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Roku Is Dead, But Apple Didn't Kill It

Stocks in this article: AAPL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Early Monday, TheStreet's Robert Weinstein published an article that's worth your time: Is Roku David or Goliath Against Apple TV, Amazon Web TV?

Weinstein does a nice job illustrating the overpopulated streaming television landscape -- with names such as Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) already in and Amazon.com (AMZN) apparently about to enter. He goes on to make an appropriate and very insightful comparison between Roku and Blackberry (BBRY) before pronouncing Roku dead.

As I explained last week in When Will Cable TV Go a la Carte?, the merger between Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Comcast (CMCSA) could put Roku in the grave.

If I'm cable, particularly executives at this forthcoming TWC/CMCSA monster, I realize that my set-top box should become something other than an unwieldy, behind the times annoyance. It should provide real value to cable subscribers. In fact, it should be a streamer that offers everything the other guys offer and more, expressly because, as cable, "we" have relationships for content nobody else has.

Weinstein didn't explore that angle, but I reckon it's the one to keep an eye on.

Outside of that, the competition from the major players in tech matters, but it doesn't scare me as much. Roku can compete on its own merits, particularly because it has a solid product. I'm streaming Pandora (P) on it right now. I watch hockey, using NHL Game Center, on it most nights.

Remember ... Apple, Google, Amazon -- none of the big players -- they're not out to "crush" Roku. It goes back to the same retort I made when people said these guys, and others like them, would or wanted to crush Pandora.

The big names do not get into these outside spaces to crush the pure players. In fact, having solid pure players around -- like Roku in streaming television and Pandora in streaming radio -- probably helps their cause. The big names get into these outside spaces to service their core business, be it selling hardware at Apple, getting ad clicks at Google, driving e-commerce at Amazon and making great ecosystems greater and stickier at all three.

In any event, as an end game Weinstein and I agree. And you should as well. Roku's finished. And plugging itself into so-called Smart TVs won't save it. If your cable box (or Apple or Google or Amazon) can make your television smart, there's no room for Roku to exist. At least not competitively.

If Roku's smart, it's shopping itself around. At this stage, Amazon would be the most logical buyer. In fact, Amazon could take care of its streaming television and streaming music ambitions by gobbling up Roku and offering Songza by Amazon, something I predicted it might do Monday morning at TheStreet.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks. Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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