Roku’s latest software update brings local news, more live sports and a new mobile app

Roku’s latest software update brings local news, more live sports and a new mobile app

Roku devices are getting an update. The company announced today that a series of updates are coming to its media streamers and TVs with a new version of its software, Roku OS 12. The updates, which focus on areas like live TV and sports, among others, will also be accompanied by a revamp of the Roku mobile app, which the company says will include a new home screen and other layout changes, as well as improved tools like account management and photos. .

The company also announced that its new Roku-branded TVs are now available exclusively at Best Buy.

The software updates are meant to help Roku better compete with rivals — particularly in live TV, which is becoming a key selling point for customers overwhelmed by paid streaming subscriptions and looking for alternatives. FAST channels (free ad-supported streaming TV) and services that provide access to free content are becoming increasingly popular.

Roku currently includes more than 350 of these types of live channels in its software, which it will now improve by adding local news. US users can customize their live TV broadcasts by selecting channels from major cities across the country. Additionally, the company claims that news recommendations are driven by AI, the technology that Roku uses to personalize the experience for end users to show them the news they want to see.

Image sources: Roku

The company told TechCrunch that AI is working to personalize its recommendations based on customers’ streaming habits, location, save lists and more, and that those recommendations will improve over time as more users stream.

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Customers will notice recommendations based on services they already subscribe to, including premium subscriptions, now integrated into the live TV experience.

But in the coming months, customers may also notice other personalized suggestions — like how games they’re more likely to be interested in will come to the top when browsing Roku’s new Sports experience. Home screen menu items like Featured Free, Things to Watch, and Live TV will also be positioned based on the customer’s use of those features for more convenient access and fewer clicks, Roku says.

Image sources: Roku

Another change to the live sports experience, first announced in November, will be the addition of a new golf zone that will feature upcoming live tournaments. Sports Zone will also increase its Spanish-language coverage and expand its network of providers with CBS Sports, MLB TV, NBA League Pass and others joining its roster.

Elsewhere in Roku’s user interface, it’s updating the “Continue Watching” feature, which allows users to jump back to previously watched content. With the update, this feature will pick up where it left off almost immediately – as soon as you exit content and exit an app. New partners including Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+ and Vix Plus are also supported in this feature, along with debuting partners Netflix, Paramount+, HBO Max and of course The Roku Channel – Roku’s own free streaming hub. It will soon be supported by other channels including BET+, Frndly TV, Freevee and STARZ.

The other major change in addition to the OS update is the updated Roku mobile app.

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According to the company, the new design aims to make the app a “visually immersive” and more personalized experience.

Image sources: Roku

Changes include an updated Account Center, so you can sign in from within the app itself and access more security, privacy, and notification settings. New tools are also available to manage the devices attached to your Roku account.

Image sources: Roku

We’re updating the app’s home screen to focus on the sports experience and keep watching the lineups, offering more ways to explore content on the platform. This will include updated recommendations that are personalized in real time.

The Photo Stream feature, which lets you display your own photos as a screen saver on your TV, is also now expanding from 100 photos to 1,000.

Image sources: Roku

Updates are coming to US users. However, international Roku customers will soon receive updates that include the launch of What to Watch, Continue Watching, Save List, Live TV Zone, and Category Menu within the programming guide.

The software updates were announced alongside the first news about features and release timing for the recently announced Roku Select and Plus series TVs, which will be available in 11 models ranging from 24″ to 75″.

Also a Best Buy exclusive, the Plus series will offer QLED technology, 4K Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, auto brightness, local dimming, Roku Voice Remote Pro, Bluetooth Private Listening (without an app), and more. They also support wireless surround sound expandability with the new Roku Wireless Soundbar (also a Best Buy exclusive), Roku Wireless Speaks, and the Wireless base. According to the company, their prices will start at $500 later this year.

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Roku Select ($150 MSRP and up) and Plus series TVs are available starting today at Best Buy stores and online at The new Wireless Soundbar will arrive later this month.

Image sources: Roku

Earlier this week, Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood expressed his confidence in the newly launched first-party TVs and how the company plans to take its place in the smart TV market.

“The biggest opportunity for further growth is to acquire stakes in LG, Samsung and Vizio,” Wood noted at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference. “These TV companies are kind of left behind in terms of material market share other than Roku.”

Wood added that in terms of licensed TVOS space, Roku has a “very big advantage” over Google and Amazon. “These companies are growing in market share, but they’re still small … They still have single-digit market share,” he said.

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