Roku plans to develop more than 50 original shows over the next two years in a bid to drive more customers to its Roku Channel, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The streaming service, which has roughly 155 million customers, has been bulking up the channel’s free library of shows and movies for some time and it is now looking for a way to profit. The company said roughly half of its customer base watches the channel’s free ad-supported shows and movies, which it licenses from more than 200 other media outlets.
The push into original shows is linked in part to the fact that Roku can gain more advertising dollars from titles housed in the Roku Channel. Roku declined to provide insight on how much it would fork over for original shows, but it told the Journal that it would be on par with basic cable shows.
That translates to a $250,000 to $750,000 investment per unscripted episode and $500,000 to $5 million per scripted episode, the publication said.
Although that sounds pricey, it’s still significantly lower than the $13 million an episode that Netflix shells out for its historical drama about Queen Elizabeth II, “The Crown.”
Unlike Netflix, Roku primarily makes its money from selling its $30 streaming stick, as well as from ads in streaming apps that live on its platform and content partnerships with media companies.
In order to keep growing revenue, Roku has been expanding its entertainment portfolio as it competes head to head for eyeballs against Amazon Fire TV. Earlier this year, Roku nabbed the exclusive global rights to 75 shows from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s doomed startup Quibi, which featured short-form shows starring the likes of Kevin Hart, Idris Elba, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Jonas.
Roku claims the Quibi deal, which cost it less than $100 million, has “surpassed” its “expectations,” bringing in “millions of people” to the Roku Channel. Although it doesn’t break out figures, Roku said the amount of time customers streamed its content rose significantly during the pandemic. Last year, the service brought in nearly $1.3 billion in revenue from its platform business, which includes ads it sells in the Roku Channel and other apps on its platform.
While Roku didn’t provide details on the 50 planned shows it will bring to the service in the next two years, it has renewed Quibi action series “Most Dangerous Game” and the Kevin Hart comedy “Die Hart,” whose second season will be called “Die Harter.” The company said some of the new shows will include series it acquired from Quibi that haven’t yet premiered.
Other original titles will include Roky’s first original film, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas,” a spinoff of the NBC show “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” produced in a partnership with Lions Gate Entertainment. It will debut on the service on Dec. 1.
“We were one of the first studios to team up with The Roku Channel in 2017, and our relationship has continued to evolve to include the development of great original projects such as ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ in addition to our longstanding licensing collaboration,” Lionsgate president of worldwide television distribution Jim Packer told The Post. “As The Roku Channel continues to build its leadership as a top platform in the AVOD [advertising-based video on demand] space, we’re excited to continue growing our partnership.”
Recently, Roku announced plans to develop the half-hour scripted comedy series “Children Ruin Everything,” with “Schitt’s Creek” creator Kurt Smeaton and New Metric Media. The company also inked a deal in May with Saban Films to distribute its films on the Roku Channel after their theatrical releases.