Roku has been embedding its smart TV system into TVs for a couple years now, which is one of the ways it's survived amid steeper competition from Amazon, Apple, and virtually everybody else you could think of. This year, it's doubling down with its favorite TV partner, TCL, with the introduction of 4K UHD TVs that run Roku's OS. TCL calls itself "the fastest growing TV brand in America," and if the banners and capacious booth space the company can afford this year is any indication, the Chinese manufacturer's claim probably isn't far off. Roku is quick to note that is has a special 4K channel so people can actually find 4K content to watch — something that's still going to be a challenge for some time to come.
But 4K UHD TVs are quickly becoming nothing special, so Roku is also promising to stay ahead of the next acronym that TV manufacturers hope will move units: HDR. To that end Roku is putting out a reference design for TV makers who want to use Roku's platform — and again TCL is likely to be the first partner to use it. HDR essentially had a coming-out party at last year's CES, and this year we can probably expect it to do what 4K did last year: basically become table stakes for TV manufacturers even as there's a dearth of content that supports it. So it makes sense that Roku wants its name attached to HDR. And not just any HDR, but the version that most impressed us last year: Dolby Vision.
Even though the acronyms aren't deeply compelling for consumers yet, Roku has a real and growing stake in ensuring it maintains an edge in supporting them. The company claims to have an 8 percent smart TV market share in the US, and its done so by essentially batting cleanup. It won't ever get Samsung (Tizen) or LG (webOS) on board, so it's chasing deals with smaller, hungrier players like TCL who don't want to bother with making their own platform and aren't yet sold on Android TV. It's a smart play, but in a lot of ways it's the only play for Roku.
This being a television announcement at CES, there are of course no details on exact pricing or release dates for the new TVs beyond "this year."