Steve Winter, special to wtop.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- With actors Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project, the Office), Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), ESPN Analyst Robert Smith and WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter leading the procession, Roku announced this week the launch of its new Roku Streaming Stick, to compete against Google Chromecast.
Roku's newest innovation is designed to capture and export digital broadcast video - regardless of platform - to home television sets.
Star power is always a draw at South By Southwest in Austin, not to mention one of the best ways to attract attention.
Kaling captured the fancy of a huge audience with lively banter followed by an hour-long autograph and photo session while the Brooklyn Nine-Nine crowd took part in a spirited Q&A session.
Roku paraded new features throughout the week with live musical performances and appearances by the cast and crew of original broadcast television programming.
All around Austin, companies deploy different methods through which to tell their stories and sell their products.
More than 250 businesses are exhibiting on the floor of the trade show, others are participating in panel discussions and seminars, while several choose to offer breakfasts, lunches, dinners and parties at area restaurants and bars.
Roku took a different approach. By hosting the Roku Streaming Lounge on the third floor of the Austin Convention Center, the company provides a venue through which show patrons can unwind and relax while subliminally absorbing the company's pitch line.
For several hours each day, the Roku lounge is transformed into the company's personal green room.
"We scheduled different partner days from our lounge," said Roku spokesperson Fiona Chan. "Sunday was Fox Day where we had Mindy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Monday was Vevo day where we will stream live musical performances of Rixton, Sir Sly and Tori Kelly while Tuesday will be Hulu day where we're celebrating their original series Deadbeat, featuring the cast and creator of that show."
While the celebs have helped to tell the story, the company hopes the Roku streaming stick will be remembered as the real star of the day.
"It's simple, compact, designed for all brands of HD TV and it plugs directly into your set's HDMI port," Chan said. "The unit costs only $50, we're taking pre- orders now and it will be in stores in April."
" What's great about it is that it comes with a remote that allows you to access the 1,200 Roku channels," says Chan, "using your home wireless connection to access all the content that you love from the net including Netflix, Hulu and Fox while also enabling you to get maximum benefits from your cable subscriptions including HBO Go, Showtime Anytime and others."
History tells us that television began with three networks followed by UHF which gave way to cable, satellite and ultimately streaming video. But those days are so 2010. Consumers want a vast universe of entertainment and an easy way to search for movies and TV shows.
The Roku Streaming Stick appears to provide precisely that.
But don't believe us.
Just ask Mindy Kaling.
See more on Roku's new streaming stick:
Video by Kenny Fried
Editors Note: Longtime trade show attendees Steve Winter and Kenny Fried are contributing reports from SXSW. In their day jobs, they are public relations professionals with Sage Communications. During SXSW they will not be reporting on any of their clients' products or those of direct competitors.
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