Roku plots streaming expansion
The Future. Roku is ready for its House of Cards moment. The streamer debuted the Funny or Die-produced movie Weird: The Al Yankovic Story last Friday, its first big Original movie. It’s all part of its ambition to put The Roku Channel on the map. While Weird is proving to be the right movie to make that happen, the timing might be off — an industry-wide advertising slowdown may make growth a little difficult.
Everybody get Weird
With Weird (a sort of Weird Al biopic co-written by Weird Al himself and starring Daniel Radcliffe) Roku did what few streamers do with their films — market it and build buzz.
- Vulture reports that the movie hit (and was a hit on) the festival circuit, winning awards like the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
- It gave the film a sizable print and advertising campaign, put its talent on the late-night talk-show circuit, and even rented out the big video billboard in Times Square… telling people, “hey, maybe you should sign up for Roku to see this.”
- It also put a commercial for The Roku Channel before the movie to really drive home that they should use the service more often.
And Roku knew before its release that it had a potential hit on its hand, opting to shoot in California (typically more expensive than other locations) so that comedy stars could come in whenever to shoot cameos — a move that has already built buzz and has people talking on social media.
Weird represents a new era for Roku, which is making the transition from being known as a device maker to a top-tier FAST (free, ad-supported TV) streamer that rakes in the ad dollars through The Roku Channel. Originals are key to that plan because they typically command higher ad prices than library content. Buying most of Quibi’s library and rebranding them as Roku Originals was the start of that ambition — which provided key insights into what their audience wanted.
So far, Roku has discovered that what works best on the platform is lower-cost genre movies, comedy series, and unscripted fare. All that provides a gateway to its 65 million active accounts spending more time on The Roku Channel watching library content… and all the attached advertising.
With viewing time on The Roku Channel jumping 90% over the last year, the company’s plan seems to be taking shape.