The future look of Roku's home screen is being built before your eyes.
Roku, the most popular streaming-TV player in the US, has stuck with its distinctive grid of channel tiles since 2013, back when Roku had sold about 5 million of its players. But streaming video has exploded in the last five years. The number of households with a streaming player has quadrupled, and Roku now has nearly 24 million active accounts streaming video to TVs with its devices.
That means the tile-grid layout is the only design that most Roku users have ever known. But Roku is planning to replace its home screen with a different interface, one you can already find if you know where to look.
"It's the Roku Channel," CEO Anthony Wood said in an interview last week.
The Roku Channel is the company's sandbox for building the programming-first user experience it will eventually move over to its home screen, Wood said.
Like competitors, Roku will need to evolve its design to something that puts shows and movies -- rather than apps or channels -- at center stage. Rather than having you open individual apps or channels to get to the show or movie you want, Roku's future home screen will aggregate and recommend specific titles that are available across the apps on its platform.
"There's 5,000 apps on Roku. Most people don't install 5,000 apps," Wood said. He didn't specify when Roku will change the home screen design. The company is just about to start tests to compare performance between different designs, he said.
The Roku Channel, which launched a year ago, has grown to be one of the top five apps by reach on the platform. It started with selections of movies and TV shows you could watch free with advertising, and it's widened to include other free programming like news and sports. Though the Roku Channel may seem secondary to the company, most of Roku's profit comes from advertising. The Roku Channel is one of the ways that the company has been selling ads.
"It might not always be called the Roku Channel," Wood said. "It might be called the home screen."
Corrected Nov. 23 at 11:45 a.m. PT: Clarifies Roku's profit from advertising.
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