For Roku 4 release, price will be a big factor in popularityBy Mark Chase / July 30, 2015 / Tags: Cut Cable, Roku, Roku 4
With other media streaming devices coming down in cost, Roku 4 will have a narrow line to walk in order to be both profitable and popular with consumers.
The hotly-anticipated next generation Roku player, Roku 4, is expected to be released in the coming months. It already faces stiffer competition than any of Roku’s prior models.
The media streaming device marketplace has gotten a lot more crowded since even the Roku 3 came out. That was a relatively short time ago by standard measures—two years. But in tech time it was eons ago, and a lot has changed since then.
One of the biggest changes is to the cost of media streamers. With more models on the market prices have been driven down.
Apple TV used to be priced at the high end, $99. Apple recently cut the cost by $20, down to around $79.99 retail.
That leaves Roku 3 at the top of the cost chart with a typical sales sticker still at about $99. Amazon Fire TV also sells for around that amount. Lately, though, Amazon’s media streaming devices have beaten Roku in sales, suggesting that consumers see more value in the Fire TV at that price. And with Amazon making steady improvements to the content available on Fire TV and the Fire TV stick (only $40), it’s no big surprise. While Roku used to dominate the market in terms of available channels, its competitors have been closing in.
That includes Google’s media streaming dongle, Chromecast. Chromecast revamps ahead of Roku 4 have come regularly and are only adding to the device’s popularity. At only $30-35, the most affordable of all the media streamers, Chromecast, which just turned two years old, is a great value for cord cutters and TV fans alike.
Even Roku’s own streaming stick could hurt sales of its set-top boxes, including Roku 4. The Roku stick costs half as much but does 95% of what the Roku 3 player does—and most casual users don’t notice the 5% the box does better (it’s a bit faster and has more gaming support).
That means Roku 4 will have to thread the needle with its sticker price in order to win over consumers. That, or come loaded with features so novel and compelling customers flock to buy it anyway.
It’s expected Roku’s new release will cost around $100. For that amount, what will Roku 4’s features be? The company has been fairly quiet about that, preferring to keep things under wraps until its release. But it is likely Roku 4 will come with 4K support, faster processing speeds, and more memory at a minimum. Of course, there is the question of whether the wait for the Roku 4 release has already made it out of date. For example, HDR, high dynamic range, is already replacing 4K as the highest-quality picture available.
While Roku has a difficult maneuver ahead in pricing Roku 4, the media streaming wars are nothing but good for consumers. As more and more people are cutting the cable cord, alternative TV options are growing and improving—a trend that will only get stronger.