Warner Bros. Discovery signs FAST content deals with The Roku Channel, Tubi

Warner Bros. Discovery is placing hundreds of titles and launching its first-ever branded channels on free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services under new separate deals with The Roku Channel and Fox’s Tubi.

It appears that The Roku Channel and Tubi are getting largely similar content under their respective deals, though the latter has already released specifics in terms of channel branding and timing.

Both deals will see hundreds of WBD-owned TV shows and movies join each of the FAST platforms, including 225 AVOD titles totaling over 2,000 hours of on-demand content. Content includes some fan favorites, which were earlier pulled from WBD’s HBO Max as part of a strategic content review related to cost savings efforts – such as “West World” and “The Nevers” – to find new homes, where analysts have noted they can save money on residuals while generating syndication revenue. Unscripted shows like “Cake Boss” and “Say Yes to the Dress” are also part of the deals.

Notably, The Roku Channel and Tubi are also each getting the first WBD-branded linear FAST channels. Tubi disclosed its WBD lineup, with content coming to the platform starting February 1, while Roku hasn’t yet said how the new WBD-branded channels will appear when they join the platform in “spring 2023.”

Tubi’s adding 14 linear-style free channels with WBD content, including three curated by the Fox-owned FAST.  The Tubi-curated channels include WB TV Series, featuring shows “West World,” “Raised by Wolves,” “The Nevers” and “Time Traveler’s Wife,” among others; WB TV Reality, featuring unscripted shows such as “Legendary,” “FBoy Island” and “Finding’ Magic Mike,”’ and WB TV Family, focused on family-friendly series including “Head of the Class.”

Tubi will also add 11 genre-focused FAST channels, with WBD content also available on-demand, spanning genres such as baking, pets, real estate and interior design, classic films from the '70s-'90s, how-to’s, crime series and mysteries among others. Tubi said over 90 Warner Bros. films will join the platform across FAST channels and on-demand library.

“Warner Bros. Discovery has a catalogue that TV lovers can't get enough of and Tubi is proudly making many of these recent hits from Warner Bros. Discovery available to new audiences this month," said Adam Lewinson, Chief Content Officer at Tubi, in a statement. “From critically acclaimed and groundbreaking to lighthearted and addicting, our new WB branded FAST channels and on-demand offering will speak to each of Tubi’s distinct audience communities.”

For The Roku Channel and Tubi it reflects a content boost for both platforms. Tubi at the end of September saw ad revenue on its platform grow nearly 30% year over year – the first time revenue for the FAST meaningfully surpassed ad revenue generated by Fox Entertainment according to Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch – as total viewing time on the platform reached 1.3 billion hours.

The Roku Channel, meanwhile,  has been building up its content efforts since bringing former Fox Entertainment chief Charlie Collier on board to lead its media business as president last October. That includes adding 11 FAST channels and on-demand from AMC, as well as Warner Music Experience (WMX) content, and the NHL’s first linear channel.

Roku recently disclosed reaching 70 million active accounts and The Roku Channel was a top 5 channel on the platform by active account reach and streaming hours on Roku in Q3 2022.

Roku said it's “thrilled” to be partnering with WBD to help the company expand into the FAST space.

“As FAST continues to explode in popularity amongst cord-cutters, we’re seeing content players increasingly shift their focus towards capturing this audience, by bringing some of their best stuff to FAST. The rapid expansion of premium content on FAST is a win for both the viewer and content owner, as well as advertisers looking to reach these audiences through well-known programming,” said Rob Holmes, VP of programming at Roku, in a statement. “We’re delighted to be one of Warner Bros. Discovery’s inaugural FAST partners, and we look forward to introducing its incredible TV series, films, and entertainment brands to a whole new audience on The Roku Channel.”

Smart move for everyone - analyst

Commenting on the latest deals with Tubi and The Roku Channel, TVREV analyst Alan Wolk told Fierce he thinks it’s a smart move for all involved.

“The key is that it appears that the channels will carry WBD branding on them, which is essentially free advertising for WBD, a way of saying ‘If you like this, there’s more like it on Max,’” Wolk said via email, referring to the reported front-runner name of ‘Max’ for WBD’s forthcoming premium streaming service.

As for Tubi, and especially Roku, Wolk said it’s programming the platforms now have that others don’t – helping to keep viewers tuning in.

“On FASTs, a viewer stumbling on a channel or an on-demand library that appeals to them is key to retention – they’ll keep coming back for more,” he commented. “Because there’s no friction in moving from one FAST service to another (no sign-up, no subscription), it’s easy for consumer to jump around, so finding something like ‘West World’ should keep them coming back.”

Wolk also noted that Tubi and Roku are getting 225 on-demand titles to complement the linear channels, “so if someone wants to binge a series or watch a move from the start, they have that option too.”

As for WBD, it’s a stronger step for the company’s more recent strategy of shifting content to free ad-supported services. As Wolk has previously pointed out, pushing content to FASTs makes sense as it’s a way to monetize library content, surface libraries for niche content categories and increase time spent on platforms.

WBD first dipped its toe in the FAST space last year, including with the launch of The Motor Trend channel on Samsung TV Plus in October- the first entertainment-focused FAST channel for WBD.

At the time, Wolk had told Fierce he expected it wouldn’t be WBD’s last FAST channel, a view further validated by today’s deals with Roku and Tubi.

WBD is gearing up to launch a combined premium streaming service this spring that brings together HBO Max and Discovery+. However, executives have said that the company is exploring launching its own FAST service. Speaking during Q2 earnings last year, WBD CEO David Zaslav indicated a FAST wouldn’t come until after the combined streaming service is firmly established, with a FAST serving as an entry point to the premium service. WBD’s JB Perette also noted that content on a FAST service would be distinct from the premium SVOD programming.

“With over 100,000 titles or episodes across our combined portfolio there’s a lot of content that wouldn’t necessarily make sense in a premium product that might make sense in a FAST,” Perrette said in August.