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Roku 'actively looking' to expand international market share

While Roku Inc. has built a stronghold in the U.S. market, its reach in Europe is much more limited, something the company is looking to change.

"We're actively looking to [expand] outside the U.S. in the next few years," said Yulia Poltorak, the company's director of international content distribution, in an interview at the Videoscape conference in London on June 13. Roku executives view international expansion as crucial to the company's near-term growth strategy, Poltorak said.

Founded in 2002 by Anthony Wood, inventor of the DVR, Roku expanded into media players and in 2015 introduced its TV operating system. Roku reported 29.1 million active accounts at the end of the first quarter and projected its revenue would surpass $1 billion in 2019, up from $742.5 million for 2018. While the company sells its branded devices in several countries, it generates the majority of its revenue in the U.S.

The only Roku devices currently available in Europe are its two media players, the Roku Express and Roku Streaming Stick+. Roku TVs and the Roku Channel, a streaming video platform offering ad-supported content and some livestreaming channels, are not available in the region. That also means European users cannot access Roku's mobile app to stream content on the go, a feature widely offered by other over-the-top providers in Europe.

Roku does have a significant European partner and investor in Comcast Corp. unit Sky PLC. Roku's OS powers Sky's à la carte Now TV service and OTT offerings in Italy, Austria and Germany. The company has also been tapped to build Comcast-owned NBCUniversal LLC's upcoming ad-supported streaming service.

Roku's media players compete with Apple Inc.'s Apple TV set-top box and Amazon.com Inc.'s Fire TV devices, though both Apple and Amazon also offer access to services on Roku's platform.

"We are a neutral content provider, that's our proposition," Poltorak said. "We don't care how big or small or niche you are, our platform is available to you."

Unlike Apple and Amazon, Roku has steered clear of producing its own original content, a strategy that Poltorak said she does not expect to change.

As for what differentiates Roku from its competitors, Poltorak said: "Streaming TV is our core business, not a side-gig."

That means the company is always focused on improving the streaming experience, she added.