Quibi is coming back from the dead next week… sort of.
On May 20, Roku will debut the first batch of Roku Originals — a collection of 30 shows originally produced for Quibi, the short-lived mobile entertainment startup led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. Roku paid substantially less than $100 million for the assets of the defunct company, including rights to more than 75 shows overall.
The shows span genres and formats, comprising scripted series, documentaries, alternative and reality programming. Among the first “Roku Originals” coming next week are Kevin Hart’s action series “Die Hart,” Emmy-winning drama “#FreeRayshawn” starring Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones, the revival of Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!” and “Dummy,” starring Anna Kendrick as a woman who befriends her boyfriend’s sex doll.
The lineup also includes “Chrissy’s Court,” a “Judge Judy”-style show starring Chrissy Teigen; a reboot of MTV’s “Punk’d” hosted by Chance the Rapper; Jennifer Lopez money-giveaway reality show “Thanks a Million”; and travel series “Cup of Joe” with Joe Jonas. On the scripted front, there’s “Most Dangerous Game,” a dystopian thriller starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz; “Flipped,” a dark comedy with Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson; and a remake of “The Fugitive” starring Kiefer Sutherland.
All of the Roku Originals will be available free on the Roku platform for viewers in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Roku is keeping Quibi’s original episode lengths — about 10 minutes each, they were supposed to be designed for mobile viewing. The company will serve ads between Quibi episodes (not within them), promising ad breaks of no more than 60 seconds.
In the first quarter of 2021, The Roku Channel reached U.S. households with an estimated 70 million people. The Roku Channel’s audience reach and streaming hours more than doubled year-over-year in the quarter — growing twice as fast as the overall Roku platform.
“That makes this an opportune time to launch Roku Originals, to capture this momentum,” said Sweta Patel, VP of engagement growth marketing.
Here’s the full list of Quibi programs that will be available May 20: “#FreeRayshawn”; “About Face”; “Bad Ideas with Adam Devine”; “Barkitechture”; “Big Rad Wolf”; “Blackballed”; “Centerpiece”; “Chrissy’s Court”; “Cup of Joe”; “Die Hart”; “Dishmantled”; “Dummy”; “Fight Like a Girl”; “Flipped”; “The Fugitive”; “Gayme Show”; “Iron Sharpens Iron”; “Last Looks”; “Let’s Roll with Tony Greenhand”; “Most Dangerous Game”; “Murder House Flip”; “Murder Unboxed”; “Nightgowns”; “Prodigy”; “Punk’d”; “Reno 911!”; “Royalties”; “Shape of Pasta”; “Thanks a Million”; and “You Ain’t Got These.”
Roku is launching the Roku Originals section on May 20, which the company celebrates as “Streaming Day” (commemorating the day in 2008 when it introduced its first streaming player) and will again feature various retail discounts and promotions on products. On Roku devices, there will be a new bar on the left-hand menu that links directly to Roku Originals. The company also will promote the original content in on-screen ads and plans to do homepage takeovers for certain titles.
Roku also is partnering with Laugh Out Loud, Kevin Hart’s multiplatform comedy brand, to launch the linear LOL! Network to The Roku Channel next week. “LOL’s partnership with Roku is the culmination of a lot of hard work by two great teams, and I’m excited that both ‘Die Hart’ and LOL! Network will be available on The Roku Channel,” Hart said in a statement.
Roku Originals will join The Roku Channel’s lineup of more than 40,000 free movies and TV episodes, as well as 190-plus free live linear channels and access to subscription VOD services. In addition to Roku devices, The Roku Channel is available on the web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs.
Roku’s Patel said in the initial selection of 30 Quibi shows, the company wanted to make it as inclusive as possible. “We wanted to make sure we had something for everyone, with depth, breadth and diversity,” she said.
Roku still has some 45 other Quibi shows in its back pocket (some of which are in postproduction and were never released by Quibi). But what about after that? “We are always continuing to source content,” Patel said. “We’re making sure it’s cost-effective content — whether we produce it in-house or use an outside production partner.” In addition to acquiring Quibi’s content assets, Roku has hired several former Quibi employees as it builds out the original content team.
Patel added that Roku is not wedded to Quibi’s short-form episode format. “Whatever works for us is whatever works for AVOD,” she said.
In March, Roku paid $98 million to acquire the producer of “This Old House” in a deal that included a library of more than 1,500 episodes. However, Roku will continue to distribute that content widely, rather than making it available exclusively on The Roku Channel.
(Pictured above: Anna Kendrick in “Dummy”)