Roku Expands Roku Channel, Home Screen Capabilities; Reports Strong Financials

Roku Aug. 8 announced the launch of two new ways for consumers to find free streaming entertainment.

With the launch of the Roku Channel for the web in the United States, consumers now have free access via PCs, mobile phones and tablets, according to a company press release. Consumers can visit TheRokuChannel.com to begin streaming once they log in or create a Roku account.

Also, Roku is beginning the roll out of a navigation change to the Roku home screen called “Featured Free,” which provides users with direct links to free content from The Roku Channel, ABC, The CW, CW Seed, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and more. Featured Free includes the in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season catch-ups and more.

“We want to be the best destination for free streaming entertainment. We’re delighted to deliver even more value to our customers without subscriptions, complicated logins or fees,” said Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming and engagement, in a statement. “By expanding The Roku Channel to the Web, we’re broadening the access points to high-quality, free streaming entertainment. With Featured Free, we’re making it easy for our customers to see the great, free content already available on the Roku platform in one place, while creating value for our content providers by connecting them with Roku’s growing audience.”

Launched last fall, The Roku Channel is currently the No. 5 most popular streaming channel on the Roku platform based on active account reach, according to the press release.

In addition, The Roku Channel app has begun rolling out to select Samsung smart TVs.

Featured Free is available domestically through a phased software roll out over the coming weeks.

Roku also reported its financial results for the second quarter. “Q2 revenue and gross profit came in ahead of our outlook, driven by strong Platform revenue growth and player demand that exceeded our expectations,” read a company letter to shareholders. “Revenue grew 57% year-over-year, our fastest growth rate since Q4 2013. Gross profit, a key performance metric, grew 107% and gross margin expanded 12 percentage points to 50% compared to the prior year period.”

In other Roku news, studio Gunpowder & Sky announced  DUSTx, a free destination for science fiction content that will be available on all Roku devices starting Aug. 18.

It kicks off with more than 20 films, 30 series and 200 of short films. Titles include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Paycheck, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story and starring Ben Affleck; A Scanner Darkly, the 2006 animated sci-fi thriller directed by Richard Linklater, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, and starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder; “Beyond Westworld,” the 1980 television series based on the Michael Crichton helmed film Westworld; and “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the 1988 cult-favorite comedy series created by Joel Hodgson.

A division of Gunpowder & Sky, DUST operates channels that are available on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, VRV, Pluto and Xumo. Through its partnership with USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, DUST recently premiered the George Lucas 1967 short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, followed by legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ 1972 student short film The Lift.

“Since DUST’s inception, our mission has been to build a contemporary sci-fi brand,” said Floris Bauer, co-founder and president, Gunpowder & Sky, in a statement. “Today, DUST has a thriving community of more than 2 million fans, showcasing varying content from up-and-coming creators to masters like George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis. We are also producing and releasing original feature films and TV series under the DUST label. Having our own premium channel, and launching DUSTx, marks a natural and significant next step in the evolution of the brand.”

No ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ for Roseanne

Years ago, the predecessor to Media Play News (Home Media Magazine) interviewed Roseanne Barr regarding a pending DVD release. Barr, who was long past the original “Roseanne” TV show at the time, was charming, witty (“I’m only talking to you for the money”) and bored.

“I sit around the house and watch a lot of TV,” she chuckled. “I like ‘Nancy Grace.’”

Unfortunately for Barr, boredom these days apparently includes wading into the social media abyss — and leaving common sense to others.

Which is what happened to the former standup comic this morning, resulting in a tirade of offensive tweets, including a racist post about a former Obama Administration official. All that was missing was a noose.

Not even Nancy Grace could (or would) save Barr from the swift blowback in the media and on social media condemning her comments. Comic Wanda Sykes, a writer on the “Roseanne” reboot on ABC quickly quit the show in protest.

Barr apologized for her tweets, adding she would be leaving Twitter for good.

Of course, no one should really be surprised considering Barr’s questionable public statements in the past, unrepentant support of President Trump, who launched his campaign on the back of bigotry, and politically incorrect tone in the new “Roseanne” show.

Barr’s comments are protected under the First Amendment, not unlike the Second Amendment affording gun rights to individuals who should never have access to a firearm.

Indeed, Harris Faulkner, a black female host on Fox News, defended Barr.

“I don’t understand it to be anything other than free speech,” Faulkner said.

Yes, but free speech is a slippery slope. Just because you can spout bigoted thoughts, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when you are in the public eye — and advertisers are footing the bill.

ABC wisely canceled “Roseanne,” despite the show’s top ratings in a media landscape under siege by over-the-top video.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, entertainment chief at ABC, said in a statement.

Barr’s agent, ICM Partners, agreed, dumping her as a client.

“We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning,” ICM said in a statement, as reported by The Wrap. “What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency.”

Paramount Network, TV Land, CMT and Hulu dropped airing/streaming “Roseanne” re-runs. The show is still available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

And thus, in a matter of hours, Barr went from TV’s biggest comeback story to social outcast, joining “Seinfeld” legend Michael Richards (Kramer) – whose 2006 racist outburst during a standup gig sent the actor’s career into extinction.

Maybe, Barr should start watching “Dr. Phil.”

‘American Idol’ Going Live Nationwide

Ratings-challenged “American Idol” announced it would for the first time air live simulcasts nationwide of the remaining three weeks of season 16 of the music performance reality show. Previous telecasts have been tape-delayed for Westcoast audiences.

The series, which began airing for the first time in March on ABC after its original run (through 2016) on Fox, is down to 14 contestants. Celebrity judges this season include Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie.

Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, revamped “Idol” has struggled against rival reality show, “The Voice” on NBC, whose first-time celebrity judge Kelly Clarkson was the original “Idol” winner on the show’s inaugural 2002 season.

Despite reportedly luring Perry to “Idol” with a $25 million payday, the show has trailed “The Voice” in TV viewers for the past five weeks. Indeed, “Idol” ratings last week dropped to an all-time low among the coveted 18-49 demographic.

Media reports suggest Perry’s antics on the show, which include kissing an unsuspecting male contestant and pulling a strand of hair from 19-year-old long-haired contestant Cade Foehner on the April 22 show, are politically incorrect in the #MeToo era.

Time Life Re-Releasing ‘Wonder Years’ DVDs for 30th Anniversary

Time Life March 13 is re-releasing its DVD boxed sets of “The Wonder Years” for the show’s 30th anniversary.

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series Deluxe Edition, originally released in 2014, is a 26-disc deluxe edition featuring all 115 episodes and nearly 23 hours of extras housed in a mini school locker and includes magnets to custom-design each locker; two “notebooks,” each featuring detailed episode information and production photos, as well as a replica yearbook embellished with signatures from cast members; behind-the-scenes photos and show memorabilia; and liner notes penned by Fred Savage, series creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black, and executive producer Bob Brush.

All 115 episodes are also available in the slimmed down 22-DVD The Wonder Years: The Complete Series Slipcase Edition, originally released in 2016.

The Wonder Years debuted in 1988 for six seasons captured the angst of growing up in suburban middle-class America in the late 1960s, as seen through eyes of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), from his first kiss with Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) to his friendship with Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and the ups and downs of the Arnold family. The series would also go on to win 24 awards (and be nominated for 70 more), including multiple Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe and, in 1989, a Peabody Award for pushing the boundaries of the sitcom format and using new modes of storytelling.

Both sets include complete show notes with episode synopses, cast member reflections, “Current Events,” and the soundtrack of more than 300 classic period songs as they were featured in the original broadcasts, including tracks from such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and Joe Cocker’s unforgettable theme.

Bonus features include highlights from the cast reunion; roundtable discussions with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage and Josh Saviano; the farewell set tour; the one-hour ABC broadcast of the series finale; and exclusive interviews with the show’s creators and cast including Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey.

A spokesperson for Time Life said the sets will not include any additional content than what was released before, but that they should be discounted more than 25% at retail compared with the earlier releases.