Roku claims 36 million active users as streaming continues to spread

As more people become cord-cutters or cord never, Roku wants to get in the middle.

According to Roku, we're now in the "streaming decade." And the company that grew from a Netflix box to a behemoth in its own right is claiming that the last quarter of 2019 was a big one (PDF), with retail sales up 33 percent and total streaming hours up 60 percent compared to the same period last year. The total number of active Roku accounts reached 36.9 million.

With Disney, NBCUniversal, HBO, Apple and others (including ViacomCBS once it announces something next week) expanding their streaming plans, Roku isn't just focused on being a platform that customers can use to get all of them in one place. On a call with investors, SVP Scott Rosenberg said "We've got data that helps us predict who's likely to be the next CBS All Access, the next Disney+, the next Apple TV+ viewer. And we deploy those capabilities in partnership with content providers to help them do better, faster customer acquisition and retention."

CEO Anthony Wood referenced the fast start of Disney+ and noted that the service "leaned into" using its tools, and worked with Roku to help subscribers easily log in. In the release of today's results, Roku showed off ads that Disney+ ran on its home screen as an example of its capabilities. It can also play off of free content in its streaming Roku Channel, with advertisements for premium services that lead to subscriptions, reminders to watch later, or text messages that people can request, like one from Energizer that sent codes for a discounted movie.

As far as that weirdness with Fox ahead of the Super Bowl, Wood downplayed any expectation of carriage negotiation drama. Instead of squabbling over how to split revenue from a cable bill, he said the company is trying to help build businesses, which doesn't quite explain what happened, but as long as the game streamed in 4K then that may be all the answer we'll get for now.

As for the future, it looks like we can expect for Roku OS powered devices like the TVs and soundbars that are out now, as well as more content on its free channels. The Roku Channel reached some 56 million customers in 2019, and with an expectation that by 2024, up to half of US homes will either be cord cutters or cord nevers, it could have many more viewers tuning in.