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There’s something of an arms race going on for free, premium streaming TV content, and Roku is hoping to win it. The company already offers ad-supported movies and TV shows on its Roku Channel app, but after acquiring shorts made for the now-defunct Quibi service, it’s finally ready to offer up some Roku-branded shows. The first batch of Roku Originals is made up entirely of rebranded Quibi content, all of which you can check out when the shows go live on May 20th.
Roku says that its rebranded Roku Originals platform will include “more than 75” of the Quibi programs, though only 30 shows will go live on launch day. At least 12 of them will be Quibi productions that never aired in the short-lived app. The shows will be available later this year for free on The Roku Channel in the US, UK, and Canada. In addition to Roku TVs and set-top boxes, The Roku Channel is also available as a mobile app… though it seems unlikely that its upcoming Quibi content will be viewable in landscape mode, as God intended.
You remember Quibi (maybe?), that short-lived service that offered short-form video only on your phone (for some reason) which could be watched in either portrait or landscape mode. It was trying to be Netflix for the TikTok generation, and it had an almost unbelievable $1.75 billion in funding with the help of big-name tech and Hollywood executives.
Despite creating social media buzz and some genuinely intriguing shows, sports, and news content, Quibi announced it was shutting down the service just six months after its international debut. Despite being associated with significant talent both in front of and behind the camera, Quibi was consistently mocked in both tech circles and the media at large, at least those corners of it that paid it any attention at all. Launching a phone-only video service during an international pandemic, when a billion people or two were stuck in their homes with bigger screens at the ready, probably didn’t help. Eventually, some of the shows showed up on Android TV, Fire TV, and Apple TV.
But as I said, there were a few scripted shows on Quibi that got some praise, like the horror anthology 50 States of Fright (which is not included in Roku’s first lineup of shows) or the bite-sized reboot of The Fugitive. The bulk of the service’s content was reality TV and short documentaries like You Ain’t Got These, a quick expose on booming sneaker culture. It seems like the kind of thing that would do well on YouTube. A huge amount of shows and episodes were produced, but many were never released by the time Quibi died.
Official release date and trailer
Roku will launch its lineup of ex-Quibi shows on May 20th, the 13th anniversary of its first streaming device hitting the market. The company showed off much of its acquired programming in a new trailer that, in an odd but sensible decision, refrains from mentioning the word “Quibi” a single time. Probably for the best. You can check out the complete list of Roku Originals here.