Roku Lands Exclusive Rights to Major League Baseball ‘Sunday Leadoff’ Games

Roku May 13 announced it has secured exclusive multiyear rights for Major League Baseball (MLB) “Sunday Leadoff” live games. Starting May 19, Roku will offer Sunday MLB games for free on The Roku Channel, plus an all-new “MLB Zone” to find live and upcoming games, nightly recaps, highlights, and a fully programmed MLB FAST channel.

On most Sundays throughout the season, Roku will be the home for the first games of the day, with an exclusive window during airtime as well. Paying subscribers of MLB.tv can watch all 18 matchups blackout free.

Charlie Collier, president of Roku Media, contends that with the ongoing fragmentation of television programming and live sports across networks, apps, and multiple TV packages, the need for a unified platform for MLB is crucial.

“With this deal, Roku delivers free, live, weekly Sunday baseball and 24/7 baseball curation, destinations, and channels across our platform,” Collier said in a statement.

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MLB “Sunday Leadoff” will stream every Sunday on The Roku Channel and TheRokuChannel.com from May 19 to Sept. 15. The matchups start on May 19 with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 pm ET. Other featured games include the Baltimore Orioles going head-to-head against the New York Yankees on July 14; and the defending National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks facing the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 1.

The game telecasts will be produced in collaboration with Major League Baseball. Broadcast teams each week will be market-focused, with Chip Caray (play-by-play), Will Middlebrooks (analyst), and Alexa Datt (reporter) calling this Sunday’s game.

“Since Roku serves as an entertainment gateway for millions, this partnership offers a valuable new promotional and distribution platform for MLB games and content,” said Noah Garden, MLB deputy commissioner of business and media.

NBCUniversal Launching ‘Olympic Zone’ on Roku Platform

NBCUniversal and Roku April 30 revealed the upcoming launch of the NBC Olympic Zone on the Roku platform, aimed at helping streamers access and explore Peacock’s upcoming coverage of the Paris Olympics 2024 this summer.

The Zone will help Roku users navigate more than 5,000 hours of live events and all NBC programming on Peacock, browse through curated content rows of live and upcoming programming, discover events by sport type, and click through event recaps, among other activities. The Zone will also feature a dedicated replay row, clips, and highlight reels that take users directly to Peacock’s immersive viewing experience.

“Creating [these] partnerships…has proven to provide deeper engagement,” Matt Schnaars, president of NBCUniversal Content Distribution, said in a statement.

The NBC Olympic Zone on Roku will help streamers find and stream the NBC primetime show and individual sports, highlights and replays; stay up to date with the medal standings of countries competing; watch pre-Olympics coverage, including recaps, highlights and U.S. Olympic Trials; and engage with athlete profiles and Olympic-related content.

“This is a unique, exciting opportunity for us, streamers, and sponsors looking to align their brands with this global powerhouse sports moment,” Tedd Cittadine, VP of content partnerships at Roku, said in a statement.

NBCUniversal previously announced that the NBC broadcast network and Peacock will be the company’s primary platforms for its coverage of the Olympic Games Paris 2024, scheduled for July 26-Aug. 11.

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NBCUniversal owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2032, which are also scheduled for Milan Cortina (2026), Los Angeles (2028), and Brisbane (2032). The host city for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games has not yet been chosen.

Roku, iSpot Ink Ad-Supported Streaming Audience Measurement Partnership

Roku April 30 announced an expanded measurement partnership with iSpot.tv, a cross-platform television viewing measurement company. The pact will have each company sharing measurement data to help drive third-party advertiser value within the broader streaming TV ecosystem.

As part of the partnership, iSpot will become a third-party measurement partner for Roku, offering direct and programmatic advertisers metrics regarding reach, frequency, verified ad exposures, and outcomes from ads running on the Roku operating system. In addition, iSpot will integrate Roku’s Advertising Watermark software to validate the authenticity of video ad inventory originating on the Roku platform.

iSpot will gain access to Roku’s audience data with the goal of strengthening its ability to connect audiences across linear TV and streaming on Roku.

Roku and iSpot are looking to ensure streaming TV ads are measured fairly and accurately and to improve performance and measurement for advertisers running on the Roku platform, while helping iSpot’s customers make better purchasing decisions across the entire video marketplace, according to the companies..

The partnership will also open up the ability for marketers to accurately measure Roku’s advanced ad formats that span beyond video, such as Roku City brand integrations and Roku Marquee ads.

Roku ended the most-recent fiscal period with more than 81 million streaming households.

“We believe improving measurement for the entire ecosystem will help drive better results for advertisers, while also driving more yield for publishers,” Louqman Parampath, VP of product management for Roku, said in a statement.

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With audiences from Roku eventually scaled across all iSpot measurement products, the broader streaming TV marketplace — including agencies, brands, and media sellers — will look to benefit from streaming-centric measurement to capitalize on the opportunity that exists for connected TV landscape.

“It’s critical that marketers have reliable and actionable audience measurement to base decisions on, as they shift budgets from traditional TV to streaming,” Sean Muller, founder/CEO of iSpot, said in a statement.

Roku Ups Q1 ‘Streaming Households’ 14% to 81.6 Million

Roku April 25 reported that it increased the number of “streaming households” using its internet-connected devices 14% to 81.6 million, from 71.6 million devices in the previous-year period. “Streaming households” are the number of distinct user accounts that have streamed content on the Roku platform within the last 30 days of the fiscal period.

Streaming hours increased 23% to 30.8 billion, from 25.1 billion hours during the prior year period. Average revenue per user (ARPU) remained unchanged at $40.65. The Roku platform reached U.S. households with nearly 120 million people on a daily basis in the quarter.

Roku attributed the rise in streaming viewership to the ongoing migration of live sports to SVOD platforms. This year’s Super Bowl drove sign-ups for Paramount+ through both a premium subscription in The Roku Channel and the Paramount+ DTC app on the Roku platform using the “Roku Pay” payments and billing service.

“We are focused on the large opportunity to grow the share of subscriptions on our platform that are billed through Roku Pay,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Dan Jedda wrote in the shareholder letter.

Total net revenue increased 19% to $882 million, from $741 million. Platform revenue was $755 million, up 19%, from $634.6 million. Devices revenue increased 19% to $126.5 million, from $106.4 million.

“The Roku Channel’s ongoing growth made it the No. 3 app on our platform by both reach and engagement. This strong performance demonstrates the impact of surfacing relevant content throughout our platform,” Wood and Jedda wrote.

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Roku Now Selling Branded Pro Series TVs Online at BestBuy, Amazon, Walmart, and in Best Buy Stores

Roku April 10 announced it is now selling its branded line of Pro Series televisions online at BestBuy, Amazon and Walmart, and in Best Buy stores.

First announced at CES in Las Vegas in January, the new TVs are thinner (1.9 inches), can be mounted on a wall like a picture frame, offer improved mini-LED backlighting, picture settings, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision IQTM audio, and an improved branded processor, among other features.

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“For years, we’ve been invested in making the picture great for the shows and movies — and now we’ve added the simplicity of automation,” Chris Larson, VP of retail strategy, said in a statement.

According to Roku, picture quality is a key feature for 70% of smart TV viewers when purchasing a television. While many TVs come with settings that enhance the picture for content, ranging from sports to movies to animation, only 9% of smart TV viewers often adjust those settings as they watch different types of content, according to a Harris Poll study commissioned by Roku. To address this, all Roku TV models — even those from a decade ago — will get Roku Smart Picture with an automatic software update.

Created by Roku’s Advanced TV Technology team, Roku Smart Picture uses metadata to automatically adjust picture modes before content even starts to play. In addition, Smart Picture Max uses AI to refine color, contrast and sharpness in real-time scene-by-scene.

Separately, the new Roku Voice Remote Pro 2nd edition includes motion-activated backlit buttons, USB-C charging, and a shortcut enabling users to quickly access live TV or a current binge-watch show. Pro Series TVs also come with a remote finder button on the side of the TV that triggers a chime on the remote.

Roku Pro Series TVs are available in 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch models with pricing ranging from $899.99 to $1699.99, with the Roku Slim-profile wall mount kit available for $99.99.

Roku Voice Remote Pro (2nd Edition) is available for purchase on Roku.com for $29.99, and will be available in major retailers in the coming months. Roku Voice Remote Pro (2nd edition) is included with all Roku Pro Series TV.

Roku, NBA Team Up for Branded FAST Channel, Including Live-Stream G League Games

Roku April 3 announced a partnership with the National Basketball Association to officially launch the first-ever NBA FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channel and the NBA Zone — showcasing games, highlights, documentaries, and original series.

The Roku Channel is the inaugural partner of the first-ever NBA FAST channel, which is available exclusively on the platform for a limited time.

“This partnership brings us a giant step further in our mission to make sports programming both easy to find and engaging to watch,” Joe Franzetta, head of sports at Roku, said in a statement.

The NBA FAST channel will feature classic games, highlights, recaps, documentaries, original series, studio shows, and interviews, among other additional content. Viewers can access the channel on The Roku Channel, within related zones (Live TV Zone, Sports Zone, NBA Zone), through the Live TV Channel Guide or via The Roku Channel App. Roku will also be exclusively distributing more than 40 live NBA G League games on a national basis during the 2024-2025 NBA G League season.

As part of this launch, the NBA App will be integrated within the NBA Zone, offering users access to the latest league news, behind-the-scenes stories, and game clips. NBA League Pass, the league’s live out-of-market game subscription service, will also be available to purchase within the offering.

“This partnership supports our goal of reaching NBA fans with our content in innovative ways,” said Greg Beaton, SVP of content partnerships.

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Roku Greenlights Original ‘The Real Bros of Simi Valley’ High School Reunion Movie

Roku has greenlighted the original feature film The Real Bros of Simi Valley: High School Reunion, which will stream exclusively on The Roku Channel this summer.

The movie is a continuation of the original comedy series, co-created by Jimmy Tatro and Christian Pierce, that became a social media hit generating more than a billion views across video platforms. The movie reunites “bros” Jimmy Tatro, Nick Colletti, Tanner Petulla and Cody Ko. Christian Pierce also returns as Aldis.

With their 10-year high school reunion around the corner, Xander (Tatro) and his squad (Colletti, Petulla, Ko) embark on a journey to become the “dopest” versions of themselves.

“One simply cannot make a show about a group of friends who peaked in high school without highlighting an event as monumental as their 10-year reunion,” Tatro and Pierce said in a statement.

The Real Bros of Simi Valley: High School Reunion is produced by Studio71, with Michael Schreiber serving as producer, and Adam Boorstin as executive producer. The film is written by Pierce and Tatro, who also directs. Morgan Pichinson oversees the project on behalf of Roku Originals.

Tatro most recently starred in Searchlight’s Independent Spirit Award nominated film Theater Camp, which won Best Ensemble at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the Top 10 Independent Films of 2023. He will also be seen in Nick Stoller’s You’re Cordially Invited, opposite Will Ferrell and Reese Witherspoon for Amazon Studios. On television, Tatro was nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actor for his role in “American Vandal.”

Pierce is also known for his various roles on the YouTube Channel “Life According to Jimmy” (3.43 million subscribers), which hosts more than 200 original sketches that he’s written and directed.

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Roku Original Series ‘Side Hustlers’ Renewed for Second Season

Roku is bowing a second season of its original docuseries “Side Hustlers,” starring Emma Grede and Ashley Graham.

During its first season opening weekend, the show was the No. 1 on-demand title on The Roku Channel.

Season two of the series, which hails from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company, a part of Candle Media,  introduces a new group of female entrepreneurs and small business owners seeking life-changing advice and investments from mentors Grede and Graham.

The series follows female entrepreneurs vying for the chance to build multi-million dollar companies, while juggling the demands of their personal lives and day jobs.

Season one is available to stream for free on The Roku Channel.

“The show’s early success illuminates Roku’s commitment to working with brand partners, premium production partners, and talent to create authentic, first-of-its-kind programming that can captivate audiences at scale,” Brian Tannenbaum, head of originals at Roku Media, said in a statement.

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Sara Rea, head of unscripted television at Hello Sunshine, said Grede and Graham offer advice that is both practical and inspiring.

“While capturing the realities and ambitions of entrepreneurs everywhere, ‘Side Hustlers’ highlights the journeys of some of the amazing people turning their side hustles into main hustles,” Rea said in a statement.

Roku Ups 2023 Revenue, User Accounts, Streaming Hours — and Fiscal Loss

Roku Feb. 15 announced that its streaming video platform topped 100 million hours in 2023 for the first time. The SVOD market co-founder (along with Netflix) saw streaming hours increase 14% to 106 billion from 87.4 billion hours in 2022. Streaming hours are determined by the the amount of time devices stream content on the Roku platform.

Active user accounts increased 14.2% to 80 million from 70 million in 2022. Platform revenue, which includes the ad-supported Roku Channel, increased 10.4% to $2.99 billion from $2.71 billion.

The Roku Channel has grown to become a top 10 streaming app in the United States, comparable in engagement to peers such as Paramount+, Peacock, and Max, according to Nielsen. In Q4, The Roku Channel reached U.S. households with an estimated 120 million people. Streaming hours on The Roku Channel grew 63% from 2022.

New Roku originals in 2023 included How to Fall in Love by the Holidays, The Holiday Shift, and The Great American Baking Show: Celebrity Holiday.

Devices revenue, which includes Roku streaming set-top boxes, branded smart speakers and televisions, increased 18.1% to $490 million from $415 million.

The fiscal year loss topped $709.5 million, up 42.4% from a net loss of $498 million the year before.

“Streaming services are focused on building successful ad-supported options for consumers, and this will further accelerate the overall shift of ad dollars from traditional TV to streaming,” CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Dan Jedda wrote in the shareholder letter.

At the same time, the executives cautioned about the current fiscal 2024 outlook due to near-term challenges in the macro environment and an uneven ad market recovery.

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“While we will face difficult growth rate comparisons in streaming services distribution, and a challenging environment for the rest of the year, we expect to maintain our platform growth rates in Q1,” they wrote.

Fragmentation, Content Discovery Key Topics for Speakers at EnTech Fest

Fragmentation in the digital marketplace and strategies to make finding content easier were key topics for speakers at the Feb. 7 EnTech Fest in Los Angeles, presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

During the conference, which DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith said drew 750 attendees, panel moderator Mark Finer of Communication Research unveiled a study conducted with Screen Engine that found nearly half of consumers want to access all of their content in one place.

LG Electronics’ Matt Durgin (left) and Communication Research’s Mark Finer on an EnTech Fest panel Feb. 7.

Smart TV home pages are a key entry point to finding content.

“The home page is where we’re impacting changes to the entertainment space, so it’s a big responsibility to manage these home pages,” said Matt Durgin of LG Electronics. That entry point often looks similar among manufacturers, he said.

“Look at everyone’s home page,” he said. “It’s FAST. It’s everyone’s service, and probably an ad.”

Still, manufacturers are trying to group content so that consumers can more easily find what they want to watch, speakers said.

For instance, Roku’s Jason Weber pointed to his company’s “Sports Zone” category, which aggregates all live and upcoming sports.

“We work with our partners to leverage metadata that they provide,” said Google TV’s Tom Gorke. Google TV’s home page surfaces “continue watching” content for the consumer, no matter where that content resides. Google TV also has a “live” tab to show available live content.

“We understand what services a user subscribes to, and we can then provide them with recommendations from those services,” he said, noting that for instance a Max title can appear right next to one from Paramount+.

Evolving personalization is “a core goal of ours,” he said.

Vizio’s Madhu Somasundaram (left) and Roku’s Vicki Liao on an EnTech Fest panel Feb. 7.

Vizio’s Madhu Somasundaram noted his company leverages automatic content recognition (ACR) data, which collects viewing data on Vizio TVs, “to see what consumers want.”

Fandango’s Cameron Douglas noted that the company’s Vudu digital transactional service has 25,000 AVOD titles, mostly independent films — part of a vast library of more the 250,000 titles.

“It’s easy for stuff to get lost,” he said. “The industry needs to get better at personalization. It amazes me how much stuff is found just through search.”

Paramount Streaming’s Will Gurman said the company links brands to boost the overall business and drive consumers to content they might like. For instance, the company used viewings of the Paramount hit show “Yellowstone” as a “hook” to drive audiences to other Westerns on Pluto TV. He said Paramount Streaming uses a mix of human curation and data to match consumers with content.

“We’re trying to lean in to hyperfocus on categories where we think audiences will cluster,” he said.

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In helping consumers find content, “we’re really trying to emulate an experience similar to a rabbit hole” using “robust machine learning,” said Tubi’s Sam Harowitz. The AVOD company — which Harowitz said sees VOD (rather than linear FAST) as the future of streaming — last year mounted a Super Bowl ad in which a comedically aggressive rabbit pushes consumers down a “rabbit hole” of content, exhorting viewers to “find rabbit holes you didn’t know you were looking for.”

As FAST channels have exploded, Roku’s Vicki Liao said, “We have become more focused on selecting channels to fill where there’s an audience or genre need.”

She added, “We’re always looking at things that can be improved with product features or even human curation.”