Roku CEO: Apple TV is a money-loser

Roku has long argued that bigger rivals end up helping Roku when they release streaming-video boxes. CEO Anthony Wood allows that Apple TV does result in lost money -- for Apple.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
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Roku CEO and founder Anthony Wood Joan Solsman/CNET

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Roku founder and Chief Executive Anthony Wood isn't worried about streaming-box competition like Apple TV, even if he thinks Apple maybe should be.

"Apple TV is essentially an accessory for the iPad. They lose money, which is unusual for Apple," he said Thursday, speaking at the Recode conference here. "If you're losing money, why would you want to sell more?"

He characterized his comments about Apple TV as speculative.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook earlier this month said that Apple TV, between revenue from selling the hardware and money from selling content on it, notched $1 billion in sales in 2013. The concept of having a low-margin device that brings in higher-margin content sales has some wildly successful examples elsewhere, Amazon's Kindle for one, but the strategy isn't typically Apple's MO. Apple didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In the interview, Wood also disclosed that Aereo, the service that streams over-the-air broadcast progamming, is now available as an app on Roku for some, along with pornography.

In lieu of parental controls, the company has codes for some customers to have access to certain content -- like pornography. An app for Aereo, which is being sued by Roku investors Hearst and 20th Century Fox, is available through the same means as well.

A Roku spokewoman later said that these are examples of private channels, which are hidden from its main app store and available only with a code from the channel provider.

Roku exists in a market for streaming-video devices that is growing quickly as options for online video grow more robust, from original series on Netflix to a proliferation of more niche-oriented video apps. Roku has more than 1,200 apps available, double the number it had a year ago.

But the competition among streaming-video devices is also expanding. In addition to Roku's biggest rival in Apple TV, Google launched Chromecast to wide appeal last year, and Amazon is widely expected to release a streaming product at an event next week in New York.

Roku, however, has maintained that, in the end, bigger technology companies making forays into streaming boxes actually helps Roku to grow. On Thursday, Wood noted that the day Apple launched its $99 box, Roku sales doubled.

UPDATED at 11:50 am PT on March 28: With Roku's description of private channel.