Roku, which offers its nearly 54 million active account holders tens of thousands of titles, wants to simplify the often fraught process of deciding what to stream.
The company’s solution is a new weekly 15-minute program, Roku Recommends, which premieres today. It is co-hosted by Maria Menounos, who is best known for her work as a TV entertainment correspondent, and NFL-player-turned-media-personality Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins. In the free show set to premiere each Thursday, the pair presents their top five titles to watch. Some of the picks will be new releases, while others will be dug up through a mix of datamining and human curation.
The show is the first production from the Roku Brand Studio, which was formed earlier this year. Funny or Die is also a producer of the series, and Walmart is aboard as the sponsor of the debut episode of Roku Recommends.
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“There are thousands of channels on Roku, there are so many things you may not even know you have access to,” brand studio chief Chris Bruss (a Funny or Die alum) said in an interview with Deadline. He said the show will aim to be “funny and entertaining,” adding that weekly choices are not the payola-type result of promotional spending by streaming providers.
“There are no sponsorship dollars flowing to try to influence what shows and films we recommend,” he said.
Instead, the environment of the top U.S. streaming gateway gives advertisers an opportunity to make an impression on viewers who are not the usual marks. “If you just go straight to Netflix, then Netflix will tell you what’s new that weekend, and that’s great,” he said. “But if you only keep doing that, how are you going to know what’s over here on Peacock or on Disney+? It’s the ability to catch that audience’s attention, both because we think it will create a better user experience … and it’s an opportunity for a brand to talk to somebody. If somebody turns on their Roku and goes straight to Netflix, there’s no advertising.”
In addition to two minutes of ad time during the middle of each episode, advertisers will also have sponsored segments and custom integrations delivered by the co-hosts in podcast-like reads. The show will be housed in the Roku Channel, the aggregation hub of 200 live linear channels and 40,000 movie and TV titles launched in 2017. Also now on the Roku Channel is the newly launched Roku Originals banner, which includes shows acquired from Quibi earlier this year.
After Walmart, Roku said it has lined up “several leading national advertisers” to back the show, which will be promoted across the platform and tied into key navigational features.
Mike Farah, Beth Belew, and Jim Ziegler are executive producers of Roku Recommends.