Panel SA: Roku wants country to rival giants like Amazon and Google, says executive

Panel SA: Roku wants country to rival giants like Amazon and Google, says executive

Streaming giant in the US, Roku arrived in Brazil in January 2020, a month before the pandemic. Since then, Arthur van Rest, the company’s international vice-president, has made Brazil an obligatory stopover.

The company disputes the market with Amazon and Google, big techs that offer the so-called “sticks”, small devices that, when plugged into the TV via an HDMI or USB input, transform the devices into smart devices.

In an exclusive interview with Panel SA, van Rest claims that Brazil should follow the path of Mexico, where the group took five years to consolidate itself as a major competitor. This turning point will come when Brazilians realize that you don’t have to spend a lot to upgrade your televisions.

In the country, the company maintains partnerships with AOC, Philco, Semp and TCL, providing integrated software to the television systems produced by these companies.

This year, it entered into a sponsorship with São Paulo Futebol Clube and was part of the panel of exhibitors at the Comic Con Experience (CCXP), one of the biggest pop culture events in the country.

to roku arrived in the country a month before the pandemic. Did that get in the way? Covid sped up our processes by two years. We were already in the market before and the fashion [do streaming] had already started in Brazil.

When I was here for the first time, in 2019, the options were restricted to Netflix and YouTube. Now we have HBO Max, Amazon, Globoplay and other players aimed directly at the consumer. It’s a more open market.

How did they manage to become one of the great companies in the market? The complexity of television software has changed a lot over the past 20 years. In the past, it was only necessary to have one device to decode the transmission signal and everything was very stable. Since there wasn’t much change in this process, the software requirements for the TVs were small. Innovation and development were more linked to the display [tela] than the system.

Over the past five years, these requirements have changed rapidly. It is no longer a stable process and you need to innovate, have more content, know how to manage these services – and they all have very specific certifications.

We believe that all companies will end up using open source licenses like we do now. It’s just a matter of time, because it’s very difficult for each TV manufacturer to manage these changes.

We have hundreds of engineers working around the clock on software updates and several brands working with Roku OS [open source, código aberto, em inglês] in the world.

Consumers benefit from this because not only do they receive the latest content services, they also receive new tools and functionality. Since we use the same system on all TVs, we update everyone with news all the time. It is a livelier television that only gets better.

At the beginning of your career, was it possible to think about the type of technology we have today? The difference from when I started working is that we sold the TVs to the customer and now this is just the beginning of the experience. I started at Sony and my entire career has been spent on consumer experience with electronics. Before it was more about selling hardware [equipamentos] high quality and less about the software [programas e sistemas embarcados]🇧🇷

Today the focus is on user experiences. At Roku, we make great devices, but our focus is on the customer’s experience with the program.

For this reason, we direct investments towards improving software. Nobody foresaw this change 30 years ago, but I think in the last five years things have accelerated.

Our job today is to make sure he likes the service, that he keeps following the streaming broadcasts. We want to make sure you have more access and ease to services, at a lower price. It is at this point that the market changed. It’s more about thinking about a constant exchange relationship with the customer than it was 30 years ago.

Regarding Brazilian consumers, what are the most common demands? Our system is very easy to use. It is very simple and the services are available at a user’s click. As our OS [sistema operacional] is made for TV, we’ve managed to lower the price and make streaming more accessible.

Good content and low prices will always be popular and this is the formula that works in every country in the world. In Brazil, we align competitively priced TVs with the type of content people enjoy.

What are Roku’s projections for 2023? Continue working with our local partners and expand sales. This is a great opportunity for us in Brazil, because there is a very large base of TVs installed here. Once people understand that they can upgrade their TVs just by adding a Roku product, for example, it will be a turning point in the Brazilian market.

People are still not very familiar with this type of product, which is why we entered into partnerships with São Paulo Futebol Clube and joined CCXP. These are investments not just for Roku, but for streaming culture more generally.

There is some expectation that Roku will bring to Brazil products already established in other countries, such as the Roku 4K [aparelho que transforma a qualidade da imagem em altíssima definição]🇧🇷 In other markets we have other products, but we work to expand the portfolio of partner companies and services in Brazil. I would say that we are still at the very beginning of market development, so we still have many opportunities to bring new products, more partners and do more business here.

In Mexico, for example, five years ago we started with two or three TV companies. Today there are 14 Mexican companies using Roku and we have consolidated ourselves in the market. In Brazil, it is quite possible that we will follow the same model in the coming years.

Does Roku produce devices in Brazil? And is there any projection of manufacturing the TVs themselves in the coming years? We make Roku products in Manaus. It is part of our commitment to Brazil to show that we are committed to staying here, expanding our space in the market. As for own manufacturing, we are happy with our partners and talking about Roku’s own brand would be mere speculation.


Arthur van Rest

Career: Almost 30 years of experience in the consumer experience technology sector. He started his career at Sony in 1993, went through Virgin, Philips, Belkin, Amazon and has been at Roku since 2018.

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