Roku CEO On Google's Chromecast: Who Wants Their Phone To Be A Remote Control?

The phone-as-remote model doesn't work for mainstream customers, argues Anthony Wood.

Chromecast may be a fresh take on television streaming, but Roku isn't worried that it will take over the market.

"There are many of these dongles out in the market but they are not gaining consumer adoption because they don't provide a good experience," says Anthony Wood, the CEO of Roku.

Google's $35 gadget, which the company announced Wednesday, plugs into a television's HDMI port and allows users to "cast" Internet content from their smartphones to its screen. Instead of creating a new interface on the television, as Roku and Apple TV do, it's controlled from within apps already installed on your smartphone. Users don't need to download new content or learn a new interface: Their phones are already loaded.

Wood points out two problems with this approach. First, he argues, people want to use the remote. "Being forced to use a phone exclusively as the controller doesn’t work for most mainstream customers," he told Fast Company via email.

Second, Chromecast only works with apps that install the feature--a list that is currently restricted to Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music. "For just $15 more, or $49 for a Roku LT, consumers can get a Roku player which offers...nearly 1,000 video and music channels," he says.

It's a fair point, but it's also true that Google already has an app store with more than 1 million apps. If anyone is going to lasso the developer relationships it would take to expand available content, it's Google. Or Apple, but they're not playing this game (yet?).

Still, says Wood, why wait for Google to stock up when other players are already offering HBO? "We have iOS and Android apps for those that want it," he says.

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15 Comments

  • Brice Johnson

    I guess I am not a mainstream user because I think Chromecast is a great idea if they build upon its provider list. I have both Chromecast and Apple TV for upstairs and downstairs, and I have to say I much rather have control over both with my mobile devices.

  • sproketz

    What else is he going to say? He has to say that. You know they are freaking out. I just bought a Chromecast a few days ago instead of a Roku.

    I may not be "people" but i am a "person." So i'm going to guess there are other "people" like me.

  • OND

    I'm not a Roku user and I think this plays a bit into the generational gap - as well as possibly the gap in technology/comfort for many users.  At a 100M+ "TV" subscribers for cable, satellite and telephony type services, the footprint, (albeit growing) for non-traditional TV (cord cutters) is still a relative blip.  As these legacy TV viewers start to convert - having some grounding element such as a remote will still be welcome.

    Having been tied to a pager, cell, smartphone for the past 2 decades - the last thing I want to deal with is my phone at the end of the day.   But I suspect for the teen - <30 crowd - are always happy to have the phone with them.  I know an awful lot of baby boomers who can barely use their "smart" phones to talk - let alone email, media etc..  In pure numbers/potential subscribers - he's still correct. 

  • Brandon Hann

    Mr. Roku CEO, we don't need to wait for Google to "stock up" because we can already stream HBO Go through Chromecast by simply streaming the Chrome browser to the tv. Just load up HBO Go from the website and there you have it. And why worry about those "nearly 1,000" video and music channels when we can stream the entire internet without restrictions?

    While I agree that many customers may not want to do without a dedicated interface that groups everything in one place, for only $35, you really can't go wrong. As far as people not wanting to use their phones as remotes...why not? Do you think they really want to add another remote on their coffee tables? Also, isn't there an app that turns your phone into a Roku remote?!

  • Dan Thornton

    I think the actual reality is somewhere in the middle. I don't want to rely on my phone as my sole remote - flat batteries, occasional lag on apps, being stuck on something while I'm replying to texts/taking a call/checking my email etc.

    But I do want easier ways to get content from any device, including my phone, onto my television...

    Mind you, it's been possible to put HD video content from a phone to a TV since the Nokia N9, and look how well that went...

  • Nikato Muirhead

    Apple seems to be fine with a phone being used as a remote. I do also use Roku's iphone app, which is also a remote. Why would Roku's CEO ask such a ridiculous question over something his company obviously supports.

  • Mikey B

    As of yet, the other set tops have failed to entice content providers such as HBO to decouple from the cable/satellite companies. Owning a Roku does not necessarily give you access to HBO. You still need to have HBO from some other provider before you can watch it on your Roku. (So what's the point?). And many of the companies are still not on board.
    Now, with Chromecast, I will be able to watch HBO on my TV by accessing the web app with any password that I can borrow from a friend. Google has blown this whole thing wide open.

  • manaspen

    The phone as a remote should be the default for all.  This guy is just pissed that his box is already outdated.  I have a roku - it's in my technology to be recycled bin.  

  • Bobbyleebudde

    I would rather use my S4 as a remote than my real one this guy don't know shit.

  • guest

    I have a Roku and I like it but it doesn't support YouTube directly, which is major for me. I'm constantly watching vlogs. You have to access it via third party applications. When I heard that the GoogleTV had access to YouTube I nearly flipped (I bought my Roku less than a month ago). Still, there is a lot of content that my Roku has that GoogleTV and AppleTV can't match right now. like Wood suggests. I don't know if the Roku has staying power but for now it is my preference. However, once Google expands its reach I might move my Roku to my bedroom television...

  • Darren Jackson

    He is clearly lashing out. I absolutely LOVE to use my phone as the remote. Its always in my hand, so why reach for separate device? Consumer now want multifunction devices—one thing that can do everything.

    Also, as others have pointed out the searching function on these other devices (apple TV, roku) is very painful and the added UI is neither helpful nor pretty and is another added feature that users have to learn...Google got this one right, and with their pull, this dongle will out-dongle them all. 

  • Jsc4354

    I have never used Roku but i'm sure it's not as bad as trying to surf the web on a PS3.

  • Goodbye Roku

    I have never used a PS3 but I'm sure it's not as bad as trying to surf the web on a Roku. :-)

  • Goodbye Roku

    My phone has an easy-to-use keyboard. Trying to search for anything via my Roku apps is painful.

  • AD_PR

    I prefer to use my phone as a remote. I do that with my current Apple TV, and love the additional functionality.
    As for the apps, I am sure it will grow exponentially in the next few months. And also, if it is true that we can stream anything from a Chrome browser, then the app argument becomes moot. I think this is a game changer because of the price point.