Roku is officially getting into original content. The set-top box maker announced Roku Originals, a new brand, in a press release today. Roku says it will debut over 75 original series and films this year on its free, ad-supported network, The Roku Channel. Quite a few of these original new shows will come from the Quibi library of content Roku got in a fire sale in January 2021.
Earlier this year, Protocol spied a job listing that suggested Roku would be investing in original content beyond the Quibi stuff it now owns. Free, ad-supported content is still a relatively new but growing area in streaming. Peacock, Paramount Plus, and even Plex have all had some success wooing viewers with totally free stuff they can watch on their set-top boxes and smart TVs. It makes sense that Roku, a company that makes the bulk of its money from ads already, would follow suit.
There’s no word on which content will be released first or when it will even begin airing, but it's likely you’ll see the old Quibi content before any of Roku’s other original programming. That content is full of big names like Anna Kendrick, Idris Elba, and Liam Hemsworth.
What will be interesting is how the Quibi content airs. Quibi’s gimmick (which was absolutely bizarre but also totally ahead of its time) was that content would change depending on how you held your phone, with separate and sometimes totally different streams provided for portrait and landscape mode. For example, in the short film Nest, holding the phone in landscape mode shows you the point of view of the main character, while holding it in portrait mode shows you the point of view of the Nest security cameras in the home the character is in.
Presumably, Roku will just be providing one stream: the landscape one. In some cases, that might actually affect how the story is presented or could even remove crucial context from a scene meant to be viewed in portrait mode on your phone.
All of the new Roku Originals will air on The Roku Channel, alongside old episodes of This Old House and over 40,000 free movies and TV shows Roku has paid to license. Besides being playable on Roku devices, you’ll be able to tune into via your browser, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, and some Samsung smart TVs.