Music subscription service Rdio is close to launching a new app on Roku, and it is spending some serious money to promote the app to owners of the new Roku-powered TV sets that Hisense and TCL are about to ship in the coming weeks. Rdio paid to have its app featured on the remote control of Roku TVs shipped by both companies, joining Netflix, (S NFLX) Amazon (S AMZN) and Vudu (S WMT) as the only four services with a dedicated remote control button.
A placement that prominent obviously only makes sense if you have an app to offer that’s comparable in quality to those services. Up until now, this has not been the case. Rdio launched a very basic Roku app years ago, but the experience was clunky, and the app itself buggy to the point of unusable.
But now, Rdio is getting ready to relaunch the app in time for the commercial availability of the first Roku TV sets in the coming weeks. A Roku spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Rdio will launch a new app, or channel, as the company prefers to call it — and with a bit of sleuthing, I was able to get a sneak peek:
The home screen of the new Rdio Roku app looks a lot cleaner and the player itself looks more like Rdio on the web and on mobile devices. Music keeps playing while you navigate through the app’s menus to look for the next title to play, and you’ll finally be able to rate titles from within the player.
Also accessible through the app are Rdio’s stations, which are more Pandora-like personalized radio stations that can be based on a user’s listening history, an artist or even a friend’s taste in music.
It’s worth noting that Rdio could change some aspects of this before it launches, and the company could of course always decide to ship with a different version, or upgrade the experience later. But the app that I got to play with seemed feature-complete and stable, without any too obvious placeholders, which is why I’d expect that Roku TV buyers, and Roku owners in general, will soon get access to something that looks very much like it.
The bigger question is whether this indicates that Rdio will finally get more serious about its living room device strategy. On the TV side, Rdio is currently only available on Roku and Chromecast, plus Apple TV via AirPlay. And with regards to connected speakers, Rdio only supports Sonos.
Competitors like Spotify and Pandora have been a lot more aggressive in getting on connected devices, even though the space has been a challenge for media services due to the lack of common standards. (I’ll talk about some of those challenges with Pandora CTO Chris Martin at our Structure Connect Conference in San Francisco in October.) Rdio’s renewed interest in Roku may mean that this is about to change.