Roku Acquires Quibi Library

The Stranger - Quibi show - Publicity still 1 - H 2020
Quibi

The deal adds 75 of the defunct shortform mobile video service's shows to the lineup of free, ad-supported programming on The Roku Channel.

Roku has agreed to acquire the programming library from defunct mobile video startup Quibi as it looks to bulk up its free, ad-supported Roku Channel hub.

The deal means that more than 75 shortform shows like Veena Sud's The Stranger and Liam Hemsworth starrer Most Dangerous Game will continue to have a home despite Quibi's shutdown late last year. More than a dozen shows that were shot and completed for Quibi but not released before its shutdown will also be made available for viewers for the first time on Roku, which will distribute them in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Roku and Quibi are not disclosing terms of the deal but a source familiar with the agreement says it values the content library at significantly less than $100 million.

"We are thrilled that these stories, from the surreal to the sublime, have found a new home on The Roku Channel," Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a statement.

Quibi launched in April as the pandemic upended life for many Americans. Its central conceit, that people wanted to watch expensive shortform programming on the go, was hard to test when people were sheltering at home. The service, which was only available on mobile phones and did not have support for connected TVs at launch, struggled to attract subscribers out of the gate. Katzenberg and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman announced just six months later that they would shut the app down and return money to investors. They have been searching for a buyer for Quibi's library ever since.

Roku has been aggressive about building its media business in recent years to decrease its dependency on sales of set-top boxes. The programming will help Roku build up the content offering of the three-year-old Roku Channel, where it aggregates programming from the various entertainment apps that live on its platform. The channel reaches nearly 62 million people, according to the company, and is a top 10 channel on its platform in terms of streaming hours and total active accounts.

Roku is not disclosing how it will present the Quibi programming to viewers within the Roku Channel. All of the shows — which were previously offered for a subscription fee — will be free for viewers with advertising.

Though Quibi became the butt of jokes due to its poor performance, several of its shows were nominated for shortform Emmys in 2020, and Antoine Fuqua-produced drama #FreeRayshawn took home two trophies from the show. "We think they created great content," says Roku vp programming Rob Homes in an interview. The executive adds that much of the programming "is going to be new to the overwhelming majority of viewers."

Roku is stepping into Quibi's existing licenses for the shows. The service, in a bid to lure high-profile talent, signed unique deals with creators. After two years, they would be given the opportunity to recut the shortform shows into a full-length movie or longform TV series. After seven years, the rights would fully revert back to the studio owner. Holmes declined to offer specifics of how those agreements would play out under Roku's new deal.

Though Quibi's shows were designed for mobile viewing, Holmes says he expects them to play well on Roku's TV-centric experience. "It's just TV," he says, sharing that he's been enjoying watching cooking competition show Dishmantled with his kids. "If you're in a lean-back environment, you can let it run through. In fact, it works really well for ad breaks."