Roku Channel Content Removals Target Originals Unpopular With Viewers

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Roku, looking to rein in spending, is making its third round of layoffs within a year — pink-slipping more than 300 staffers — and will pull “select” content from its TV streaming platform.

According to Roku’s 8-K filing, it will take a charge estimated to be $55 million-$65 million related to “removing select existing licensed and produced content from company-operated services on its TV streaming platform.” Roku said it does not expect any “material cash expenditures” in connection with the content-impairment charge.

What content is getting the axe? A Roku rep tells Variety the company is not disclosing which titles will be removed from the Roku Channel at this time and declined to comment beyond the details in its Sept. 6 SEC disclosure.

A source familiar with the company’s strategy says the purge will target Roku original TV shows and movies that are unpopular — specifically, titles that may have been popular initially but are not attracting new viewers. That’s not particularly surprising, of course; it makes sense to remove content that isn’t drawing viewership commensurate with the cost to continue streaming it.

Note that Roku jump-started its foray into originals by acquiring the library of Quibi, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s short-lived premium mobile streaming startup. That deal, which a source pegged as well under $100 million, included more than 75 short-form series. Some of those have performed well for the Roku Channel, including Kevin Hart’s “Die Hart” and Chrissy Teigen’s “Chrissy’s Court,” both of which were renewed for two additional seasons. Other former Quibi shows, presumably, haven’t scored as well.

Streaming services constantly remove (and add) content to their platforms, based on viewing patterns and release windows. And the strategic cost-saving move to pull underperforming titles on a wholesale basis is not unique to Roku: In the past year, for example, Disney’s Disney+ and Hulu, Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max and Paramount+ have all pruned shows and movies from their respective services to reduce costs. Streamers save money by writing content off their balance sheet, because they no longer have to pay licensing fees or residuals; in addition, such write-offs can lower their tax bill.

Note that even after Roku’s content removals, many of the Roku Channel’s titles will continue to be available, including some 350 linear streaming channels, more than 80,000 TV shows and movies, and access to premium content.

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