Roku (ROKU) Founder: It’s a Great Time to Be In the Streaming Business

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Roku (ROKU) founder Anthony Wood is tuned into the happiness channel, for good reason. 

Wood’s pioneering streaming creation saw third quarter sales clock in at $124.8 million, topping Wall Street estimates of $110 million. While the company lost 10 cents a share in the quarter, it was far better than the loss of 29 cents a share analysts expected.

The results helped fuel a new wave of bullishness in a stock that has now soared 42% since an early October IPO. 

“It’s a great time to be in the streaming business, and it’s a great time to be America’s leading streaming business,” Wood told TheStreet in an interview. “Everything has been building, but it seems like we have hit an inflection point in terms of awareness to what’s happening.” 

TheStreet talked with Wood about life after the IPO and what he has planned for Roku in the year ahead. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

TheStreet: Are you surprised by how the market has responded to your IPO? Has the reception changed anything internally at Roku?

Wood: That’s an interesting question. It hasn’t changed anything at Roku the company. What it has done is help educate investors what our business model really is. We are a pretty misunderstood company, although I think that is starting to change. People generally see the consumer facing side of Roku and they have thoughts like ‘oh I can get a $29 Roku Express and that’s how they make money.’ But of course, we make money on our platform business. 

It has been hard historically for people to value Roku because we are a different business, we aren’t a simple business. I think being public takes the valuation out of the hands of just a few investors to the masses. 

TheStreet: Big moment in your life looking back over last month or so?

Wood: Obviously I am proud of Roku, it’s great to go public and it adds a new fun dimension to running the business. But my personality is like ‘oh, OK, so what’s next.’ That sets expectations for the future that are a little higher. 

TheStreet: Crazy week in media with Disney (DIS) reportedly showing interest in Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) and AT&T (T) trying to lock down its Time Warner (TWX) deal. Do you think these traditional TV players are underestimating the shift of ad dollars to streaming services?

Wood: Yes. Not all of them. Fox’s leaders I think understand, but many of them don’t.

TheStreet: Does Roku want to do original programming like a Netflix (NFLX) ?

Wood: I would never say never, but it’s not something we are planning on doing. Our business model is to distribute content at scale for other people. The closest thing to original programming for us is that we launched the Roku channel. It’s early days, but it has gotten off to a nice start. Distributing content is already on our platform, but it’s also a mechanism for a library of content from studio owners to share content directly on Roku and promote it and monetize it. I think that will be a big future for us as well. 

TheStreet: Building Roku directly into smart TVs, big opportunity?

Wood: Yes. I think the two most important areas in our future are our advertising business and our Roku TV licensing business. On the platform side, 90% of the business is advertising and there is a lot of innovation happening there. In terms of building active accounts, a metric that increased 48% year over year in the third quarter, there are two ways to do that. Sell Roku players and sell directly to TV companies. 

The TV part is the fastest-growing part of the business. It’s a huge shift that has played out elsewhere before. In the old days, for example, phone companies made their own software. But then smartphones came out and the software quality people expected to use became higher. It was impossible for a phone company to make its own software, so then came Android. The same thing is happening in smart TVs. It used to be that smart TV players would make their own software, but then that software isn’t competitive anymore. And so they are all starting to license, and Roku is leading here.

About 1 in 5 smart TVs sold this year ran Roku’s platform.

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