Roku Stock Rises On ESPN+ Deal, Stephen A. Cohen Stake, Analyst Boost

Roku, the independent streaming company whose stock became a Wall Street darling last year before coming back to earth in the first quarter, is seeing an 11% gain today on a trifecta of positive developments.

Shares are up almost to about $36.69, on more than double the average trading volume, after the company announced a deal to carry Disney’s high-profile new ESPN+ stand-alone app. The over-the-top (OTT) service, which debuted April 12, offers a range of live games and other enticements for $4.99 a month and is part of Disney’s aggressive push into direct-to-consumer offerings.

Plus, in an SEC filing on Monday, the company said that Stephen A. Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management has invested in the company, taking a 5.1% stake. Stamford, Conn.-based Point72 manages about $11 billion and Cohen’s net worth has recently been estimated at $14 billion.

As if that weren’t enough, Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin also offered a full-throated endorsement of the company. In a research note headed by the unambiguous message, “If you life Netflix, buy Roku,” Martin argued that Netflix’s bravura performance lately offers all the rationale investors should need. It shows “growing broadband adoption globally and a shift of viewing away from TVs and toward OTT and digital channels.” Martin said Roku could get $1 a month from every subscriber to ESPN+.

While bears note that Roku is unlikely to have an exit other than being acquired by a much better-capitalized rival (e.g., Amazon), the company has made remarkable inroads thus far and shown flexibility in its business model. While it does sell streaming devices at retail, that business is less of the centerpiece than it once was. Roku has also licensed its proprietary interface and elicited advertising and sponsorship revenue from the thousands of app purveyors jockeying for carriage.

The company’s stock reached $58 a share last December, but had slumped more than 20% in 2018 before today’s rally.

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