Earlier this year, Roku acquired the program catalog from Quibi, the short-form video app backed by Jeffrey Katzenberg that had failed to gain traction amid the pandemic, despite nearly $2 billion in financing. Quibi had been designed for on-the-go viewing, but launched when users were staying at home -- watching TV on bigger screens and for longer periods of time. But now Quibil's shows will return. Roku announced today that Quibi's catalog will be rebranded as "Roku Originals," and will arrive on The Roku Channel in the near future.
Roku says it will offer more details about its launch plans in May.
The company's Roku Originals will become available to stream for free within The Roku Channel, the media platform's ad-supported streaming hub for TV, movies, news, live TV, sports and more. The originals arriving will include a range of content, including scripted and unscripted series, as well as documentaries. At launch, these will be available to users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. only.
Quibi's service had made headlines for its shows that featured several big names from Hollywood, including Anna Kendrick, Chrissy Teigen, Lena Waithe, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart and Liam Hemsworth, among others. But none of the Quibi content had been compelling enough to push consumers to subscribe to Quibi's service -- that is, Quibi didn't have a flagship show like "Game of Thrones" or a new "Star Trek" series to draw people in. It didn't have any classics, either, like "The Office" or "Friends." Instead, Quibi was relying on the combination of star power and its "quick bites" mobile viewing format to attract users. But the latter no longer made sense when life on the go had been shut down. And for escapist, short-form entertainment, users already had TikTok.
Today, Roku notes that while the Quibi shows will serve as the initial backbone for its Roku Originals catalog, it plans to launch more original programming in the future under this brand.
In 2021, the company will roll out over 75 Roku Originals, which will include Quibi's catalog and other unreleased series that never got the chance to air on Quibi before its shutdown. This will complement The Roku Channel's existing lineup of over 40,000 free movies and programs, and its over 165 free live, linear TV channels.
Roku's streaming business got a big boost during the pandemic, which brought in a record $649.9 million in revenue in the fourth quarter and pushed Roku to a $65.2 million profit when Wall Street was expecting a loss. Active users were also up 39% year over year to 51.2 million, and The Roku Channel's free hub grew faster, doubling to 63 million people. With originals, Roku has a chance to further retain that audience, even as the pandemic bump starts to fade and users go back to their regular lives as vaccination rates increase and workplaces reopen.
The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported Roku paid less than $100 million for Quibi's catalog.