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Amazon and Roku are bringing their streaming rivalry to Europe

Key Points
  • Amazon's Fire TV and Roku are expanding into key European markets like the U.K. and Germany.
  • Both companies are investing in partnerships with European brands.
  • Some analysts say the European market poses unique challenges for streaming platforms.
Hisense Roku TV
Roku

Amazon and Roku are bringing their fierce rivalry in the U.S. streaming device market to Europe.

At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last week, both companies announced expansion plans into key European markets like the U.K. and Germany. The goal: bring their platforms to the televisions of international customers eager to take advantage of a slew of new streaming services.

"We are starting to look a lot harder at international, as our growth continues into the U.S.," Roku CEO Anthony Wood said in a CNBC interview from the conference.

To do this, both companies are investing in partnerships with already-strong European brands. Roku announced its first licensing agreement in Europe on Saturday, saying Chinese television manufacturer Hisense will start selling Roku TV models in the U.K. starting in the fourth quarter of this year. That means Roku's operating system, which provides access to thousands of streaming channels, will come built-in to the new smart televisions.

"My goal would be to be over 50% of all TVs around the world," Wood said.

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Amazon, meanwhile, announced at an event in Berlin last week that Fire TV would be available on several new smart TV editions from manufacturers like Grundig in Germany and Austria and JVC in the U.K. Amazon also said its new Fire TV Cube, an Alexa voice assistant-enabled streaming device, would go for sale in the U.K. and Germany. Amazon's Fire TV software provides access to thousands of channels, apps and live content from one platform.

"I don't really like to think about it as international," Marc Whitten, the vice president of Fire TV at Amazon, said in an interview in Berlin last week. "I like (to think) where our customers are and want great TV. I want to bring them a really great experience."

The announcements highlight the competition between Roku and Amazon to bring their success in the U.S. market to millions of customers in Europe. The two companies are almost neck-and-neck in their quest for viewers with Fire TV reporting 37 million monthly active users globally, compared to Roku's 30.5 million active users.

In interviews from Berlin, both companies dismissed concerns about competition and welcomed new streaming services like Apple's TV+, which is expected to launch on both platforms this fall.

Some analysts say the European market poses unique challenges for the streaming platforms. One question is how the region's privacy law called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) would affect targeted advertising on the platforms.

"Near-term, we believe privacy-related concerns will become more important for the sector; especially, as more legislation is, potentially, enacted on a global basis," D.A. Davidson, senior research analyst Tom Forte, said in a note last week.

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