Roku Refreshes Lineup Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

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Freshly public streaming media player maker Roku (NASDAQ: ROKU) has just refreshed its entire lineup ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season. The company made a name for itself by offering a broad array of products at affordable price points that cater to different consumer preferences and use cases. All five of Roku's streaming devices are getting improvements across the board.

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Here's what Roku investors need to know.

The 2017 lineup

The Roku Express ($30) and Roku Express+ ($40) are getting significant performance improvements; the company says the devices are now "five times more powerful." The main difference is that the Express+ can support older TVs that use composite input.

Next up, the Roku Streaming Stick ($50) and Streaming Stick+ ($70) are both getting quad-core processors, newer 802.11ac dual-band WiFi, and voice controls. Wireless range is significantly improved, and the Streaming Stick+ can now handle 4K HDR at up to 60 frames per second (fps). These streaming sticks are likely Roku's most popular products, although it's hard to tell since the company does not disclose unit sales or average selling prices.

The flagship Roku Ultra set-top box player is largely unchanged and is mostly just getting a price reduction from $130 to $100. Meanwhile, Roku also announced a new version of its operating system, Roku OS 8, that includes improved search capabilities and additional shortcuts for added convenience. Roku OS 8 also adds support for single sign-on for live TV, hoping to bridge the gap between traditional TV and online streaming.

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What this means for investors

Rivals like Apple and Amazon.com have unveiled new streaming devices over the past month, so a competitive response from Roku is somewhat expected. Apple TV 4K HDR is a bit pricey, at $179 to $199, while the new Fire TV is more competitive at just $70.

Roku has certainly been working on these updates for a while, and this is in line with the company's strategy of pricing player hardware very aggressively in order to grow its platform business. "We have in the past and may in the future strategically reduce our player gross margin in an effort to increase our active accounts and grow our gross profit," Roku wrote in its prospectus. At the end of the second quarter, Roku had 15.1 million active accounts.

Going forward, the most important operating metrics for investors to focus on are active accounts and average revenue per account (ARPU). It's a little disconcerting that the company chooses not to disclose unit sales, since player revenue still comprises the majority of sales and drives growth in active accounts. It's also worth noting that advertising represents approximately two-thirds of platform revenue, and ARPU is derived by dividing trailing-12-month platform revenue by active accounts.

Shares doubled within the first two days of public trading and gave back some of those gains today. Still, investors are pricing in lofty growth expectations going forward, so it's now on the company to execute and deliver. An aggressive lineup is only part of the equation.

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