TCL, Metz Blue to offer Roku TV sets in Germany

Streaming hardware maker Roku is bringing its smart television sets to Germany in partnership with two electronic brands, the company announced on Thursday.

The move comes a little more than a year after Fierce Video first reported Roku would begin selling its streaming hardware in the German market, with the company first offering its streaming sticks and pucks to customers there.

On Thursday, Roku said it had partnered with Chinese manufacturers TCL and Skyworth for a line of smart television sets targeted at the German market with Roku's streaming platform built in. Skyworth manufactures sets under the Metz Blue name, a brand that made and sold TV sets in Germany for several decades before it was acquired by the Chinese firm in 2015.

"People transition more of their entertainment time to streaming, while continuing to watch a significant amount of broadcast TV, so we are excited to launch Roku TV in Germany and offer a great experience for both," Arthur van Rest, the vice president of international at Roku, said in a statement. "German viewers want the best possible TV experience, something that includes all their favourite entertainment, is easy to use, and gets them to what they want to watch as quickly as possible."

Roku said the new TVs sold in Germany will come in a variety of sizes, from 32 inches to 65 inches. Pricing and availability will be announced by each manufacturer at a later date.

Roku's entry into the German market comes at a time when many domestic streaming services are accelerating their international expansion. According to a study published by the analytics firm Kantar last year, nearly half of all German households subscribed to at least one video on-demand streaming service, with Amazon Prime having a command of the market there. Netflix and Disney+ are also available in the country; Paramount+ is coming later this year.

German media brands like RTL, which have been staples on broadcast and pay television in the country, are also coming around to the idea of streaming. Last month, RTL announced it would launch a streaming service that combines movies, television shows, radio stations and on-demand music streaming with the goal of reaching 10 million subscribers within the next four years.

While Roku's push into the German market is occurring as consumers are increasingly interested in streaming services, the company already has some competition: According to a 2020 study, HbbTV — an open standard that fuses broadcast television with broadband services — had more users than any other platform in that market. Samsung's Tizen OS was in second place with German users, while Amazon's budget line of Fire TV devices, according to a study published by media consulting firm Teravolt.

But Roku believes it has an advantage to those other platforms, in that it is nurturing both streaming viewers and services who want a distribution partner for their apps.

For viewers, Roku intends to integrate live broadcast channels into its smart television sets, so viewers can switch between streaming services and traditional broadcast networks like ARD, ZDF and RTL. (In Germany, anyone who owns a television set must pay a broadcast license if they receive over-the-air signals; as is common in other European countries, revenue from the license helps fund public broadcasters.) Customers with pay television services like Sky Deutschland or local cable will also be able to browse channels from those services using Roku's electronic program guide.

Roku also sought to nurture German streaming services and other app developers by making its monetization features available there before the platform was even available in the country, ensuring developers had a way to profit from their services once Roku dongles, sticks — and, now, TV sets — are in the hands of customers there.

Exactly how many customers in Germany are currently using Roku is unclear — the company has yet to reveal information about the number of devices sold or active accounts it has in that country.