Quibi’s star-studded cast of shows will live on at Roku

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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s video streaming startup may be dead, but its shows will live on.

Streaming-device maker Roku has snapped up the majority of Quibi’s multi-million dollar library of original short-form programming in a deal that will give new life to its star-studded library of shows featuring Kevin Hart, Idris Elba, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Jonas.

Roku on Friday said it nabbed the exclusive global rights to 75 shows from the doomed startup. They will be available to watch this year on the Roku Channel, which is free for Roku consumer and includes a mix of old movies, such as “Inception,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as TV reruns of “The Bachelorette” and “Dennis the Menace.”

Terms of the deal, first reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, were not disclosed.

The deal could help boost Roku’s already booming business as it competes head-to-head for eyeballs against Amazon Fire TV. The streamer this week revealed that it added 14 million accounts in 2020 as home-bound consumers flocked to their TVs for entertainment. Roku now boasts 51 million account, up from just 13.4 million in 2016, making the top-streaming platform along with Amazon Fire TV.

Quibi shut down in October after just six months in existence. The high-profile startup founded by Katzenberg, Walt Disney’s former chairman, proved the exception to the growing demand for streaming as the coronavirus prompted more people to sit in front of their TVs instead of their phones.

Quibi’s videos, each under 10 minutes long, were geared toward people on-the-go.

Variety on Friday said that Roku will acquire shows like dystopian thriller “Most Dangerous Game,” starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz; dark comedy “Flipped” with Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson; plane-crash drama “Survive,” starring Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins; comedy “Dummy,” starring Anna Kendrick as a woman who befriends her boyfriend’s sex doll, and “#FreeRayshawn,” a police drama from executive producer Antoine Fuqua, for which Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones each won short-form acting Emmy Awards.

Other Quibi shows heading to Roku could include “Elba vs. Block” starring Idris Elba and stunt driver Ken Block; “Chrissy’s Court,” a “Judge Judy”-style show starring Chrissy Teigen; a reboot of “Punk’d” hosted by Chance the Rapper; and money-giveaway reality show “Thanks a Million” from Jennifer Lopez, Variety said.

In order to continue its growth, Roku is focusing on amassing new content for its platform and free channel.

“Today’s announcement marks a rare opportunity to acquire compelling new original programming that features some of the biggest names in entertainment,” Roku’s vice president of programming, Rob Holmes said. “We’re excited to make this content available for free to our users in The Roku Channel through an ad-supported model,” Holmes said.

Quibi went forward with its April launch despite the fact that the streamer’s core audience, namely commuters watching shows on their smartphones, were house-bound due to the pandemic. The company, which raised a massive $1.75 billion and had advertisers lined up, quickly realized that garnering subscribers willing to pay upwards of $7.99 a month for its nascent service, was difficult. 

With meager viewership, advertisers began looking for ways to defer payments. Katzenberg blamed the pandemic for Quibi’s weakness,  but critics  pointed to a slew of unrelated problems that included difficulties of launching a new, unknown service in an already competitive streaming landscape with limited content.

By the fall, Qubi was assessing its options, including a sale of the company, but ultimately in October, Katzenberg pulled the plug, deciding to use any money garnered from a sale of its content library to return to investors. 

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