Roku is bringing its TV operating system outside of North America for the first time, the company announced at IFA . Hisense UK will release its first TVs powered by Roku in the fourth quarter of this year. Previously, Roku’s television operating system has only been available in North America where it’s been featured in TVs from TCL, Sharp, and Hisense’s US arm.
Hisense UK to release its first TVs powered by Roku

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Roku TVs also benefit from lengthy ongoing support. The company says that it maintains tight control over its update process, meaning it can push updates to older TVs even if their manufacturers have stopped supporting them.

One of Roku’s key competitors, Amazon, also used IFA this year to announce the international expansion of its Fire TV Editions, which are televisions using Amazon’s Fire TV platform as a built-in operating system. Previously exclusive to North America, Amazon has now partnered with manufacturers to release the TVs in Europe. Both companies have sold their standalone streaming hardware outside of North America for a number of years now.

The launch is likely to intensify the competition between Roku and Amazon. Market research suggests that Roku is currently ahead in North America, but Roku and Amazon’s international expansions could change things on a worldwide basis.

Roku announced its first branded Smart TV in early 2014 and it was released in late 2014. These TVs are manufactured by companies like TCL and Hisense, and use the Roku user interface as the "brain" of the TV. Roku TVs are updated just like the streaming devices. More recent models also integrate a set of features for use with over-the-air TV signals, including a program guide that provides information for shows and movies available on local antenna broadcast TV, as well as where that content is available to stream, and the ability to pause live TV (though the user must plug in a USB drive 16GB or larger in capacity to utilize said feature).

The Roku box runs a custom Linux distribution called Roku OS. Updates to the software include bug fixes, security updates, feature additions, and many new interface revisions. Roku pushes OS updates to supported devices in a staggered release. OS updates are rolled out to a percentage group of candidate devices to ensure the build is stable before being made available en masse.

The most current Roku OS versions are Roku OS 9.0 for supported streaming devices & Roku OS 8.2 for Roku TVs. Roku OS 9.0 began rolling out in November 2018 for Roku streaming devices; Roku TVs are expected to receive the 9.0 update in Q1 2019.

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Roku launched its own streaming channel on its devices in October 2017. It is ad-supported, but free. At launch, its licensed content included movies and TV shows from studios such as Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros., as well as Roku channel content publishers American Classics, FilmRise, Nosey, OVGuide, Popcornflix, Vidmark, and YuYu. It is implementing an ad revenue sharing model with content providers. It is only available in the US. On August 8 2018, The Roku Channel became available on the web as well. Roku also added the "Featured Free" section as the top section of its main menu from where users can get access to direct streaming of shows and movies from its partners.

In January 2019, premium subscriptions options from select content providers were added to The Roku Channel.