Peter Kafka

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Roku Raises a $60 Million Round, Led by Fidelity, to Fight for the Living Room

RokuStickAppsTim Cook said Apple TV is still a side project. But bringing digital entertainment to your TV is all Roku does, and they’re raising more money to do it.

Roku has raised a massive $60 million round, led by new investor Fidelity; publisher and TV station owner Hearst Corp. has also put money into the company.

Previous strategic investors, including BSkyB, News Corp. and Dish, are back as well (News Corp. also owns this website). Roku has now raised $130 million to date, said CEO Anthony Wood.

Wood said the new money will fund a new push for Roku — getting its new software installed as a de facto operating system for a new wave of smart TVs coming to the market. Wood figures that most TV manufacturers, with the exception of Samsung, aren’t going to have the desire or ability to create decent software for their boxes, and he’d like Roku to assume that role.

Roku has yet to do that, though, and even if and when it does it will continue to make its original line of TV peripherals, like the Roku 3. The last time Roku released numbers of those sales, in March, the company said it had sold 5 million boxes to date, but Wood said sales are “strongly accelerating.” (Last night, Cook said Apple has sold more than 13 million of its Apple TV boxes.)

Regardless of whether Wood gets into your living room via a box or a TV set, his big picture plan is to generate revenue via his service business — taking a piece of transactions a customer generates on his platform, like renting a movie or downloading a Roku-specific version of “Angry Birds.”

That sounds interesting, but as always, there are a lot of people trying to play in that same sandbox: This month, for instance, Microsoft proclaimed loudly that its Xbox has formally moved from a game box to a video box. And Amazon, which both bid for Roku last year and sells a lot of Rokus itself, is reportedly getting into the TV/box business this fall.

(Disclosure: Attendees at this year’s D: All Things Digital conference happen to be getting a Roku 3 in their schwag bags.)


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus