really simple.”
Identifying a less-than-premium out-of-the-box listening experience from some of the first Roku TVs two years ago, the company launched its first Roku TV wireless speakers in 2018. Those enabled people who already owned a Roku TV to setup a simple wireless speaker connection with bigger, wider and more satisfying sound and operation between the Roku speakers and Roku TVs. Last year it expanded the concept to Roku sound bars and a compatible Roku wireless subwoofer. The Roku (and Walmart’s onn branded) sound bars work seamlessly with Roku TVs and the soundbars will also connect on a basic level with many non-Roku TV television sets.
“Two years ago we introduced our whole home licening program,” Ely explained. “That addressed our vision of how to create a home entertainment network where different audio and video devices work seamlessly together. What we were trying to solve was a real challenge in bringing better sound to the home. We followed that up in the Fall of 2019 with the first Roku Soundbar (and Roku Wireless Subwoofer for the sound bar and Roku wireless speakers). That made it possilbe for any TV to get great Roku sound and Roku streaming. We extended that through a partnership with Walmart, providing the products under the onn brand.”
Beyond that there was an opportunity to get to other third party audio devices and make them work really well with Roku TVs, Ely said.
Roku today lists 14 different TV brands around the world supporting the Roku TV OS, including two new Roku TV brands in the Mexican market — APTIVO (a WalMart brand) and Polaroid. The company said Roku TV was the No. 1 licensed premium TV OS in the U.S. in 2019, with one in three TVs shipped to the country incorporating the built-in Roku TV OS over the course of the year.
Ely described the “Roku TV Ready” program as “a certification program” that enables third party audio devices like sound bars and AVRs to work seamlessly with Roku TVs.
Roku TV Ready certified products will help owners of Roku TVs to understand immediated that “as soon as you plug in your certified sound bar to a Roku TV it will understand what sound bar it is, configure itself for optimum integration with that (turn off the TV’s internal speakers), and then download a list of sound modes that the particular sound bar or AVR supports so that you can access those sound modes through the Roku TV’s on-screen settings.”
“One of the nice things about this is that you can run a sound bar or AVR and get to the most used settings with just one Roku TV remote,” Ely added.
To get to the devices functions, users only need to press the star button on the Roku TV remote to call up the User Interface showing the different sound modes that can be adjusted on the sound bar or AVR. The list of modes is provided by the sound bar manufacturer and can be as short or as detailed and lengthy as the device requires.
“This is a really simple way to reduce customer frustration and also give them access to a bunch of capabilities that their audio devices have that they might not know about or find it hard to manage because they have to juggle remote controls,” Ely said.
The first two Roku TV Ready program partners are Sound United (owner of multiple audio brands including Marantz and Denon) and TCL (one of Roku’s first Roku TV partners on the OS side). TCL has a whole line of audio products that will now be Roku TV Ready that are announcing at their CES press conference and in their booth.
“These are the first of what we hope will be a large group of brands and products that will be Roku TV Ready in the near future,” Ely said. “We would like to include as many different AVRs and sound bars as we can and to work within that program to make the sound and user experience of the connected devices as good as it possibly can be.”
Ely said that for a product to be adaptable for the Roku TV Ready program it will need to at minimum have an HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) port or the newer eARC. At this point no Roku TVs have eARC ports, but the intention is to support that technology going forward, he said.
Roku said it will be aggressively promoting the Roku TV Ready badge in the early stages of the roll out.
By Greg Tarr
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