Roku Takes Pay-1 Rights To Select Saban Films Titles, Streaming Them For Free Within 3 Months Of Theatrical In Windows Twist

Roku and Saban Films have added the latest twist to fast-evolving movie release strategies, setting a pay-1 rights deal for several titles that will stream on the Roku Channel.

The pact will deliver films from Saban’s 2021 slate to Roku Channel viewers in the U.S. and Canada within as few as three months after theatrical and home entertainment release. They will be available for free, with limited commercial breaks.

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Echo Boomers, starring Michael Shannon and Patrick Schwarzenegger, kicks off the arrangement on June 15. Future films that are part of the windows deal include Happily, starring Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé; Percy VS Goliath (in the U.S. only), starring Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci and Zach Braff; and Under the Stadium Lights with Laurence Fishburne and Milo Gibson. More films will be announced at a later date, the companies said.

The Roku Channel, a fast-growing part of Roku’s overall streaming business, now reaches households with about 70 million people, according to Roku. The hub has nearly 200 linear channels, 40,000 library titles and this year has added Roku Originals as well as programming stemming from the acquisition of This Old House. When it launched last week, the Roku Originals lineup consisted of several dozen shows acquired from shuttered mobile startup Quibi, though the banner is expected to diversify over time.

In an interview with Deadline, Roku VP of Programming Rob Holmes said feature films have been a key ingredient in the growth of the Roku Channel since its debut in 2017. The viewing destination does not require a Roku device or interface. It is available in the U.S., Canada and the UK on Amazon Fire TV, certain Samsung TVs and thru the web, iOS and Android devices.

“We’re not an SVOD, so overall there are just different economics,” Holmes said when asked to compare the deal with recent pay-1 deals like Sony’s watershed agreement with Netflix. He declined to offer guidance on pricing but said the advertising potential is the key driver for Roku. While the company does not break out ads as a line item in its financial reports, platform revenue (including ads) surged 71% in 2020 over 2019, to $1.3 billion. Results in the first quarter of this year also set records.

The compression of the typical window between theatrical, home video and streaming will enable Roku to leverage awareness of the Saban films, Holmes said. “Saban will have just spent money both in home entertainment and theatrical marketing to make consumers aware of them,” he said.

While Roku is not in any discussions for any other pay-1 deals, Holmes said, “As the Roku Channel continues to grow, it opens up more opportunities for content. I think you’ve seen us executing against those opportunities. … We keep finding pockets of new opportunities with a different set of partners based on that growing scale. And then that great content leads to more scale.”

Launched in 2014 with the support of media mogul and financier Haim Saban, the Saban Films has acquired, produced and distributed a range of titles. The boutique operation’s releases include The Homesman, a Western starring Hilary Swank and directed by Tommy Lee Jones that premiered in competition in Cannes. Saban has also backed fan favorites like Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell and Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.

“Streaming has become an incredible way to experience movie-making magic from the comfort of your own home,” Saban Films President Bill Bromiley said, “and we are thrilled to bring an extraordinary lineup of entertainment to The Roku Channel and America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform.”

Jonathan Saba negotiated the deal on behalf of Saban Films.

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