Free, ad-supported creator content comes to The Roku Channel

Roku struck a deal with creator company Jellysmack to launch new content featuring 17 popular YouTube and TikTok creators like Brad Mondo, Lauren Riihimaki (LaurDIY), Emmy Cho (Emmymade), Karina Garcia and more. The company announced yesterday that it’s launching two free, ad-supported TV (FAST) channels, “Hello Inspo” and “Mysteria,” to The Roku Channel’s Live TV Guide.

“Hello Inspo” will give viewers access to all their favorite lifestyle, beauty and fashion content creators, from room makeovers and recipes to DIYs, style hacks and makeup tutorials. In addition to the names mentioned above, other influencers featured on this channel include Liz Fenwick, HeXtian, Hellthy JunkFood, Smitha Deepak and Josh Elkin.

“Mysteria” is a new true crime channel that will include content from Danelle Hallan, Stephanie Soo, Christina Randall, True Crime Recaps, Killer Bites, Dr. Todd Grande, John Lordan (LordanArts) and Brooke Makenna. Viewers can watch these creators talk about the most haunting crimes as well as bone-chilling unsolved mysteries.

Roku’s partnership with Jellysmack is notable as it brings creator programming — a widely popular form of content — to ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD), which also continues to rise in popularity. In the fourth quarter, the Roku Channel reached U.S. households with approximately 100 million viewers, the company reported.

“We’re delighted to partner with Jellysmack as the company’s first-ever FAST partner. We are thrilled to provide our audience with content featuring some of today’s most popular digital creators,” said Ashley Hovey, Head of The Roku Channel, AVOD, in a statement. “The addition of these new channels to our Live TV Guide is the latest example of how we aim to provide our users with access to popular entertainment options for free.”

While Jellysmack has launched other video content series, this will be the first time it has released long-form TV content on a FAST service. In July 2022, the company partnered with Pinterest to launch five short video series on the platform. These weekly episodes on Pinterest feature some of the same creators in Roku’s new FAST channels, such as Cho, Garcia, Riihimaki and Fenwick.

“Our partnership with Roku is about finding big opportunities for creators and their content,” added Stefanie Schwartz, Jellysmack’s Head of Platform Partnerships. “The Roku Channel’s linear offering is the #1 FAST service on Roku, America’s #1 TV streaming platform, giving our creators the ability to reach a large and growing audience. We’re delighted to bring Roku top creators – at scale.”

Jellysmack’s creator program launched in 2019 and uses AI technology to help boost creators and distribute their content to various platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and more. According to the company, the program has helped hundreds of top creators, including MrBeast, Bailey Sarian, The Try Guys and PewDiePie.

The new FAST channels join the Roku Channel’s vast content lineup, including 80,000+ free movies and programs and over 300 free live TV channels. Recently, Roku inked a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery to add hundreds of free titles from HBO, HBO Max, Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, and TLC, among others.

Free, ad-supported creator content comes to The Roku Channel by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

Roku debuts a hilarious new trailer for ‘WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story’ starring Daniel Radcliffe

Al Yankovic, the 62-year-old parody artist known as Weird Al, is getting his own equally weird biopic this fall. The trailer for “WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story” gives a first look at the movie, exploring the wacky world of Weird Al, his hilarious cover songs, and his Polka obsession.

“WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story” premieres on The Roku Channel on November 4. The film will arguably be Roku’s biggest-ever original film, with well-known stars like Daniel Radcliffe playing Weird Al, Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, and Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey.

“WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story” will be an ambitious move for the streamer. The Roku Channel has been eager to expand its original programming slate, and the upcoming Al Yankovic biopic will likely be a hit for the free streaming service. Weird Al is a highly successful musician, having sold over 12 million albums and won five Grammy Awards.

When looking at Roku’s growth, the streaming service needs to pick up the pace if it wants to compete with rivals. The company reported lower-than-expected growth in platform revenue in the second quarter of 2022.

Investing in more original content is certainly the best bet for The Roku Channel. Fifty-five percent of consumers crave original and unique titles, according to Fandom’s “2022 State of Streaming” report.

The Roku Channel adds 14 linear channels, expanding its local news offering

Roku announced today that it added 14 new linear channels through its Live TV Guide on its free streaming hub, The Roku Channel, including several new local news streams. Viewers can now access three NBC local news channels, San Diego, Boston, and San Francisco Bay Area, as well as LX News, a news network by NBCUniversal Local that is targeted toward adults aged 18 to 45.

According to TVREV, news is a top category that attracts viewers in the free ad-supporting streaming landscape. After experiencing slow growth in active accounts in the first and second quarters of 2022, Roku has been eager to prove its worth to investors and consumers.

“We’re thrilled to further expand our NBCUniversal Local news channels lineup to provide streamers across the country with access to valuable local news coverage through The Roku Channel,” Ashley Hovey, Head of The Roku Channel Advertising-based Video on Demand (AVOD), said in a statement. “Since launching our local news category earlier this summer, we have seen users come to The Roku Channel to engage with this programming category in a meaningful way. We’re proud to offer a convenient way for millions of streamers to stay informed on important local topics and current events.”

In June, Roku launched eight NBC Local news channels, the first time that local news appeared on The Roku Channel. In addition to the news channels that Roku added today, other NBC local news channels available on the streaming service include NBC New York News, NBC Los Angeles News, NBC Chicago News, NBC Philadelphia News, NBC Dallas/Fort Worth News, NBC Washington, D.C. News, NBC South Florida News, and NBC Connecticut News.

Other than news, The Roku Channel also added new channels in various genres like Western, Spanish-language entertainment, true crime, and more. The remaining lineup of new linear channels includes the Ion Channel, which will feature episodes from “NCIS,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and other well-known series; Roku Channel Westerns, which will give viewers classic Western titles like “Apache Junction,” “The Westerner,” and “The Rebel;” Cine EstrellaTV, a new Spanish-language channel available through The Roku Channel’s dedicated Espacio Latino hub; among other channels like BBC Kids, BOUNCE XL, Cheaters, Court TV, Grit Xtra, Ion Mystery, and Ion Plus.

Paramount+ joins The Roku Channel’s premium subscription lineup, bringing more live sports

Paramount+ and all its films, TV shows, originals, 24/7 news, and live sports will arrive on The Roku Channel as a premium subscription later this month. The launch brings live sports from the most popular marquee leagues, including the NFL on CBS and UEFA Champions League, marking the first time that live sports content will be available for streamers within Premium Subscriptions, The Roku Channel’s unified browsing and sign-up experience.

The Roku Channel has created a dedicated Live TV Guide for all live Paramount+ content, the first time Roku has ever created a programming guide for a premium subscription partner. The new Live TV Guide is an attempt to make it easier for audiences to navigate the live content options offered by Paramount+.

The Roku Channel will offer both Paramount’s ad-supported Essential Plan, which costs $4.99 per month, and the ad-free Premium Plan, $9.99 per month. Subscribers can also enjoy a free seven-day trial.

Users can explore Paramount+’s marquee sports as well as news from CBS News Network and Entertainment Tonight. Premium subscribers have access to their local live CBS station.

While subscribers have had access to live sports on The Roku Channel since 2018, a “premium” live sports offering is something they haven’t gotten before. In addition to the new offerings, The Roku Channel streams Adventure Sports Network, COMBT GO, EDGEsport, Stadium, and Wham Network, among other lesser-known channels.

Premium Subscriptions give users a single monthly bill, allowing for simple subscription management. The Roku Channel offers Premium Subscriptions to more than 50 services, including the recently added Discovery+, which was the first time Roku’s Premium Subscriptions supported a subscription video-on-demand service with an ad tier.

Joining a subscription platform like Roku’s isn’t a new strategy for Paramount+ — the service is also available on Amazon’s Prime Video Channels and Apple TV+ Channels.

Roku points finger at advertising slowdown for missing the mark on quarterly results

In this current climate, Roku needed a win. Despite the company reporting total net revenue growth of 18% year-over-year to $764 million– a nice increase from $737.7 million last quarter—the company missed Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts expected revenue of $805 million, which would have reflected 25% year-over-year growth.

What is to blame for missing the mark? Roku said in its letter to shareholders, “There was a significant slowdown in TV advertising spend due to the macro-economic environment, which pressured our platform revenue growth. Consumers began to moderate discretionary spend, and advertisers significantly curtailed spend in the ad scatter market (TV ads bought during the quarter). We expect these challenges to continue in the near term as economic concerns pressure markets worldwide.”

During a conference call with reporters, CFO Steve Loudon said, “The severity of the pullback in the ad scatter market was not expected…This is a broad-based significant pullback.”

The company anticipates revenue in the third quarter to rise 3% from 2021 to $700 million, well below analysts’ expectations of $898.3 million.

Roku shares plummeted 25% to $63.80 in after-hours trading on Thursday. The stock is down nearly 63% so far in 2022.

During Q1 2022, the company only added 1.1 million incremental active accounts. This time around, Roku touted user growth this quarter, with 1.8 million accounts added, bringing the total to 61.3 million.

“While our revenue and gross profit growth have slowed, we continue to win advertising share and grow active accounts,” the company added. “We remain confident in our industry leadership in TV streaming, the size of the opportunity in front of us, and our unique assets, including the Roku TV OS, The Roku Channel, and our ad platform.”

Streaming hours saw a slight decrease of 0.2 billion from last quarter, with 20.7 billion hours in Q2 2022, a year-over-year increase of 19%.

Roku believes that there is room to grow engagement and reminds investors that the Roku operating system continues to be the number one selling smart TV system in the U.S. and remains a “leader” in free, ad-supported TV streaming with The Roku Channel.

And although the ad environment continues to be challenging, Roku boasted that it surpassed a milestone of $1 billion in total commitments during this year’s Upfront and closed deals for the 2022-2023 TV season with all seven major agency holding companies. Twenty-five percent of these advertiser commitments were new, the company said.

When it comes to free streaming hub The Roku Channel, the company reported a growth in platform revenue of 26% year-over-year to $673 million, which was lower than expected, the company admitted.

On June 28, Roku partnered with NBCUniversal Local to bring several NBC local news channels to The Roku Channel. The partnership marks the first time that local news programming will be available for users on an ad-supported service.

On June 16, Roku entered into an agreement with Walmart, a first-of-a-kind partnership, to make TV streaming the next e-commerce shopping destination.

In May, Discovery+ became The Roku Channel’s first premium subscription offering. That same month, Roku launched Apple’s premium music subscription service, Apple Music, on the Roku Platform worldwide.

The company also announced a multi-year extension with Amazon for their distribution agreement.

During NewFronts, the company announced two new co-production deals with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios, giving The Roku Channel over 3,000 episodes of library content as well as seven new original series starring food and lifestyle personalities Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Chris Kimball.

Discovery+ becomes The Roku Channel Premium Subscription’s first ad-supported plan offering

Roku and Warner Bros. Discovery announced today that discovery+ has launched as a Premium Subscription on The Roku Channel. Discovery+ will add its 70,000 episodes of network shows along with over 200 originals, making it the largest mixture of library titles on The Roku Channel.

Roku says both the ad-free ($6.99/month) and ad-supported ($4.99/month) versions of discovery+ are now available, and users can sign up for a free seven-day trial.

The addition is notable because it’s the first time Roku’s Premium Subscriptions will support a subscription video-on-demand service with an ad tier. Typically, The Roku Channel generates revenue by running its ads across the free movies and TV shows it streams as well as by taking a revenue share from the premium subscriptions it sells to its customers. But these days, more subscription video services include both ad-free and ad-supported tiers to choose from.

Today’s move opens the door for Roku to connect subscribers to more services like discovery+ through The Roku Channel hub in the future.

Randy Ahn, Head of The Roku Channel, SVOD, said in a statement, “Today marks an exciting milestone for our business as we welcome both tiers of Discovery+ to the roster of exceptional services available as a Premium Subscription on The Roku Channel. Discovery+ is a leading streaming service and features an unmatched content library. We’re thrilled to support their growth through their launch on The Roku Channel and for the opportunity to bring this caliber of content to our users.”

Discovery+ offers viewers access to shows from brands like HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Magnolia Network, as well as content from A&E, The HISTORY Channel, and Lifetime.

The Roku Channel, meanwhile, offers premium subscriptions to more than 50 services and gives users a unified browse and sign-up experience, allowing for simple subscription management with a single monthly bill.

It recently announced more Roku Originals coming to the platform including new cooking shows hosted by Martha Stewart and other well-known food media names. There will also be lifestyle and home improvement programs coming to the free streaming platform, as well.

“We’re pleased to deepen our relationship with Roku, a valued partner, and expand access of discovery+ on the Roku platform through the launch on The Roku Channel,” said Gabriel Sauerhoff, SVP Digital Distribution and Commercial Partnerships, Warner. Bros. Discovery, “We look forward to further extending the reach of our exceptional library of lifestyle and real-life content to millions of Roku streamers and providing them increased optionality in how they access discovery+ .”

The five year old Roku Channel is doing well for the company, recently reporting a total of 20.9 billion streaming hours, per Roku’s recent quarterly earnings report.

Discovery+ is a younger streaming service, only one years old, and will soon merge with HBO Max. Last month, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery reported that Discovery Inc. had 24 million total streaming subscribers as of the end of Q1.

Roku snags Martha Stewart, Emeril and others for its original programming push

It is the second day of NewFronts, and the announcements continue. Roku today said it will extend its content library in hopes to target audiences who are fans of lifestyle, cooking, home renovation, and reality television. The company has two new co-production deals with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios, giving The Roku Channel seven original series starring food & lifestyle personalities Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Chris Kimball.

The deals will also bring over 3,000 episodes of library content, adding to the over 70,000 programs already on the streamer. Coming to the service are past seasons of “Martha Bakes,” “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,” “Martha Stewart Living,” “Essence of Emeril,” “Emeril Live,” and “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Television.” 

The new original series coming to The Roku Channel include “Martha Cooks,” “Martha Holidays” (working title), “Martha Gardens,” “Emeril Cooks,” “Emeril Tailgates,” “Milk Street’s Cooking School,” and “Milk Street’s My Family Recipe.”

Rob Holmes, Vice President, Programming, Roku, said in a statement,

“We are thrilled to bring our viewers this standout content from culinary and cultural powerhouses Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Chris Kimball – for free. The Roku Channel’s impressive reach, incredibly engaged user base, and successful monetization model continues to make it an attractive destination for content partners and established talent to elevate their programming and connect with streaming audiences at scale. These exciting first-of-their-kind partnerships for Roku with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios showcase our unique ability to drive value across the streaming ecosystem.”

In its Q1 2022 earnings report, The Roku Channel reported a total of 20.9 billion hours streamed, up 14% from last quarter. These new deals demonstrate Roku’s interest in free food and lifestyle content for its viewers and how the company plans to continue subscriber growth.

During the presentation, Roku also shared that it would be adding even more original content to The Roku Channel, like its first-ever Spanish language cooking series “Delicioso,” home improvement programs like “Honest Renovations” with Lizzie Mathis and Jessica Alba, and more.

Holmes said that this new slate was handpicked to align with the audiences that love this type of content. “Great dramas and comedies, amazing lifestyle shows, new reality and competition formats that are built for the streaming generation.” He then announces The Roku Channel’s new reality rom-com “To Paris for Love: A Rom Com,” because his argument was that streamers “love binging reality dating shows– because who doesn’t?”

In 2021, Nielsen reported that across platforms, reality was a top contender in streaming lists. In a time where major competitors (like Netflix) fumble the ball with content, the FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) service is positioning itself as a tempting option for binge-watchers who desire free content.

Roku experiences slow growth with only 1.1 million accounts added in first quarter

Roku’s first quarter of 2022 shows signs of slowdown, particular with a slowing of total net revenue and subscriber growth, which was below what analysts estimated. There was a significant decrease in streaming unit player sales as well due to numerous challenges.

With only 1.1 million incremental active accounts added, Roku’s subscriber total was 61.3 million in Q1. This was slightly under analysts expectations of 61.8 million. For context, at the end of 2021, Roku surpassed 60 million accounts, an increase of 3.7 million for Q4.

Roku reported significantly decelerated total net revenue growth of 28% in Q1 to $737.7 million. In the first quarter of 2021, the company reported a revenue growth of 79%.

In addition, Roku reported a 12% year-over-year decrease in streaming unit player sales. The company explained this was because COVID-19 distorted business patterns as well as the ongoing supply chain crisis and inflation.

“We have delivered solid performance in a challenging operating environment and expect that we will continue to navigate through macro headwinds, including inflationary pressures, geopolitical conflict, and supply chain disruptions,” CEO Anthony Wood and Chief Financial Officer Steve Louden wrote in a letter to shareholders.

The muted outlook, based on continuing macro headwinds, may lead to volatility like its rivals in the coming months. For the second quarter, the company projects total net revenues to grow 25% year-over-year to $805 million, lower than the consensus estimate of $815.7 million.

Plus, even though the company has been the top streaming platform in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, its stock has dropped 6% in the last week, 20% in the last month, and over 70% in a year.

There’s a lot standing in Roku’s way, and the new Charter-Comcast venture may pose some heavy competition as a new media aggregator. Charter will contribute $900 million over several years to the effort.

However, Roku isn’t scared off by the competition. During yesterday’s call, Anthony pointed out that the expenses associated with streaming tech will create an obstacle. He said,

“It’s very hard for — certainly for a new player. Like it’s hard for you to imagine how they’re going to be successful given the long number of years that we’ve invested in our platform and our competitors have as well. But also, just you have to amortize that cost across a larger and larger installed base to be competitive. Scale is super important.”

The company believes that it will continue to be the number one selling TV OS system in the country, no matter how many competitors it faces. Anthony added that Roku has competed against strong companies for years like Google and Amazon, yet the reason Roku continues to win is that it remains successful in both streaming players and smart TVs as opposed to only one or the other.

In March, the latest version of its streaming TV software, Roku OS 11, launched. This focused on adding more personalization to the Roku platform, including the new feature Roku Photo Streams, among others.

The Roku Channel had a successful quarter, for the most part. Streaming hours went up this quarter, with a total of  20.9 billion hours in the quarter, an increase of 1.4 billion from last quarter, up 14%. Last year, the company’s users consumed 73.2 billion hours of content through Roku’s services.

Earlier this week, Lionsgate and the Roku Channel announced a multi-year deal in which the free platform will receive two separate windows in which they will be the exclusive home for upcoming theatrical titles through 2024.

This marks a significant win for FASTs (free ad-supported streaming TV), advertisers, and consumers as well who have access to more and more free content.

Wood said,

“The secular shift to TV streaming continues, and we are investing in the significant opportunity ahead of us. Our unique assets, including the Roku OS, Roku TV, The Roku Channel, and our sophisticated ad platform continue to position us to extend our leadership in the years ahead. We remain excited about executing against this opportunity as more content, viewers, and advertisers move to TV streaming.”

The company continues to expand The Roku Channel’s content library. Roku wrote in its shareholder letter that it previously reached a licensing agreement with A+E Networks as well as launched Discovery+ via premium subscriptions on The Roku Channel, bringing more than 70,000 episodes to viewers.

The letter added that on May 3, Roku will present new content coming to the service along with ad product offerings to advertisers at Roku’s first in-person Upfront event. The new and upcoming titles include “Honest Renovations,” a home renovation series hosted by Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis; “To Paris for Love: A Rom-Com,” and “WEIRD: The ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Story,” starring Daniel Radcliffe.

The Roku Channel signs multiyear deal with Lionsgate Films to stream free movies

The Roku Channel and Lionsgate Films announced today that the two companies have signed a multi-year theatrical output deal, beginning with the studio’s 2022 theatrical releases. Under the terms of the agreement, The Roku Channel — Roku’s free streaming hub on its devices and TVs — will receive two separate windows for each film it streams. The first window will provide exclusive rights to Lionsgate’s film slate immediately following its first window on STARZ.

Roku subscribers will be able to freely stream upcoming Lionsgate blockbusters starting with the studio’s 2022 theatrical releases. These include “John Wick 4,” “Borderlands,” “Expendables 4,” “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and more. This is the first-ever time that these titles will be available for free.

Rob Holmes, Vice President of Programming, Roku, said,

“We are pleased to expand our relationship with our longstanding partner Lionsgate to provide our audience with exclusive first-time, free access to Lionsgate’s theatrical slate. This innovative approach creates value for both parties, and most importantly provides the millions of streamers on The Roku Channel with the opportunity to enjoy these compelling titles via this unique window.”

As of the end of 2021, Roku reached U.S. households with an estimated 80 million people. Its earnings results for the first quarter of 2022 will be released this Thursday, April 28.

Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television Distribution Jim Packer said,

“This agreement affirms the great demand for first-run studio movies across a broad array of platforms. This partnership with The Roku Channel shows our ability to capitalize on opportunities in today’s complex television landscape with a multifaceted, layered approach that meets everyone’s needs.”

TechCrunch asked Roku for the total amount of titles that will be added to the free streaming service. The spokesperson was unable to provide this number.

The Roku Channel expands to include over 100 live channels, adds a Live TV guide

Roku is expanding its free live, linear channel lineup that’s part of its free movies and TV hub, The Roku Channel. In the U.S., Roku customers will now be able to stream from over 100 live channels, including those offering free access to news, sports, movies, TV, kids and family programming, lifestyle content, and Spanish-language programming. Along with the expansion, Roku is also launching a new Live TV guide to make it easier to browse through its free content.

The update would seem to position Roku as a more of a direct challenger to rival free video streaming services, including Pluto TV and XUMO. The former was acquired by Viacom (now ViacomCBS) in 2019 for $340 million while XUMO was bought by Comcast earlier this year for over $100 million.

But instead, Roku is working in partnership with those companies — its free live channels include content that’s powered by XUMO as well as Pluto TV.

Also among the new additions is a video news channel from Reuters. 

Roku has been rapidly expanding The Roku Channel hub since its launch in September 2017. While it initially focused on offering of a selection of free, ad-supported movies — similar to Vudu’s “Movies on Us” or TUBI, for example — it has grown to include a range of free content, including TV, news, sports and even live channels, as well as add-on premium subscriptions.

Today, the hub offers over 100,000 titles, including free movies and TV reaching Roku’s estimated 36 million users.

The hub makes Roku a top choice for cord-cutters, as it centralizes access to free streaming content. The ad-supported content, meanwhile, contributes to Roku’s bottom line. The company today generates more money from its platform business than its device sales. Even amid the pandemic which saw advertisers pulling back, Roku booked $232.56 million in platform revenue in Q1, which includes ads and licensing fees, versus just $88.21 million in device sales.

Roku says the hub continues to grow substantially faster than its overall platform, with a greater than 100% increase in streaming hours year-over-year in Q1.

The launch of the Live TV Channel Guide will make accessing the expanded lineup channels easier, via a new “Live TV” tile on The Roku Channel. In addition, users can press left on their remote at any time to bring up the guide.

“Now more than ever it’s important for our users to have easy access to free content, such as news, and the ability to find it quickly,” said Ashley Hovey, Roku’s Director of AVOD Growth, in a statement. “We’re excited to enhance the streaming experience through a Live Channel TV Guide and bring more free content from The Roku Channel to the forefront.”