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For New Content, Roku Makes It Look Easy

At more than 3,500, Roku already lays claim to the largest number of app channels among streaming media companies. After the Oct. 5 unveiling of its Roku Direct Publisher platform, expect that number to get a whole lot bigger.

The Web-based offering eschews the coding and software development kit world of apps in favor of simplicity: Content owners need only supply Roku with a feed to their content, and just like that, their channel is available to the 10 million-plus households with Roku.

The new offering means that under-the-radar content creators who’ve built an audience via social media and YouTube — but don’t have the technical know-how to build their own app — can get on Roku with almost minimal effort, according to Bill Shapiro, director of product management for the Roku OS.

“We think it will dramatically change how content owners view the Roku platform in a go-to-market sense,” he said. “What we’ve done with Roku Direct Publisher is take what we learned from both the content publishers and consumers, and built a new solution for getting on to the Roku platform.”

The legacy app system is still in place, he added — no content company with an app already on Roku will be forced to make the switch — but “we expect that over time a majority of publishers will want to leverage Direct Publisher, because it both provides a great user experience and it’s much easier to get on the platform, build an audience and monetize,” Shapiro said.

Roku is also dangling a carrot in front of companies to entice them into going the Direct Publisher route: Those who use the web-based platform will be automatically included in Roku Search, which lists every channel available when a consumer looks for content. More than 100 channels are currently included in the relatively new offering. Additionally, new Direct Publisher companies will find their content included in My Feed, which notifies consumers when content they’re looking for is available.

Several Roku channel operators have already come on board with the new solution, including Baeble Music, Cracked, Mashable, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Viacom’s Great Big Story.

In conjunction with the release of Direct Publisher, Roku also announced new ad features via its Roku Audience Network, including giving channel operators the option to handle all video ad sales. Publishers who use Roku Audience Network receive 60% of net ad revenue.

“If someone wants to publish a channel, they can … specify that they want us to handle the ads for them, and we will handle all the ad insertion … it makes the experience incredibly simple to get on the platform,” Shapiro said.