Roku to cut 200 jobs in second round of layoffs
What they really need to do is layoff BrightScript. They are certainly big in the streaming device space, but not enough to justify having a proprietary language. The rest of the industry is coalescing around portable apps based on web tech while Roku is derided and only begrudgingly supported due to their current market share. But Roku’s market share has been relatively flat while FireTV has grown to equal them, and Roku should be terrified of the cliff BrightScript puts them on. Every company would love to kill their oddball BrightScript app as soon as possible and that’s a dangerous position for a company without a defensible moat. See their lost battle with YouTube to see how much clout they actually have.
Having mentioned a brief Roku maintenance rotation on my resume I got to see how desperate the recruiters for BrightScript devs are.
I did jokingly consider diving into it as a lucrative niche skill, like maintaining Cobol apps.
I think COBOL devs don’t get paid all that much. They just train fresh grads in cheap markets. The premium wages for COBOL were certainly a thing in the Y2K days.
Did you get anyone interested?
There's a huge opportunity for a Whatever->BrightScript transpiler. I briefly went down the path myself before declaring it too big to be a hobby project. It would however, massively improve the developer experience and be an easy acqui-hire op for anyone that likes transpiler design.
I did once create a GitHub repo to write a BS target for Haxe. Called it HorseScript, extending the BS pun.
But, like you, I couldn't justify the time.
To be fair, not being webshit is part of why their UI is usable (if not great) on low-end hardware.
BrightScript does suck, though—but it also already exists, and I doubt maintaining it's all that hard. Used to work on a dual-platform mobile app engine that was probably on par, difficulty-wise, with maintaining & developing BrightScript—that only needed like 3.5 devs, and not at coastal US wages.
Meanwhile, the Big Boys get a C++(?) API, as I understand it. I assume that's why some of them behave weird or are glitchy, but do look a lot like the same apps on other platforms.
> To be fair, not being webshit is part of why their UI is usable (if not great) on low-end hardware.
I have a TV with Roku built-in. It ran great when I got it in 2020, but it has gotten slower and slower to the point of being unusable. I'm not even talking about apps, but the Roku home screen itself. Apps are even slower and crash all the time, sometimes crashing the TV itself.
On the other hand, I have a Chromecast from 2016 that still runs just as well as it did when I bought it. I'd rather use my phone as a remote and have a movie playing in seconds with the Chromecast than wait 1+ minutes for Hulu or Netflix to even get to their respective home screens with the Roku. I also don't get ads with the Chromecast.
>I have a Chromecast from 2016 that still runs just as well as it did when I bought it.
Which, in my experience, is better than the new Chromecast with Android TV. I switched to it from an old school Chromecast and was just astounded at how badly the menus performed. Like the entire role of this device is to operate my TV, it's 2023, they can't make it do that without the UI animations dragging and occasionally crashing altogether? Not to mention the ads, ads everywhere, "recommendations" all over the home screen, crammed in every available space, and no doubt dragging performance themselves.
I switched to an Apple TV and it's a bit better, but there's still a full-screen "recommendation" video at the top of the home screen and it still doesn't run perfectly, which sorry not sorry, would be my expectation for such an incredibly simple UI in this great year of 2023.
Sorry to hijack the thread, but is there a single company making a set top box today that #1 consistently performs well in software and #2 isn't riddled with advertising disguised as "recommendations" for content I would never watch? Is that Roku? I haven't used one in years.
> Which, in my experience, is better than the new Chromecast with Android TV.
Similar experience with the Shield, running Android. I shouldn't have tried to cheap out, and should have gone straight for the AppleTV. It's not perfect, but it's by far the best high-spec streamer box I've used. The Shield was glitchy, crashy, dropped animation frames constantly despite running on strong hardware so looked/felt pretty bad, and was full of ads. Plus IMO its menus and general system navigation were a lot worse than tvOS.
On the other hand, the Shield is still the best device by far for streaming GeForce experience and is the only way to get Nvidia’s HD to 4k upscaling tech, which I’ve heard is very impressive with sources like YouTube.
Seems like there really isn’t a truly exceptional product in this space right now. The AppleTV is closest but I think it shines more in comparison to the rest of the market than it does on its own. How I wish there was a good open source solution that I could just install on a raspberry pi.
> The AppleTV is closest but I think it shines more in comparison to the rest of the market than it does on its own.
IMO true for most of Apple's product line. They're the best because it looks like nobody else is even seriously trying, not because they're, like, perfect and never screw up or do bad things.
Apple TV is the best currently available. I think you're underestimating the complexity required to make these devices work well.
I'm sure I am, but my experience as an end user is that a device I expect to function within a pretty limited domain struggles to perform within that limited domain, which is frustrating for me.
If it is so complex, then that makes me more disappointed to see the development resources (and device horsepower) allocated to inserting promotional content into the homepage. I wonder how much more consistently TvOS could perform if a team of engineers was not focused on making sure I am forced to preview a Bruce Springsteen video when I turn the tube on after work.
OS adware is definitely below my expectations from Apple. I expect that stuff from a Google device, but it's a real letdown that can't be disabled on a $150 Apple box. I only ever click on it by accident.
It’s the only TV platform I’ve seen that’s truly 4K. All the others have a 1080p UI upscaled to 4K. Only the 4K videos they play are truly 4K.
Oh, yeah, it's definitely possible to put Roku on hardware that's so incredibly shit that it runs poorly. And Roku's software (like everyone else's) has definitely been bloating for a long time. I discovered that when I bought a Hisense, because I needed a new TV and Costco didn't sell the previous brand of dirt-cheap Chinese Roku TV I'd bought before. God damn did that brand cheap out, the other brand's older TV that cost the same performed so much better. It even crashed sometimes, seemingly from OOM-like pressure, which I'd never once seen happen on the older one.
In my experience at least with somewhat newer low end smart tvs, Roku is far and away a better experience than Android or Fire TV. Even higher end TVs with Android TV are a laggy mess. If you're looking for a cheap bedroom TV I would only choose Roku.
I have 3 standalone Rokus and 1 TCL TV with Roku. I'm happy with all of them. I've avoided the cheapest Rokus because they are slow, so the mid-range to the top range ones, along the built-in on the TV, are fairly responsive.
Better yet, I'm only choosing dumb TVs (if possible) in the future.
I have a standalone Roku, third generation, so it is sitting on ten years now. It's dandy.
My suspicion has been that building in anything into a television is fraught. Dumb TVs + some kind of box for the win.
As a counter data point. I have 2 TVs with Roku built in. One from 2020 and one from 2018. Each is still very responsive and stable.
> their UI is usable (if not great) on low-end hardware.
This is not at all my experience using Roku.
Devices so bad that even Roku runs poorly on them do exist.
Zero of them would do better if Roku switched to webtech for its applications.
"Roku soars past revenue expectations as it bets on streaming devices to boost growth" - Feb 2023
And I thought March would be a bit more kinder to IT sector than February and we still have Friday left for a few more layoffs.
Cost of capital is still high. Risk free return rate is still high. It's amazing tech has lasted as well as it has. That said, there was a brief "flight to safety" to tech in '08 as well. I think Q3 is going to be painful.
6% is the new 10%, in a few years we're going to get layoffs with no layoffs.
So forcing huge ads on everyone isn't paying the bills. Take note Google.
Roku made nearly 5.5x as much on ad sales than they did selling actual devices last quarter.
Ad sales are very lucrative.
I'm not sure how else Roku can make money.
Pretty much every TV is a "smart TV" now with built-in streaming apps. Why would anyone buy a Roku?
These additional devices only make sense if they are really cheap (and therefore subsidized by ads, just like the smart TVs are) or offer a premium experience (which would make them cost a lot up front.)
> I'm not sure how else Roku can make money.
I'm pretty frugal and pay closer attention to free streaming services than the average person, and can say that in the last year or two, Roku has significantly improved its lineup of "originals." Although some are just hilariously bad (like Cypher from 2021), they're also getting some pretty good people like Samuel L. Jackson (The Fix) and Daniel Radcliffe (Weird: The Al Yankovic Story) making quality content.
When you own quality content, there's the potential to make money from it. Personally I think Roku may be attempting to build a streaming service eventually worth paying for. Maybe it'll be accessible from non-Roku devices, and maybe it'll remain free for Roku users to entice people in a similar way that Amazon Prime includes free Amazon Prime TV and Apple device purchases get some free Apple TV. (Yes, I know people don't buy an iPhone just to get TV... it's a perk).
I would happily pay for a dumb TV, if they existed. They don't seem to anymore.
I have a Samsung Q-series TV now and tried using the smart TV apps for a while, but many were buggy and often had audio/video desync issues. I might blame part of that on the soundbar, but I gave up and got an Apple TV 4K and haven't had any issues at all.
A recent Jeff Geerling video dug into this subject. . Sharp NEC  makes and sells TVs without any "smart" junk (they're mainly aimed at being 24/7 monitors/displays in businesses). They're significantly more expensive than consumer TVs, but part of that is likely to accommodate 24/7 usage.
I have a high end Samsung projector, and the smart TV functionality is slower than my several year old Roku ultra and connecting it to my network means I get the privilege of having promotional placements in the input chooser and I can't remove or hide video apps I'm not going to use if Samsung has blessed them.
Otoh, it works enough for now, so I'm deferring getting another Roku while I consider other options. I wasn't a fan of Tivo's android tv dodad, but a friend's android tv device for totally legitimate iptv from canada actually works nicely. (It helps that their custom launcher is minimal and fast)
Android based with gigabit ethernet is more likely to work well with my desire to run 4k blu-rays via the network (preferably with optional menus, definitely without transcoding which means dealing with peak video bitrate over 100mbps) and interfacing in a usable manner with mythtv for watching recordings.
>Pretty much every TV is a "smart TV" now with built-in streaming apps. Why would anyone buy a Roku?
I have a Roku, the “smart tv” I have is absolute trash and takes several minutes to start up the app based functionality. Once it starts, it’s glacially slow.
I’m sure newer tvs are faster, however I also have no desire to see my panel hit EOL due to a lack of software support when it works perfectly fine. TVs can last for years, and I see no reason why I should look to upgrade on a smartphone level lifecycle, when a reasonable dedicated streaming device is priced below $50.
I typically use an Apple TV or Chromecast.
Even leaving the cost of buying a new 60" TV aside, the effort of mounting a new one and disposing of the old one would make me hesitate to upgrade even though my existing one isn't 4K.
Same here. I have a 10 year old Panasonic plasma that still works great. I have it hooked up to an Apple TV. In fact, I prefer this setup to newer smart TVs that have tracking and phone home features built in.
I just bought a second Roku. I have an old Samsung LED TV that doesn't have smart capabilities surprisingly. My first Roku is setup on a projector that also doesn't have "smart" functionality. At $39, I consider the device to be cheap. Plus it works far more reliably than the Google TV horseshit that is installed on my primary "smart" TV. It also comes with support for Jellyfin (streaming app for "home libraries"... aka pirated movies) I have no complaints so far.
Their market cap increased like 10-20X due to covid and zero interest rates, now they have just contracted. I wouldn't read too much into this.
I agree that Google of all big tech has the most to lose in the future regarding their internet search ad business, but Roku having ads and giving advertisers data makes a lot of sense for them.
This isn’t a dire times warning. It’s that the era of free money is over (and fucking hopefully for a long time), there will be some settling in to actually needing a business that makes money to stay around.
but it works at 'scale'
I wonder if these are tech (engineers) or "Tech adjacent" positions.
This year's layoffs mostly affected the later.
Makes sense, how long can a company survive making solely stream boxes past 2008…
I can’t find a tv that doesn’t have smart capabilities. Not a lot of them seem to be using Roku under the hood.
They have 2 billion in cash, this is absurd.
200 employees x $250k = $50,000,000
Using only cash on hand they could employ these people for another 40 years.
Shame on you Roku.
To do what? Play angry birds? If their labor ins't needed, why buy it even if you can afford it? Do you buy things you don't want or need simply because you can afford to?
Why employ them for 40 more years if you don't even want them today?
Why not reduce hours for others and improve their quality of life since these workers did so much for the company that the company has so much cash. Or put those people on special projects or help in other areas like ibm used to do. My point is the company has so much money and doing so well, why are they laying off people.
I think the answer is clear. The company operates for the benefit of the owner and not for the benefit of the employees. The owners would rather keep the cash themselves then give it in charity to employees for improve employee quality of life.
It is interesting to me that all of these labor cuts are from companies vastly outperforming the stock market.
Wonder if SVB impacted this
I interviewed with Roku a few weeks ago. Mercifully, I failed.
it's a streaming pile of company, alright.
That sucks for all of these people. I can only hope all of them were related to the parts of the business intent on spamming their home screen. Die Harter Two has no business being the second most prominent thing when I turn on my TV.
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