To say that the media and entertainment industry is undergoing a massive transformation would be an understatement. The pandemic has pushed the cord-cutting trend of the last decade into high gear with the record 7.5% drop in pay TV subscriptions over a one-year period. At the same time, over-the-top (OTT) streaming services are on rise — Netflix for instance added a record-breaking 37 million paid memberships in 2020, resulting in a 222 million-strong subscriber base.
As a result, the global smart TVs and streaming devices market is growing at a fast pace, and Roku is one the key players. First introduced in May 2008, Roku today reigns supreme among set-top boxes and streaming sticks in North America. Just last year, Roku reached the mark of 56.4 million active accounts across the world, which is more than 10 million up as compared to the same quarter in 2020. And even though the TV platform space is extremely fragmented, Roku accounted for 31% of global big screen viewing time in 2021.
Building a Roku channel
Basically, there are three ways of creating your own Roku channel (it is also called a Roku app) — using Roku Direct Publisher, leasing a Roku channel, or engaging Roku developers to build a custom solution.
Leveraging Roku Direct Publisher
Direct Publisher is Roku’s service to help businesses create and publish branded Roku channels on their own. This is a cheaper and easier option as Roku does all the heavy-lifting, all you need is to follow the steps of an easy-to-understand wizard.
But although Direct Publisher does not require you to write a code, you will still need to figure out — or engage a third-party provider for that — some technical aspects like creating a content feed and setting up a Content Delivery Network (CDN). In addition, Direct Publisher offers fewer customization and monetization options, which can be too much of a tradeoff for some content creators and publishers.
Developing a custom channel with Roku SDK
Those who want to use the advanced capabilities and get maximum value from their Roku channel can use Roku SDK, a set of tools geared up for custom development needs. With this approach, businesses can prioritize the superior user experience, brand image, and advanced monetization opportunities like SVOD and TVOD.
This option, however, requires significant technical expertise since Roku uses a proprietary language called BrightScript for app development. And since this is a Roku-specific programming language, it may be easier to outsource your Roku project than to find the necessary talent in-house.
Promoting your Roku channel
Creating your branded Roku channel is only half the battle, equally important is getting your channel noticed by global audiences. In today’s competitive market, a well-crafted marketing strategy is a must to help you attract more eyeballs and get ahead of the competition. From Roku’s native ad platform to app review sites, there are different ways to promote your channel.
According to the newly updated Roku app certification list, all public channels must include deep linking. Essentially, deep linking refers to the use of a hyperlink to launch a specific piece of content.
By implementing deep linking, publishers can get their content to end users much faster via Roku’s content discovery features like Roku search and Roku homepage banners. This means that when a user selects a TV show in Roku Search, the playback starts immediately without navigating first to the home page or the channel main page.
Roku’s native ad platform
As part of the effort to support channel publishers, the streaming giant has launched Roku Ad Manager, a self-service tool for simple and cost-effective management of promotional campaigns. The platform enables marketers to purchase Roku home screen banners and screensaver ads, control budget, and monitor campaign performance in real time.
In addition, last year Roku acquired Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising (AVA) unit together with its dynamic ad insertion (DAI) technology. This helped Roku take programmatic advertising to the next level and offer even more granular audience segmentation and hyper-personalized targeting.
Third-party marketing platforms
Another way to get exposure to your Roku channel is to leverage third-party advertising solutions. These platforms often use advanced machine learning algorithms to enable programmatic buying and selling of inventory.
One of such platforms is Allroll that offers different engaging ad formats like carousels, banners, video ads, as well as advanced targeting, end-to-end visibility into campaign budget, and real-time reporting.
App review sites
With today’s abundance of apps, users often prefer to do their own research before making a choice. And online reviews, ratings, and referrals are an important source of information that can sway customer behavior. Having your Roku channel reviewed on Rokuguide, Tom’s Guide, Reddit, and other popular and trustworthy sites can augment your marketing strategy and help you grow your audience.
Cross-promotion is another popular marketing technique that Roku publishers can use to expand their reach. Cross-promotion can range from advertising a product or service across different media to collaborating with other businesses to promote each other’s product. Your subscribers may be interested in a channel with similar content and vice versa, so Roku channel owners with similar target audiences can exchange branded content and links to each other’s channels and benefit from a growing subscriber base.
Are you ready to grow your Roku channel?
Given Roku’s popularity, there is no longer a question of building your own Roku channel or engaging a software development company with Roku experience. The real question is how to promote it in the most efficient way and take a share of a 56 million-strong user base. There are many ways for Roku publishers to grow exposure and bring their content to more viewers. Cross-promoting and app review sites are free marketing techniques, while Roku’s native ad platform and third-party marketing platforms allow content owners to target their audiences based on interests, demographics and other factors for better results.