Netflix, Amazon, Apple+ and Hulu have spent billions on producing and/or owning TV and movie content. But Roku was never in the mix. For many, it seems Roku is just a TV app and content distributor -- no more, no less. Sure, Roku had its own Roku Channel. But really, what kind of big-name content was on that site?
Not much -- mostly just “library programming.” For example, “White Collar” (formerly on USA Network), older movies like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Moonstruck,” and U.S. syndication TV drama “Hercules.”
But licensing content -- maybe owning it -- seems to have always been on Roku’s mind. Think about recent deals Roku made with HBO Max, Peacock and others -- and key sticking points of those deals.
Many of those talks included not just carriage discussions of those platforms, but whether Roku could update its Roku Channel with fresher programming from those studio-connected businesses. For their part, studios don’t necessarily want to give up their content and have it show up on the free Roku Channel.
All this comes back to TV advertising. Roku is focusing much of its future revenues on TV advertising -- in particular, the inventory it fully owns and can sell on its Roku Channel.
It's no surprise, then, that Roku is in talks to acquire the failed mobile TV service Quibi’s library. Many of those license deals are where Quibi gets to keep exclusive airings of its TV series for seven years. After that run, those 10-minute or so episodes can be stitched together for producing owners to run as regular TV shows.
Roku’s move isn’t all that new. Amazon, for one, has branched out into a number of different video businesses -- the on-demand Prime Video (where Amazon produces its own TV series and movies); a virtual pay TV provider, Amazon Channels (where consumers can pick and choose live, linear TV networks); and its streaming TV/app platform Fire TV (a similar service to Roku).
Waiting for a big, original theatrical movie and TV series to show up on Roku? Roku has said it has no plans to produce any original content. But many investors believe they should be prepared.