Roku serves as a gateway to access various streaming services, but now, a report from The Wall Street Journal reveals that the service wants to develop over 50 original series in the next two years, expanding the original content that it already has on its free Roku Channel.
As noted by the WSJ, 155 million people have access to Roku devices, and about half tune into the Roku Channel, a hub for ad-supported TV shows, movies, and live news. The service added Roku Originals to the Roku Channel earlier this year, a large portion of which actually come from Quibi, the short-lived streaming service that shut down last year. Apparently, the set of 50 new shows also include some that the service acquired from Quibi that never premiered.
Roku’s push to produce its own original content likely has something to do with boosting ad sales on the Roku Channel, as ads are one of Roku’s main sources of revenue. According to the WSJ, Roku sells 100 percent of its ads on the Roku Channel, as opposed to selling just 30 percent within other apps. Aside from ads, Roku rakes in an average of $40.10 / month per user and recorded 56.4 million active accounts in its most recent earnings report (PDF). The service also makes money through the sale of its Roku TVs and streaming devices, earning a total of $97.4 million last quarter.
Roku remains tightlipped on its planned budget for its new shows, vaguely telling the WSJ that it will be close to what typical cable shows spend. However, sources close to the matter informed the WSJ that the amount could be anywhere from $250,000 to $750,000 for one unscripted episode or $500,000 to $5 million for scripted episodes. This is significantly lower when compared to original content from other platforms — for reference, Netflix spends around $12 million per episode of Stranger Things and $13 million per episode of The Crown.
In February of this year, Roku posted a job listing for a production attorney that helps out with Roku’s “original episodic and feature length productions,” suggesting that Roku has been planning a dive into the entertainment industry for a while. Roku’s first original movie is set to debut on December 1st, titled Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas — a spinoff of the NBC show Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. As the WSJ notes, Roku also acquired the rights to Children Ruin Everything, a comedy series produced by Schitt’s Creek producer Kurt Smeaton, and is planning to add it to the platform in 2022.