Charlie Collier, who segued last fall from lengthy exec stints at Fox Corp. and AMC Networks to a top post at Roku, took the stage at his first NewFronts pitch Tuesday to invite advertisers to bring their messages to the stream.
“Roku is not fighting for turf in the streaming wars,” he told the crowd at Chelsea Factory in New York. “Roku is the turf. The streaming wars are not happening to Roku. We’re not in the streaming wars. The streaming wars are playing out on our platform.”
After a brief introduction by “Weird” Al Yankovic, whose life and music served as the backdrop of Roku’s 2022 original movie Weird, Collier began by paying homage to Roku’s origins. Founder and CEO Anthony Wood, he said, is the inventor or the DVR and then devised of a piece of hardware capable of delivering video images via the internet because he wanted to find a way to watch episodes of Star Trek. (Collier skipped the part about Wood working for Netflix and getting its co-founder Reed Hastings’ blessing to use the device he had created as the basis of a new start-up. Netflix, he explained, didn’t want to be in the hardware business.)
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Fast-forwarding to 2023, Collier said he and his team had debated whether or not to shift Roku’s presentation from the NewFronts to the traditional broadcast upfront week (which starts May 15 this year). YouTube and Netflix have recently joined the traditional media companies in giving presentations during the mid-May slot.
The team decided to stay in the NewFronts because “we thought you would benefit most from hearing our message” this week, Collier explained. “We aim to be your guide, your host through television because we believe that Roku will become the foundation” of your TV and video ad investments. To that end, Roku is now promising ad buyers that their campaigns will reach more TV households in primetime via Roku than they would with the average program on a top-five cable network on traditional TV.
Roku has had a bumpy few quarters as the ad market has deteriorated and its pandemic mojo has evaporated. The company has laid off about 400 workers over the past six months, more than 10% of its staff, and has seen its once-high-flying stock price drop to about one-eighth of its record high level in mid-2021.
The NewFronts event showcased new originals like the Sofia Vergara-produced Celebrity Family Cook Off and Carpe DM with Juanpa, featuring social media star Juanpa Zurita; and renewals like The Great American Baking Show and Honest Renovations. Also in the mix were new ad tools like a contextual AI method of serving relevant ads based on search and viewing patterns as well as a new home screen discovery function focused on lifestyle programming.
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