Roku to debut its AVOD channel in Canada

Although it has no plans to start pumping out originals, the company is putting content at the core of its engagement strategy.

“We believe as a company that all TV will be streamed.”

It’s not an unexpected phrase coming from Rob Holmes, the VP of programming at Roku, a leading provider of content-streaming devices and smart-TV operating systems and sets. But with that sentiment echoing more loudly throughout the industry these days, it’s not an unbelievable one either. And Roku is taking aim at Canada to carve out its space in that cordless future, with the launch of a new ad-driven product in the market this week.

The Roku Channel, already launched in the U.S., is something of a curated one-stop free-content shop for Roku users on the platform’s homepage. Through its physical stick, or via Roku-enabled smart TVs (20 of which are in market in Canada right now) users have access to over 5000 channels on the service, both free and paid. The only way to find an individual show, though, is to use the universal search or go directly to, say, Netflix. As Holmes, notes, “it takes a little bit of work.”

Based on that observation, Roku Channel was launched, packaging a variety of ad-supported content currently on the channel with additional library content acquired specifically for the channel from U.S. studios. It has over 1000 titles on the U.S. version; the number of titles for the Canadian version was not available at press time. The company did confirm it has not set up any licensing deals with Canadian companies at this time.

Holmes likens the channel to an end-cap display at the supermarket: something you have to walk by and is highly noticeable. “We want to make this the starting point for them on the platform.” The company will not, however, be jazzing up that “end cap” with original commissioned content, Holmes confirmed.

“It’s really about helping people to find great unique things that they are excited about watching, rather than needing to distinguish the service in the way that some of the subscriptions services do,” he said during a conference call on the product launch. “With an AVOD, we’re there when you want us but you’re not paying anything for it so if you find something to watch, great, but if not, you’re not worried about it. So I think we’re a little less focused on disguising our position in the marketplace with an exclusive new original.”

The goal for the channel is to add value to the Roku experience, keep people engaging with the platform, and increase time spent, he said, explaining that Roku uses an “active accounts” metric to track users who have used the service in the last 30 days.

The company has 21 million active accounts globally, with an average use per day of three hours.