In 2007, Netflix was developing its own set-top box to push its streaming platform onto TVs. At the last moment, legend has it, it got spooked at the prospect of rivals being less inclined to include its app if it was developing its own hardware, so the business was spun off to become Roku.
Now, 15 years later, it looks like Netflix may be trying to get the band back together. According to Business Insider, the talk at Roku is apparently that the company is about to be bought up by Netflix and, adding fuel to the fire, the company has closed the stock trading window for all of its employees.
It may seem a bit weird for Netflix to suddenly take an interest in Roku when the Netflix app is already available on it as as well as — deep breath — Android, iOS, Fire TV, Portal, Nvidia Shield, Chromecast, Apple TV, Playstation, Xbox, dozens of set top boxes, multiple Blu-ray players, any smart TV made in the last decade or so, and anything with a web browser.
But there may be an ulterior motive at play. As Business Insider points out, Roku generated $647 million of advertising revenue in the first quarter of this year. That knowhow may be quite appealing to Netflix as it mulls an ad-supported tier in the face of its first subscriber dip in over a decade.
And while it may seem a bit odd for Netflix to suddenly own a platform promoting apps for its arch rivals Apple TV Plus and Amazon Prime Video, even that has its perks. Netflix would suddenly have access to Roku owners’ viewing data, giving it key insider info on what is and isn’t working for other streamers.
But it’s worth noting that as recently as 2014, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was dismissive of getting into hardware. “We’re working with over 1,000 devices now. There’s no value add for us to do a device,” he said in an interview.
We should know soon as to whether his perspective has changed in the intervening eight years or not…