Roku doubles down on food, lifestyle & entertainment as models pivot to international partnerships

Tempting Fortune

Roku is looking to order up to 30 unscripted originals this year and is exploring a further “pivot” towards international partnerships, following its deal for Tempting Fortune with Channel 4 in the UK.

The device manufacturer and operator of The Roku Channel partnered last year with C4 on reality adventure show Tempting Fortune, with format rights acquired by Cineflix Rights in January.

Roku’s VP & head of content, David Eilenberg, told the Banff World Media Festival that the show’s model – a joint commission that had a mixed US and UK cast – “points to the type of work we are moving into”.

“We are pivoting to a certain kind of business model, into a new world of windows, sharing internationally and collectively we have experience of those kinds of deals,” he said, adding that he believed Tempting Fortune producer Voltage TV “would say it’s a good deal for them too.”

David Eilenberg

Roku will average between 20 and 30 unscripted shows a year, he added, including programming emerging from its deal with Martha Stewart, and said while the company “is not going to be in the business of 100’s of originals a year” it will “allow us to build habit.”

Roku’s docs & scripted strategy

Former ITV America exec Eilenberg, who joined Roku last year, admitted that the company is “earlier” in its scripted strategy but said comedy was the sweet spot currently being explored, although the US writers strike has stalled progress.

“You’ll see us developing more in that space and the comedy feature space,” he added, highlighting the second season of Kevin Hart’s Die Hart as an example of a show that worked. “We are earlier on in figuring out drama, I think we will but we have to work out smart models to do that on AVOD economics.”

Sports docs are also of increasing interest, Eilenberg said, pointing to the recently commissioned (and as-yet untitled) special that will track the three days of the NFL Draft, with Skydance Sports and NFL Films producing.

“We are working out which fandoms we can program to and, as a result, we can have a really interesting part of the sports landscape without necessarily getting involved in the crazy sports rights landscape.”

Eilenberg was joined by Brian Tannenbaum, who heads up Roku originals, and Jennifer Vaux, VP of content acquisition & programming, and the duo outlined that entertainment, lifestyle and food were key genres.

Tannenbaum said he wanted shows with a “clear concept” and pointed to Morimoto Sushi Master as a format that was “instantly understandable in the food space,” joining Celebrity Family Cook Off and Great American Baking Show.

Vaux, who leads on Roku’s international partnerships, said high volume procedurals were of interest, as well as comedy, with French-language content for Canada in demand. “In terms of other languages, dubs work better than subs but we are willing to look at everything.” The company also recently debuted its inaugural Spanish-language original, ¡Que Delicioso!.

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