From ROKU’s 10-K /Annual report, here are the ROKU’s products, advertising, ways ROKU monetizes and their business strategy. (Warning, Long Post)
Item 1: Business Overview
Roku pioneered streaming to the TV. Roku connects users to the streaming content they love, enables content publishers to build and monetize large audiences, and provides advertisers with unique capabilities to engage consumers. We do this at scale. As of December 31, 2017, we had 19.3 million active accounts1 and during 2017 our users streamed 14.8 billion hours 2on the Roku platform. TV streaming’s disruptive content distribution model is shifting billions of dollars of economic value. Roku is capitalizing on this large economic opportunity as a leading TV streaming platform for users, content publishers and advertisers.
Consumers win with TV streaming—they get a better user experience, more entertainment options and more control over what they spend on content. When users want to enjoy streaming entertainment, they start at the Roku home screen where we put users first by helping them find the content they want to watch. From our home screen, users can easily search, discover and access over 500,000 movies and TV episodes in the United States, as well as live sports, music, news and more. Users can also compare the price of content from various channels available on our platform and choose from ad-supported, subscription, and transactional video on-demand content. The Roku platform delivers a significant expansion in consumer choice. Consumers can personalize their content selection with cable TV replacement offerings and other streaming services that suit their budget and needs. Ad-supported channels available on the Roku platform include YouTube, CBS News, Crackle, The CW and Vice; subscription channels include HBO Now, Hulu and Netflix as well as traditional pay TV replacement services like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Spectrum TV and Sony PlayStation Vue; and transactional channels include Amazon Video, Google Play and Vudu. Consumers are increasingly streaming ad-supported content.
Roku operates the number one TV streaming platform in the United States as measured by total hours streamed, according to a survey that we commissioned, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2017, by Kantar Millward Brown. Content publishers and advertisers win with Roku because our large and growing user base simplifies their access to the fragmented and complex over the top, or OTT, market and we provide them with direct to consumer engagement and monetization opportunities. We provide our content publishers with access to the most engaged OTT audience, as measured by average hours streamed, and the ability to monetize their content with advertising, subscription or transactional business models. Furthermore, as a pure play, neutral TV streaming platform, we are better able to serve content publishers compared to other platforms that have diversified business operations and competitive content offerings. Advertisers on our platform can reach our desirable OTT audience with ads that are more relevant, interactive and measurable than advertising delivered on traditional linear TV. As traditional TV audiences shrink, OTT audiences have become increasingly important to advertisers who must continue to reach large audiences. Our growth in active accounts and hours streamed has attracted more content publishers and advertisers to our TV streaming platform creating a better user experience.
While we currently generate a majority of our revenue from sales of our streaming players, we generate a majority of our gross profit from our platform revenue. Our business model is to grow gross profit by increasing the number of active accounts and growing average revenue per user, or ARPU which we believe represents the inherent value of our business. We define ARPU as our platform revenue during the preceding four quarters divided by the average of the number of active accounts at the end of that period and the end of the prior four quarters. We grow new accounts through three primary channels: we sell streaming players, we partner with TV brands through our Roku TV licensing program, and we have licensing relationships with service operators. The fastest growing source of new accounts comes from our licensing partner relationships which accounted for 48% of new accounts in 2017, up from 42% in 2016. We believe we have a significant opportunity to grow platform revenue and as we further monetize TV streaming hours we will increase ARPU, which was $13.78 per active user during the year ended December 31, 2017 up by 48% as compared to $9.28 per active user for the year ended December 31, 2016. Our success in growing ARPU will depend on our ability to increasingly generate platform revenue from content publishers and advertisers as we increase the number of active accounts.
1 Active accounts represent distinct user accounts that have streamed content on our platform in the last 30 days of the period.
2 Streaming hours streamed as the aggregate amount of time users streamed content on our platform in a given period.
Our advertising products enable advertisers to serve relevant ads to our users and measure return on investment. We collect a variety of information on the Roku streaming platform, including user registration data, as well as anonymized information like audience engagement with channels on our platform, use of features like search and interactions with advertisements. With Roku TVs, we have the ability to use automatic content recognition (ACR) and other technology to collect information about what users watch via antennae and devices connected to Roku TVs, and we collect data about the use of the Roku TV’s on-screen programming guide.
We gather this information and then create user segments, develop look-a-like audience and predictive models, and activate segments for use in a variety of business operations including recommendations for users and analytics for content publishers and advertisers. Our platform also provides a mechanism to match and ingest third party data sets from our advertisers and data vendors who may have demographic or other attributes that would enhance our analytics, products or advertising efforts.
We continue to refine measurement capabilities on our advertising platform. Through our own measurement tools and third parties including Nielsen, Acxiom, Oracle Data Cloud, Nielsen Catalina Solutions, Experian, Placed and Kantar Millward Brown, we provide advertisers the capability to measure audience demographics, validate ad effectiveness, and quantify sales lift from advertising on Roku. We offer engagement analytics such as impressions, click-through rates and video completion rates. We also work with a wide variety of third-party measurement companies to measure the branding impact of the ads we serve. We have also recently established relationships with third party providers that focus on transactional or point of sale data, which enables our advertisers to compare the effectiveness of Roku ads.
Our primary advertising products include:
•Video ads. Our ad-supported content publishers use video ads to monetize our audiences and we also use video ads to monetize our platform. Video ads are sold as 15-second or 30-second spots inserted before a program starts or during a program break, within channels on the Roku platform where we have video inventory access. One of the ways we secure video ad insertion rights from content publishers is via our distribution deals with those publishers. In addition, many publishers also authorize us to fill their own unsold inventory. Except for a minority of video ads that are passed unmodified in a traditional linear broadcast, all video ads are selected and delivered to a user in real-time, as the user is engaging on our platform. Digital advertisers have raised concerns about brand safety, viewability and fraud after certain issues arose between various video ad networks and major online video distributors. OTT is an attractive alternative. On the Roku platform, our video ads play full screen, are not skippable in most channels and are delivered into a curated channel list.
•Interactive video ads. We offer advertisers the ability to make their TV advertising interactive with customized clickable overlays that invite viewers to engage more intimately with brands, by watching additional videos, obtaining offer details, getting a coupon code via text or finding the nearest retailer to buy a product.
•Audience development promotions. We utilize a variety of ad placements, particularly native display ads, on the Roku home screen and screen saver, to promote content publishers and their services to our users. We help them to drive channel downloads and traffic to their channels, and to drive subscriptions or movie and TV show consumption. Given our strategic role as a user’s TV streaming home screen, we are increasingly able to predict a user’s likelihood of taking action in response to an ad we serve. We also sell branded channel buttons on player and TV remote controls. The branded buttons are reserved for content publishers who want to reduce friction and drive incremental usage by allowing users to launch straight into the channel.
•Brand sponsorships. We support a variety of promotional opportunities for advertisers, such as sponsored themes to take over our home screen and content sponsorships to give users the opportunity to experience a free movie or show (e.g. “Family movie night brought to you by…”). We also sell branded content rows in The Roku Channel.
Roku TVs are manufactured and sold by our TV brand licensees, integrate our Roku Operating System, or Roku OS, and leverage our smart TV hardware reference design. Current licensee brands consist of Element, Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, RCA, Philips, Sharp and TCL, with a ninth brand, Magnavox, joining in spring 2018. Roku TVs are available in sizes ranging from 24” to 75” at leading retailers in the United States and Canada. In 2017 we had over 150 models available to consumers in North America, up from 100 in 2016, featuring a wide range of prices as well as picture and display capabilities. Consumers are able to choose from very affordable HD and 4K UHD models to TVs with picture quality boosted by 4K, Dolby Vision HDR and local dimming. Approximately one in five smart TVs sold in the United States in 2017 were Roku TVs.
We offer a line of streaming players for sale under the Roku brand in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Republic of Ireland and several Latin American countries, that allow users to access our TV streaming platform. All players run on the Roku OS, and stream content via built-in Ethernet or Wi-Fi capability, depending on the model. Our current product line for the U.S. market includes several models at a range of manufacturers’ suggested retail prices to meet the needs of different users starting at $29.99.
We are capitalizing on the large economic opportunity for a leading TV streaming platform for users, content publishers and advertisers. Our key growth strategies include:
•Grow active accounts. We intend to increase user adoption of the Roku platform by continuing to improve our user experience, to increase the depth and breadth of our content offering, and to enhance our TV streaming platform. We plan to continue to attract more users with a highly compelling TV streaming value proposition that allows users to access the largest collection of channels, pay only for the channels that they want, utilize the best search and discovery tools, and navigate a simple and easy to use user interface. We also plan to increase active accounts by continuing to expand our retail presence and grow our Roku OS licensing program for TV brands and service operators. Further, we believe international expansion represents a large opportunity to grow our active accounts. We plan to continue to invest in our international strategy over time and become a global business in the long term.
•Grow hours streamed. We intend to increase user engagement and hours streamed by offering more content that is easier to find and discover on our platform. By increasing the available content on our platform and making it easily accessible, we have diversified the type of content streamed. When we launched the first Netflix player in 2008, Netflix accounted for 100% of our streaming hours, but now with thousands of channels available in the U.S and internationally, our reliance on any particular channel partner has continued to decline.
•Grow ARPU. We expect to continue to grow ARPU by growing hours streamed and our monetization capabilities. Advertising-based content is our fastest growing segment, and we are increasing the monetization of these hours by expanding our advertising capabilities both on and off the Roku platform. We intend to continue to leverage our data and analytics to deliver relevant advertising and improve the ability of our advertisers to optimize their campaigns and measure their results. We also plan to continue to expand our direct sales teams to increase the number of advertisers who use our services.
We believe that the core technology supporting the Roku OS is a critical competitive advantage and therefore we continue to make substantial investments in our research and development efforts to enhance our platform for users, content publishers and advertisers. We have invested in delivering broad search and discovery capabilities for our users in order to organize and manage the vast amounts of content and pricing information on our platform. Our cloud-based search and discovery features for users are powered by state-of-the-art servers and databases that are purpose-built and support large scale audiences. We have also introduced user experience technology such as private listening and voice search for certain streaming devices.
For content publishers, we offer our open Channel Developer Program to create streaming channels. The Channel Developer Program is based on our Software Development Kit, or SDK, and proprietary implementation of the Brightscript scripting language, which is optimized to provide robust performance and a consistent user experience on any device with the Roku platform. Channel Developers may also take advantage of our feed-based Roku Direct Publisher program, which does not require content publishers to write a single line of code to publish a channel on our platform.
For advertisers, the Roku Ad Framework, or RAF, technology is integrated into the Roku OS. RAF provides a variety of critical and advanced advertising capabilities, including IAB VAST ad processing, interactive rich media features, demographic measurement, device IDs, user privacy controls and compatibility with all major video ad servers, SSPs and DSPs.
Our proprietary systems leverage our feature extraction, information retrieval and matching systems to provide the most relevant ads. The Roku OS also includes our core data platform that manages and analyzes billions of technical and user events and terabytes of uncompressed data that is processed through our platform each day. We use leading big data analytic technologies to identify rich insights to improve user, content publisher and advertiser value from Roku.
In early 2018, we also announced plans to work with manufacturers of smart speakers and sound bars in a whole home entertainment licensing program. The new whole home entertainment licensing program will enable OEM brands to build sound bars and smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems that use Roku software to work together as a home entertainment network. Devices in this whole home entertainment network will be able to connect wirelessly and be controlled by voice commands and a single remote. In addition, OEM brands will be able to license smart sound bar and smart speaker hardware reference designs along with the Roku OS.
Sales and Marketing
We drive growth in our TV streaming platform by building relationships with content publishers, advertisers, TV brands and service operators. We have dedicated business development teams that develop and maintain relationships, to promote and build awareness of the features and advantages of Roku. Our data science team supports our sales and marketing efforts by analyzing data on our platform to increase effectiveness for our content publishers and advertisers as well as for our consumer marketing campaigns. We enter into distribution agreements with our content publishers and license their content through our dedicated content relationship management team. We sell advertising with two direct sales teams, one focused on content publishers, the other focused on traditional advertisers. Our relationship with content publishers is typically client-direct. We secure direct access to publishers’ video ad inventory as part of our distribution agreements and serve as an additional channel for content publishers to monetize their audience. These sales efforts are differentiated and complementary to that of our publishers. Whereas our publishers typically sell on a cross-platform basis and feature their brand and content in their sale, we focus on delivering a large OTT audience across many channels at once. We work with the major ad agencies and holding companies including Dentsu, Havas, Horizon, IPG, Publicis and WPP. We also offer smaller content publishers a self-serve platform to buy promotions, and are increasingly incorporating programmatic capabilities into our advertising sales. We work with TV brands to assist in all phases of the development of Roku TVs, including development, planning, manufacturing and marketing, and similarly work with service operators on the planning and development of their Roku Powered players.
We grow our users by providing consumers with low cost, widely available players and TVs and we promote them using a wide range of marketing techniques. In the fall of 2017, we refreshed our entire product line of five different streaming players, with prices ranging from our most popular Roku Express at $29.99 to our most powerful Roku Ultra at $99.99. Our players and TVs are available at over 16,000 retail locations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Republic of Ireland and several Latin American countries. The majority of Roku players and TVs are sold in the United States through traditional brick and mortar retailers, such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart, including their online sales platforms, and online retailers such as Amazon.com. We also sell players in the United States directly through our website. In addition, in some cases, we sell our streaming players to service operators or channel partners who bundle such players with services that they sell to their customers. We also sell products internationally through distributors and to retailers such as Currys in the United Kingdom and Amazon in France. In 2017 and 2016, Amazon.com, Best Buy and Walmart each accounted for more than 10% of our player revenue. These three retailers collectively accounted for 61% of our player revenue for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016. These retailers also sell products offered by our competitors. We support retailers with an experienced sales management team, and work closely with these retailers to assist with in-store marketing and product mix forecasting, leading us to be a category captain in many major retail locations.
Research and Development
Our research and development model relies upon a combination of in-house staff and offshore design and manufacturing partners to cost-effectively improve and enhance our platform, and to develop new players, TVs, partner licenses, features and functionality. We work closely with content publishers, advertisers, TV brands and service operators to understand their current and future needs. We have designed a product development process that captures and integrates their feedback. In addition, we solicit user feedback in the development of new features and enhancements to the Roku platform.
We intend to continue to significantly invest in research and development to bring new devices to market and expand our platform and capabilities.