Roku's Free Streams Go Outside the Box

Jeff Baumgartner
News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
8/9/2018



Adding ammo to its thriving online advertising business, Roku Inc. has launched a version of The Roku Channel -- its free, curated mix of long-form VoD content and a selection of live, linear channels -- on web browsers.

The launch broadens Roku's reach beyond its own streaming universe amid heated platform competition from the likes of Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) (Fire TV), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) (Android TV, Chromecast adapters and Chromecast built-in), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) (tvOS) and home-grown TV operating systems from LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) (webOS) and Samsung Corp. (Tizen). The move extends The Roku Channel beyond the company's own players and integrated Roku TVs, and builds on its plan to launch the service on Samsung smart TVS that run Tizen.

To access The Roku Channel on browsers running on laptops, tablets and smartphones, users need only to create a new or use their existing Roku account.

With its move to the web, The Roku Channel has picked the green pill to see how deep this rabbit hole of OTT advertising goes.
With its move to the web, The Roku Channel has picked the green pill to see how deep this rabbit hole of OTT advertising goes.

Bringing The Roku Channel -- an offering launched last September that's now a top five channel on a platform with more than 5,000 channels/apps -- to the web should pump even more life into Roku's already fast-growing Platforms division. That unit is led by advertising and also includes OS licensing and subscription revenue sharing.

In the second quarter, Roku Platforms revenues ($90.3 million, up 96% year-on-year) has well surpassed Player revenues ($66.5 million, up 24% year-on-year). Roku's Q2 results, with total revenues rising 57% to $156.8 million, handily beat expectations, causing shares to jump about 22% by mid-day trading Thursday. (See Roku Pumps Up the Volume .)

Roku won't break down how much Platforms revenues are directly attributable to The Roku Channel, but they are a "material contributor" to overall company ad sales, company CEO Anthony Wood said on Wednesday's call. Roku hopes to build on that as The Roku Channel debuts in Canada and is introduced in other geographies, he said.

Other Roku metrics also show that its streaming business is healthy and growing.

Active accounts in Q2 shot up 46% to 22 million, while streaming hours climbed 57% to 5.5 billion hours. The average revenue per user also rose 48%, to $16.60, driven by advertising.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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