Roku snapped up the rights to the majority of Quibi’s multimillion-dollar portfolio original programming — more than 75 shows in all — and will make them available free to stream in 2021 on the Roku Channel.
Following Quibi’s decision last October to shut down after failing to attract a sustainable base of subscribers, Roku acquired Quibi Holdings LLC, the company that holds all of Quibi’s content distribution rights.
Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed. A source familiar with the agreement said Roku is paying “significantly” less than $100 million for the Quibi library, confirming an earlier Wall Street Journal report. Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming, said in an interview, “We do think this deal represents a great value.”
“Fundamentally, we think that Quibi has created great, high-quality content,” Holmes told Variety. “It’s a great value proposition for our users… We’re pivoting from Quibi’s SVOD model to an ad-supported model, and this type of new, original content is not usually available for free.”
Roku is obtaining exclusive global rights to Quibi’s scripted series, alternative and reality programming and documentaries featuring such stars as Idris Elba, Kevin Hart, Liam Hemsworth, Anna Kendrick, Nicole Richie, Chrissy Teigen and Lena Waithe.
More than a dozen Quibi shows will debut on the Roku Channel for first time. Those include “The Now,” a suicide-themed comedy from Peter Farrelly, and “Slugfest,” a docuseries based on the story of Marvel vs DC comics from the Russo brothers. Another evidently will be “Spielberg’s After Dark,” a horror series from Steven Spielberg (which originally was designed to be viewed only after sunset on Quibi).
For Quibi, despite its quick flameout, the deal will help it recoup some of the massive investment it made in original content. It also will provide a high-scale outlet for the shows after the Quibi app went dark in December: Roku said it had more than 50 million active accounts in the fourth quarter of 2020, and that the Roku Channel reached U.S. households with an estimated 61.8 million people in Q4.
Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a prepared statement, “The most creative and imaginative minds in Hollywood created groundbreaking content for Quibi that exceeded our expectations. We are thrilled that these stories, from the surreal to the sublime, have found a new home on the Roku Channel.”
The Quibi shows coming to the free, ad-supported Roku channel include “Reno 911,” a revival of Comedy Central’s cop spoof; dystopian thriller “Most Dangerous Game,” starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz; dark comedy “Flipped” with Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson; plane-crash drama “Survive,” starring Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins; comedy “Dummy,” starring Anna Kendrick as a woman who befriends her boyfriend’s sex doll, and “#FreeRayshawn,” a police drama from executive producer Antoine Fuqua, for which Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones each won short-form acting Emmy Awards.
Other Quibi shows coming to Roku are “50 States of Fright” from Sam Raimi starring Rachel Brosnahan and Travis Fimmel; comedy “Agua Donkeys” from Funny or Die; “Elba vs. Block” starring Idris Elba and stunt driver Ken Block; “Chrissy’s Court,” a “Judge Judy”-style show starring Chrissy Teigen; a reboot of “Punk’d” hosted by Chance the Rapper; and money-giveaway reality show “Thanks a Million” from Jennifer Lopez.
“Quibi championed some of the most original ideas and inventive storytelling, and I’m so proud of what I was able to create for the platform,” said Veena Sud, creator, writer, director and executive producer of the Quibi series “The Stranger,” a psychological thriller about a young rideshare driver’s encounter with a passenger in the Hollywood Hills. “I’m so excited to now be able to share this thriller with millions of streamers on the Roku Channel.”
Quibi’s shows were produced for viewing on mobile phones, but Holmes said, “We think they will play really well on the big-screen TV.” Not included in the Roku deal are the majority of the news and lifestyle programs in Quibi’s Daily Essentials lineup.
Roku is picking up Quibi’s seven-year licensing rights to the shows, Holmes said. Under Quibi’s deals with producers, two years after their premiere they have the right to reassemble the episodes into movies for distribution on other platforms.
Roku will launch the Quibi shows initially in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. (the regions where the Roku Channel is currently available). Holmes did not specify when the content will go live.
The pact for the Quibi shows will boost engagement with the Roku Channel, Holmes said. The 75-plus Quibi shows, representing several hundred hours of programming, will join the more than 40,000 free movies and TV shows and 150 free live linear television channels already available on the Roku Channel.
“We believe in this broader AVOD [ad-supported video-on-demand] trend,” Holmes said. “At a very high level, we know that our users engage in a very significant way with free content.” With the Quibi deal, he added, “We think this pivot form SVOD to AVOD is really compelling.”
Quibi had raised $1.75 billion from backers including Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and Sony and reportedly told investors that it would return $350 million of its cash on hand to them. The company, led by Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman. spent upwards of $6 million per hour of produced content on short-form originals. Their hypothesis — which failed to materialize amid the COVID-19 pandemic — was that millennials would pay $5-$8 per month to watch pricey programming on their smartphones.
Talks between Roku and Quibi were reported earlier this week by the Wall Street Journal.
LionTree, the New York-based boutique investment bank and financial advisory firm specializing in the media and telecommunications sector, acted as sold advisor to Quibi on the sale to Roku. Law firm Hogan Lovells advised Roku on the transaction.
(Pictured above, l. to r.: Liam Hemsworth in “Most Dangerous Game”; Sophie Turner in “Survive”; Chrissy Teigen in “Chrissy’s Court”; Chance the Rapper in “Punk’d”)