Rooster Teeth, Fullscreen’s digital entertainment unit focused on sci-fi and gaming fans, has offered a subscription VOD service for 13 years — before there was even industry lingo to describe it.
Now, the Austin, Texas-based company is rebranding the $4.99-per-month service as “First,” part of its strategy to reach a bigger audience with more mainstream programming. And Rooster Teeth is also doubling down on hardcore fans with “First Double Gold,” a $34.99 monthly package that will include perks like VIP access to events like its RTX convention and a monthly mailing of merchandise (a la Birchbox).
Rooster Teeth will begin rolling out its initial First apps for game consoles and set-top boxes starting this fall, which will offer all of the same video content on the site and mobile app. The first Double Gold box will ship to subscribers Aug. 15, with a range of merch such as T-shirts, hats and stickers.
Currently, Rooster Teeth has about 130,000 paying subscribers (which it used to call “Sponsors”), more doubling the base over the past year. CEO Matt Hullum projects having more than 200,000 subs by the end of the year, as it continues to launch original series such as the recently released hour-long apocalyptic thriller “Day 5,” upcoming sci-fi comedy “Crunch Time” starring Nick Rutherford (“Good Neighbor”) and Samm Levine (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Inglorious Basterds”), new additions to the “RT Docs” documentary series, and the fall release of the fourth season of anime hit “RWBY” (pictured above).
“We realized this SVOD thing was bigger and broader, and we could take it to more people, wider beyond our core demographic,” said Hullum, who co-founded the company with creative director Burnie Burns in 2003. All told, Rooster Teeth is producing about 100 hours of original content per month, most of which is available exclusively to subscribers.
Fullscreen, owned by AT&T-Chernin Group’s Otter Media, acquired Rooster Teeth in November 2014. Rooster Teeth’s SVOD service dates back to 2003 when the site launched paid access to its hallmark “Red vs. Blue” sci-fi series.
“What we were doing started more of a fan club. It was the original way we made money,” Hullum said. “When we started ‘Red vs. Blue,’ it was a completely different world – you couldn’t even watch in a browser.”
Beginning July 1, Rooster Teeth’s existing subscribers and new subscribers will become First members. Membership costs $4.99 per month or $19.99 for six months recurring ($3.33 per month), and subscribers will get first access to ad-free videos and exclusive access to premium series, plus exclusive behind-the-scenes content, extended cuts, vlogs and live broadcasts, and a 5% discount on all Rooster Teeth merchandise.
First Double Gold membership costs $34.99 per month (or $179.99 for six months recurring), which adds the monthly subscription box of merchandise at (a $50-plus value, according to Rooster Teeth), along with a 10% discount on all Rooster Teeth merchandise, first access to live event VIP passes, member-only contests and giveaways and member-only Q&As.
To reel in more SVOD subscribers, Rooster Teeth is boosting its content output and delving into new formats. In addition to “Day 5” and “Crunch Time,” RT has launched new live broadcast series “Theater Mode” and “Heroes & Halfwits,” snarky animation series “Camp Camp,” and four new feature-length documentaries as part of RT Docs, including “World’s Greatest Head Massage” premiering July 8, in which Burnie Burns (CBS’s “The Amazing Race” season 28) and Gavin Free (“The Slow Mo Guys”) travel across the world in search of this tantalizing experience.
Rooster Teeth is also hoping to get some pickup from distribution on Ellation’s VRV, an SVOD bundle set to launch this fall, which will offer an a la carte menu of channels including Rooster Teeth, Crunchyroll, NBCUniversal’s Seeso, Nerdist Alpha, Geek & Sundry Alpha and Cartoon Hangover. Ellation, like Rooster Teeth, is owned by Otter Media.
Meanwhile, Rooster Teeth’s crowdfunded sci-fi movie “Lazer Team” is available only on YouTube Red right now. “We do look at it on a case-by-case basis” in terms of distribution strategies for original content, Hullum said. “We’re growing our own service with content we feel like in the short term will appeal directly to our base.”
The company’s sixth annual RTX convention, set to run July 1-3 at the the Austin Convention Center, JW Marriott and Hilton in downtown Austin, will feature a lineup of programming, exhibitors and special guests including 343 Industries showcasing “Halo Wars 2” and the new “Halo 5: Warzone Firefight” mode playable on the show floor, and a panel with Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey.
Overall, Rooster Teeth has more than 25 million subscribers to its YouTube channels, 3 million unique monthly visitors to its RoosterTeeth.com hub and 1.8 million registered community members.