Hot Take: Netflix Loves Roku?
Netflix might buy Roku—we ponder what that means for users in terms of content, user experience, and equipment.
Netflix, reportedly, wants to buy Roku.1 Why? Netflix’s declining subscriber count and financial woes are well-documented by now. So are its attempted remedies like charging a fee to share passwords, waffling on its woke-ness,2 and a desire to get into advanced advertising3. Roku is great at advanced advertising, but business isn’t exactly booming.
So, what would this rumored union mean for consumers? We love Roku, especially the Roku Ultra. We love Netflix, even if it has some problems. So the rumored union could be awesome, but we have some questions about how the two companies would blend together.
Netflix is heavy on original content and Roku has plenty of its own, as well as some free, ad-supported live content on the Roku Channel. Netflix is considering live content—probably in the form of live reality shows and themed, curated channels like we see on Plex, Pluto, Tubi, and other free, ad-supported TV (FAST) services.
What would FAST-style content add to the Netflix experience? Well, live TV might partially fix choice paralysis because we can always just watch what’s already on. But mostly, it’s more money for Netflix.
Being able to access our other streaming TV subscriptions from Netflix, however, would be great for users (aside from perhaps exacerbating choice paralysis) as long as Netflix can figure out an organic way to integrate other streaming TV apps into its interface.
Both Roku and Netflix are solid in the UX department, but they’re very different services. Roku is all about aggregating various streaming services into a single hub for a seamless experience. Netflix is all content. How would Roku fit into Netflix and vice versa?
We’re guessing that Netflix (or whatever it’ll be called) will follow Amazon’s Prime Video Channels example and add a carousel row of tiles for the other streaming apps. That could work just fine, especially since Netflix’s user interface is far superior to Prime Video’s—and if the competing streaming services are cool with that.
We’re already not crazy about ads for personally irrelevant content (Walmart, trashy reality shows, Living Scriptures, etc.) cluttering our carefully curated lineup of streaming apps on Roku. But do we want them on Netflix?
I mean, these ads (which also run on Roku’s screensavers) aren’t obnoxious (yet), so they’re tolerable. Also, the ads are proven moneymakers—hence, Netflix’s interest (gotta get that ad money). So, like it or not, ads are coming.
But what will ads on Netflix look like? We don’t see much room in the layouts of various Netflix screen layouts; the space is well-used and has only the information we need. Surely, Netflix will find a way and, just like with Roku, we’ll tolerate it.
The Roku Ultra remote.
Currently, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Apple TV+ all pay to have dedicated hotkeys on Roku remotes. When Netflix owns Roku, will the other services continue paying for that privilege, thereby putting money in a competitor’s pocket?
Either way, Roku users will want that functionality on their devices, so it behooves Netflix and its competitors to make it work. It will be interesting to see, if this deal happens, how this and other questions are addressed.
1. Brandon Katz, The Wrap. “Roku Stock Rebounds 20% Amid Reports of Possible Acquisition by Netflix,” June 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022.
2. Daniel Frankel, Next TV. “Did Netflix Just Capitulate to Elon Musk’s ‘Woke’ Criticism?,” May 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022.
3. Daniel Frankel, Next TV. “Roku Staffers Swirl in Netflix Acquisition Rumors,” June 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022.