BSkyB ups investment – slightly – in Roku

Roku, which earlier this month said it had sold 10 million devices in the United States over the past several years, has been rewarded with some walking around cash from investors BSkyB and 21st Century Fox.

BSkyB, in a filing to regulators, said it was making a $700,000 equity investment in Roku to be used for “operations and activities.” The satellite operator – the biggest premium pay-TV service provider in the United Kingdom – already has invested $12.2 million in the company in two rounds, July 2012 and May 2013.

BSkyB reported 21st Century Fox – which has a 39.1% stake in the operator — also made a further equity investment in Roku, but didn’t disclose the amount of the investment.

Roku is used by BSkyB for its online video service, Now TV; the Now TV box is, essentially, an all white version of a standard Roku box. It’s been supplying the package to subscribers for £9.99, or roughly $16.11, a deal it started offering in 2013. It allows users to access Sky’s SVOD service, Sky Movie Month service, Sky Sports Day and Week services, catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. It also allows users to download about four dozen apps like YouTube, Facebook and Spotify… but not competitors Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video.

The Now TV deal is likely the roadmap Roku ideally would follow, or at least a close relation.

Founder Anthony Wood, speaking at a recent conference, said the company believed it was an ideal mate for pay-TV operators and saying Roku would be “your future TV’s operating system.”

In addition to BSkyB, Roku also currently has a deal with Time Warner Cable that allows subscribers to use a Roku box as a second STB.

Roku also currently is licensing its platform to Chinese Smart TV vendors TCL and Hisense, which are set to roll out Roku-powered sets this fall. More, he says, are on the way

Apple, meanwhile, in March said it’s sold about 20 million units of its Apple TV, and, during its annual shareholder meeting in March, said it’s seen big benefits in its iTunes store as a result.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also gave the device kudos during the company’s first quarter earnings call, saying:  “If you look at the content that was bought directly off of Apple TV for 2013, that number was over a billion dollars.”

In recent research, NPD Group said the market in the United States saw six million households add a streaming media device like Roku, Google’s Chromecast or Apple TV in the second quarter. It said while Apple TV and Roku, with 39% and 28% of the market share respectively, are the No. 1 and No. 2 sellers in the market, one-year-old Chromecast already had earned about a 16% share of the market.

The driver, or course, is content availability and continued improvements in the quality of delivery and in the quality of the content that’s being made available.

Those factors likely will keep the market active, even as mobile gains more momentum with audiences beyond Millennials.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn