One of the most unusual quirks of this year’s Emmy nominations was the fact that Quibi managed to land eight of them — quite a feat, given that the streamer doesn’t actually exist anymore. (Quibi wound up with a much higher tally than plenty of networks that, well, are still in business.)
Quibi shut down in December, less than a year after its much-heralded launch. The Jeffrey Katzenberg-Meg Whitman startup and its promise of delivering “quick bite” content to users exclusively on their phones became a bit of a punchline in the industry. But the programming itself was rather solid, attracting top Hollywood producers and stars. Clearly TV Academy voters found it Emmy-worthy: Last year, Quibi won two Emmys (for “#FreeRayshawn”).
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This year’s three nominated Quibi shows — “Die Hart,” “Mapleworth Murders” and “Reno 911!” — live on via Roku, which acquired the Quibi programming slate earlier this year for its Roku Channel. Here’s the awkward thing: The Television Academy still lists the network for those shows as Quibi, since that’s where they debuted. But Roku, which has rebranded all of the shows as Roku Originals, is boldly embracing the nods as its first Emmy nominations.
On Roku, viewers can watch the programs for free (with ads between the short episodes) and on a TV — two things they couldn’t do under Quibi’s mobile-only, two-tier paid-subscription model. Moving to Roku “was such a seamless fit because we need ad breaks anyway, because that’s how we do support our programming,” says Roku scripted exec Colin Davis, who had been at Quibi. “We obviously shot these with world-class filmmakers, so it is at the highest quality and looks amazing on a TV screen.”
Roku launched its Roku Originals with 30 titles and added 23 more last week; the company says those former Quibi shows quickly became the top 10 most-watched programs on the Roku Channel (which also includes a library of acquired TV series and films from various suppliers).
Among the recent additions is “Mapleworth Murders,” a comedic homage to “Murder, She Wrote” and British mystery procedurals centering on novella writer Abigail Mapleworth — played by co-creator Paula Pell. “I can’t wait for a whole new audience to find out how drop-dead funny Paula Pell is,” co-creator and co-star John Lutz tells me.
Roku isn’t married to Quibi’s short-form length, so as it starts pondering new originals, they may appear in all shapes and sizes. Already, I can exclusively reveal that Roku has ordered four additional episodes of “Reno 911!” that run at a full half-hour. Roku also is pondering a revival of NBC’s canceled “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” but Davis is mum: “We continue to evaluate things that make sense for us,” he says. “I will say on a personal note, I can’t go anywhere without seeing fans and their encouragement and enthusiasm for that show, and I think that’s a really special thing to have.”
As for the future of Roku Originals, Davis is similarly cryptic: “I would not be surprised if you and I are talking soon about new opportunities.” Roku has already renewed Kevin Hart’s “Die Hart,” and with more “Reno 911!” plus that potential “Zoey’s” revival on the way, those are all Emmy favorites that could very well put Roku in the awards mix again next year.
And by then, the TV Academy will have to actually credit Roku.
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