×

Roku Veers Into Programming With Launch of Ad-Supported Movie Channel

Streaming device maker Roku launched a new channel on its platform Wednesday that’s all about free movies — and Roku’s desire to grow its ad business ahead of its IPO.

“The Roku Channel” promises access to several hundred films, including “The Karate Kid” and “Legally Blonde,” from major Hollywood studios like Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers. Videos will be accompanied by advertising, and Roku CMO Matt Anderson said that the ad load will be about half of that of traditional TV.

“There is a huge demand for free content,” he told Variety. “Our customers are really interested in streaming free entertainment.”

In addition to contributions from studios, The Roku Channel will also feature videos from American Classics, Fandor, FilmRise, Nosey, OVGuide, Popcornflix, Vidmark, and YuYu — publishers that all have their own channels on Roku as well.

The Roku Channel is not the first such ad-supported channel on Roku devices, and consumers are likely to stumble across the same titles elsewhere as well. However, it’s the first time that Roku actually licenses movies from Hollywood studios on this scale, and as such also a good indicator for a shift in the power dynamics in streaming media — a shift towards the platform providers, that is.

Popular on Variety

For Roku, programming its own channel is a bit of a departure from the way the company used to do business. Roku has long had the reputation of being a kind of Switzerland of the streaming media world, with a singular focus on hardware while other device makers, including Apple and Google, also operate their own content services. Previous to this launch, Roku was only operating one other channel with 4K videos as a way to showcase the capabilities of its 4K devices.

Roku’s changed approach can be explained with the company’s growing advertising business, and the desire to sell more of its own ads against videos on its platform. When the company filed for IPO late last week, it revealed that ads and other licensing fees now make up for 41 percent of its revenue.

At the same time, Roku hasn’t been able to monetize some of its most-watched channels at all. For instance, Google runs its own ads against YouTube, the most popular free channel on Roku, and doesn’t share any of the resulting revenue with the company. Other publishers often do use Roku’s advertising platform, but may also opt to sell some of their inventory themselves.

So why would a publisher license their videos to Roku as opposed to just running them on their own channels? Anderson said that The Roku Channel would help consumers find content from publishers who might otherwise get lost in a catalog of over 5,000 channels. Aggregating this content in one channel should ultimately lift all boats, he argued.

More Digital

  • Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Cellphone 'Hacked' Following WhatsApp Message From Saudi Crown Prince (REPORT)

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ cellphone was very probably “hacked” in 2018 after he received a video via WhatsApp from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to an investigation reported in British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday. United Nations experts plan to release a public statement Wednesday morning addressing the allegations. The Guardian reported that Bezos, [...]

  • Game of Thrones

    ‘Game of Thrones’ Sweeps Parrot Analytics’ 2nd Global TV Demand Awards

    MIAMI —  “I must check it out. I’ve been hearing a lot about the show,” host Carson Kressley (“Queer Eye”) joked at Parrot Analytics’ 2nd Global TV Demand Awards as “Game of Thrones” swept two of its biggest plaudits: Most In-Demand TV Series in the World, along with Most In-Demand Drama Series. The awards ceremony  [...]

  • Netflix - The Witcher

    'The Witcher' on Track to Be Netflix's Biggest TV Show Premiere Ever, Company Claims

    Netflix said “The Witcher,” the fantasy series starring Henry Cavill, is pacing to be its biggest first-season original TV series ever. “The Witcher,” which debuted Dec. 20 on Netflix, was chosen to be watched by 76 million customer households in the first four weeks of release, according to the company. That would appear to mean [...]

  • The Irishman

    Netflix Adds 8.8 Million Subscribers in Q4, Cites Competition for Lower U.S. Gains

    Netflix beat its forecast for overall subscriber additions for the fourth quarter of 2019, while it brought in fewer than expected U.S. streaming customers. The company added a net 420,000 streaming customers in the U.S. and 8.33 million overseas in the year-end 2019 quarter, for a total of 8.76 million net adds. Netflix had previously [...]

  • Tubi

    Free Streaming Service Tubi to Launch in Mexico in Pact With TV Azteca

    Tubi is heading to Mexico: The free, ad-supported streaming service announced plans to launch in the country later this year as well as a pact with TV Azteca, one of the largest producers of Spanish-language television programming. Under the terms of their deal, TV Azteca will sell advertising and promote Tubi across broadcast and digital [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content