Roku tops 50 million subscribers as streaming surges amid pandemic

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Streaming stick-maker Roku said Wednesday that it had a booming fourth-quarter, ending the year with 51 million new accounts, putting it neck-and-neck with Amazon Fire TV.

Shares of Roku rose nearly 4 percent in midday-trading.

In a blog post revealing preliminary estimated data, Roku credited the coronavirus pandemic for accelerating the shift to streaming, as well as a mix of nostalgic movies and new content.

Customers flocked to “Elf,” the 2003 holiday comedy starring Will Ferrell, Roku, said, noting that the movie was the top title searched last year, while actor Adam Sandler, known for movies like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore,” was the most-searched person.

“Hocus Pocus,” the 1993 dark fantasy Halloween-inspired comedy about three witches, starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, also made the list for most searched film in October.

Customers also sought out “Yellowstone,” the 2018 TV series starring Kevin Costner, as well as “Trolls World Tour” and “Scoob!”, two kid-friendly animated movies that bypassed the cinemas this year and went straight to streaming.

Overall, Roku said its users streamed nearly 59 billion hours of content in 2020, marking a 55 percent surge over last year. The company, along with Amazon Fire TV, which logged 50 million new accounts last month, has become the gatekeeper of streaming in the US.

Several new major streaming services have hit the market in recent years, such as Disney+, HBO Max, AppleTV+ and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which has boosted growth for both platforms.

During the fourth-quarter ended Dec. 31, new distribution deals with Peacock and HBO Max helped Roku add 14 million new accounts, amounting to a 39 percent rise over the prior year period.

In order to keep up the momentum and bring in new content, Roku is currently in talks to acquire Quibi’s library of short-form TV shows.

The deal would give Roku a slate of exclusive programs for its own free-to-watch app called the Roku Channel, which currently broadcasts other companies’ movies and shows along with ads, 

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