Cable Tech

Roku: Streaming spiked in Q1 but lack of sports tempered growth for OTT-TV services

Roku's business got a solid lift in the first quarter of 2020 as millions of consumers stayed home and streamed video to their heart's delight.

Roku's "active" accounts rose 37%, to 39.8 million, after tacking on 2.9 million in the period. That put Roku within shouting distance of the 40 million-plus active users that Amazon last touted for Fire TV.

Streaming hours on Roku players and integrated Roku TVs shot up 49% in Q1 versus the year-ago period, hitting a record 13.2 billion.

Roku said the sharpest rise in streaming since stay-at-home orders began came from ad-supported and subscription-based programming. But the company noted that growth was "more moderate" for virtual multichannel video programming distributors in the absence of televised live sports.

Total Q1 revenues were up 55%, to $321 million. Platform revenues, which encompass advertising, subscription revenue sharing and software license fees, climbed 73%, to $223 million. Player revenues rose 22%, to $88.2 million. Roku has withdrawn its full-year outlook given the uncertainty of the market.

Roku said SVoD trials and subscriptions, as well as transactional VoD purchases, ticked up in the quarter. But it warned that its ad business saw higher than normal cancellations as overall advertising budgets have declined. Roku still expects its ad business to "deliver substantial revenue growth on a year-over-year basis," but at a slower pace and lower gross profit levels than originally anticipated.

Sales of Roku players and Roku TVs stayed strong in the quarter despite some temporary supply chain and retail disruptions in China that have since recovered to "close to normal capacity," Roku said in this letter to investors (PDF).

"We continue to rebuild stock levels to meet the increased demand which has required a greater use of higher cost air freight than originally planned. We expect elevated air freight costs will continue in the short-term."

Roku will also see some additional competition in the near term.

TiVo, for example, has launched the Stream 4K, an Android TV-powered streaming device that is being sold for the introductory price of $49.99. Meanwhile, Google is nearing the debut of a new, possibly Nest-branded Android TV streaming device/dongle that will feature a new UI and put a greater emphasis on individual shows and movies and aim to provide more direct competition to Roku and Fire TV, according to Protocol.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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