Roku CFO Steve Louden, in an online appearance Tuesday at an RBC Capital Markets conference, said he didn’t “have any specific update” on the company’s discussions with HBO Max, but said “we continue to talk to folks.”
The question came up in light of the news Monday that Amazon reached a deal with the WarnerMedia streaming service, filling a significant gap in its distribution. While Amazon Fire TV reaches more than 40 households Roku has recently hit 46 million, making it one of the top streaming gatekeepers. HBO Max did manage to lock up deals with Apple, Google and a number of pay-TV providers and smart TV makers, leaving Roku as the last bit of white space.
NBCUniversal faced a similar void of both Amazon and Roku when it launched Peacock nationally in July, but it then announced a deal with Roku in September.
“We generally don’t talk about where we’re at in deals,” Louden said at RBC’s Global Technology, Media, Internet and Telecommunications Conference. “But we continue to talk to folks and our goal is to have all content on there. Similar to the Peacock situation, we’re not always first. But we’ve got a very good idea of what the market is and how much value we can create. We’ve got the biggest, most engaged user base in the U.S. and so hopefully we can get a deal done.”
Louden said the influx of new streaming contenders — Disney, NBCUniversal and Apple have joined WarnerMedia with new launches over the past year — has diversified the app rankings on Roku. Of the 14.8 billion streaming hours recorded in the third quarter, the majority occurs on the Netflix app. When Louden joined the company in 2015, he recalled, Netflix controlled “about 50% of the streaming. Now, they’re under one-third and usually they tick down over time as other players grow around them. Certainly, you’ve seen new entrants come into the streaming world over the last year, most notably Disney+.”
Even if Netflix’s share of total streaming has declined, the amount of streaming has exploded over that time, so it’s leading position is still very meaningful, but “the ecosystem is filling out as more companies shift their focus to streaming,” Louden said.
Advertising was a dominant theme of the 30-minute online session.
The biggest opportunity for Roku from its earliest days has been “the TV ad market and moving these dollars over,” Louden said. “Viewership is way ahead of that. the biggest single prize that we push on is to get these ad budgets to follow the viewership over to OTT and to Roku in particular.”
COVID-19 has “broken down some of the friction around that” but the process will be an ongoing one in the months and years to come, he added.
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