Roku’s official entry into the original programming business, packaged under the streaming company’s new Roku Originals moniker, will kick off on May 20. Roku has even christened its own marketing holiday to mark the occasion, “Streaming Day.”
On that sacred, holiest of days, Roku will offer 30 series from the Quibi catalog, which Roku acquired in January for, reportedly, just under $100 million. Right before he launched Quibi, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg bragged that the service was spending $100,000 a minute to produce some of its content. And these shows will soon be available on the ad-supported Roku Channel.
Quibi’s library consisted of 75 short-episode-format series, meant to be watched on mobile devices while on the go. While 63 series debuted on the mobile video startup before it shut down late last year, 12 shows will make their world premiere on the Roku Channel.
That said, all 30 of the 75 total series that will be available on May 20 had previously aired on Quibi.
Titles launching on Roku Originals May 20 include Chrissy’s Court, a "judge show," reality format series staring Chrissy Teigen; Die Hart, a sendup of action-thrillers starring Kevin Hart; and the latest adaptation of classic short story Most Dangerous Game starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz, which was renewed for a second season before Quibi shut down.
Also in the launch lineup is police drama #FreeRayshawn from executive producer Antoine Fuqua and starring Laurence Fishburn. The series garnered two Emmys in 2020.
Here’s the full list of 30 Quibi shows:
“Bad Ideas with Adam Devine”
“Big Rad Wolf”
“Cup of Joe”
“Fight Like a Girl”
“Iron Sharpens Iron”
“Let’s Roll with Tony Greenhand”
“Most Dangerous Game”
“Murder House Flip”
“Shape of Pasta”
“Thanks a Million”
“You Ain’t Got These”
The dozen unreleased Quibi series include Peter Farrelly suicide-premised comedy The Now; and a docuseries from Anthony and Joe Russo about the long rivalry between comic book publishers Marvel and DC called Slugfest.
Roku’s VP of Engagement Growth Marketing, Sweta Patel, would not disclose a specific release date for the other 45 Quibi series, but she did reveal that they will stream “within the year.”
Each episode will run anywhere from eight to 10 minutes long—keeping with the Quibi format—with commercials that are 60 seconds or less coming between each episode of a series. She’s not concerned that Quibi content was meant to be watched on a phone while on the go.
“We've done a lot of research on this, and what we've found is the way the episodes are going to play it's a very nice lean back experience,” Patel said. “You're getting good 10 minutes of content, a minute of an ad and then seamlessly into the next episode. The series were meant to be viewed on desktop or mobile as well as having a horizontal experience. And so, we're just making that come to life even more.”
Ultimately, the Quibi shows are a means to an end—a way to establish the Roku Originals brand. Patel was coy about whether Roku will offer Quibi shows like Most Dangerous Game for a second season.
“We are working through a lot of that now,” she said. “We are really waiting to get through the launch and see how this resonates with our customers and the viewership. And then we're going to go deeper into how we come out with more content.”
Roku’s entry into the original programming arena comes as ad revenue is exploding on the Roku Channel.
Just last week, the streaming company reported that the money it makes off its OTT device platform, which is primarily advertising, was up 101% in the quarter, reaching $466.5 million.
“We are doing this in a cost-effective way,” Patel said. “If there's ways to create original content that is cost-effective and makes sense for AVOD, then we are having those conversations, whether that is acquiring content or producing it.”
As of May 13, Roku Originals has not announced any of its own original productions. Why bother? In acquiring Quibi, once a $1.8 billion starup with an A-List roster of talent including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Soderbergh, Roku instantly accessed prestigious, star-studded programming. All for under $100 million.
Patel also cited that in the first three months of 2021 Roku "active users" reached 53.6 million, up 35% year over year. Additionally, platform users streamed 18.3 billion hours in Q1, an increase of 49% year over year.
And the The Roku Channel, the company’s free, ad-supported destination where Roku Originals will be listed, reached households with an estimated 70 million viewers in Q1, up from 63 million in Q4.
But Roku is not opposed to premium original content with a reasonable price tag. For example, in March, Roku purchased home-improvement media company, This Old House Ventures, for $97.8 million. The deal included a library of more than 1,500 episodes of shows including This Old House and Ask This Old House, which are available for free on the Roku Channel as on-demand episodes.
Patel said that the 30 short-form series launching on May 20 will be easy to access (“two clicks”) and “are going to be attractive to the 18 to 34 demo.”
Roku Originals will join The Roku Channel’s lineup of more than 250,000 free movies and TV episodes, as well as thousands of free live linear channels. In addition to Roku devices,
Coinciding with the launch on May 20, Roku is partnering with Laugh Out Loud, the multi-platform comedy brand founded by Kevin Hart, to bring LOL! Network, a linear channel featuring a curated collection of the boldest voices in comedy, to The Roku Channel. It will join The Roku Channel’s lineup of more than 190 live linear streaming channels.
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