Roku Leans Into Unscripted Amid Writers Strike: Renews ‘Great American Baking Show,’ Orders Charlie Puth Comedy

Roku is reinvesting in — and bulking up — its originals lineup, announcing a new season of “The Great American Baking Show” and an unscripted comedy featuring singer-songwriter Charlie Puth among the shows coming to the Roku Channel.

Notably, the content announcements at Roku’s 2023 NewFronts presentation — coming on Day One of the WGA writers strike — were unscripted/reality formats. Also at the event in New York Tuesday, the streaming platform unveiled a suite of new ad solutions, including sponsorships for its popular Roku City screensaver.

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The company announced that it has renewed reality competition series “The Great American Baking Show” for Season 2. The news came ahead of the premiere Friday, May 5, of the new six-episode run of the show featuring Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry (pictured above, left) on the Roku Channel. “The Great American Baking Show,” produced by Love Productions USA, ran for five seasons on ABC as a spinoff of original hit “The Great British Baking Show” before it was picked up last year by Roku. The streaming company previously acquired U.S. rights to dozens of episodes in the “Great Baking Show” franchise for a FAST channel. Roku will also bring back the holiday special of “The Great American Baking Show,” which will feature all-new celebrity bakers and debut this upcoming holiday season.

“Charlie Makes a Record” (working title) is an unscripted comedy series that takes stories from his real life and “elevates them into borderline-surreal scenarios” to show “a whole different side of Charlie and his talents,” according to Roku. The series will follow Puth as he writes new music and attempts to balance stardom with a regular life… all while “trying to silence the oppressive sense of crippling solitude racing through his head.” The six-episode series is produced by Scout Productions with David Collins, Rob Eric, Renata Lombardo and Michael Williams serving as executive producers alongside Charlie Puth, his sister Mikaela Puth and Ty Stiklorius.

Additional originals announcements:

  • Roku renewed “Honest Renovations,” the home renovation original series hosted and executive produced by Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis, for Season 2. In the show, Alba and Mathis help deserving families overcome parenting challenges through the renovation and transformation of home spaces. The series is produced by Summit House and 3 Arts Entertainment.

  • Roku ordered “Side Hustlers,” a docuseries produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine (which is part of Candle Media) in association with Ally. The five-episode series features Emma Grede, co-founder and CEO of Good American and founding partner of Skims, who also serves as executive producer. In the show, two investors each mentor three aspiring entrepreneurs — who are looking to transforming their “side hustles” into sustainable businesses. In the end, each investor decides if they want to put a large amount of cash into the business while the side-hustlers decide if they are going to finally quit their day jobs.

  • Roku is reteaming with Hello Sunshine and Zoë Saldaña’s Cinestar Pictures for unscripted film “Meet Me in Rome,” the second installment in the reality rom-com franchise after “Meet Me in Paris.” The 90-minute sequel will follow a new group of young women looking for a “love like in the movies.”

  • Roku ordered “Special Delivery,” a food competition show that tests chefs on how well they can craft dishes for at-home delivery. The six-episode series is produced by ITV America’s High Noon Entertainment and Ready Set Go. Scott Feeley and Adam Sher are the executive producers for High Noon; Donray Von and Meredith Sandland serve as executive producers for Ready Set Go.

Other Roku originals featured in the presentation included the previously announced “Carpe DM with Juanpa,” featuring Mexican social media star Juanpa Zurita, and “Celebrity Family Cook Off” (working title), executive produced by Sofia Vergara and hosted by her son, Manolo Gonzalez Vergara.

“Bringing together the power of the Roku platform and the strong storytelling of our top-tier global creative partners has made Roku originals unmissable TV for millions of streamers,” said David Eilenberg, Roku Media’s head of content. “We’re thrilled to delight our audience with new premium original series and proud to continue the Roku originals stories that audience already love, by bringing several series back for more.”

The new titles join the Roku Channel’s lineup of upcoming originals, including “WWE: Recruits,” “Kevin Hart’s Muscle Car Crew,” “Morimoto’s Sushi Master,” “Match Me in Miami,” “Reptile Royalty,” “Lincoln Log Masters,” “The Marriage Pact,” “The Newsreader,” “Die Hart” and “Chad.”

At the NewFronts, the company revealed the Roku City brand experience will let marketers buy a sponsorship slot on the screensaver. This summer, McDonald’s is slated to be the first brand to sponsor Roku City, according to the company. The company says the screensaver is used by nearly 40 million active streaming accounts.

Roku also announced new brand sponsorship opportunities on the platform’s home screen for two content verticals — home and garden, and sports — that curate content from across multiple sources. In addition, the company touted new AI-powered contextual ads for shows and movies on the Roku Channel, which uses artificial intelligence to search the Roku library for “iconic plot moments” that match a brand’s message and places ads in real-time.

During the presentation, Roku highlighted its commerce solutions, which provide data measurement to advertisers in partnership with retailers and marketplaces including Instacart, Best Buy, Cox Automotive, DoorDash, Kroger and Walmart. The company also called out its primetime reach guarantee, announced last month, under which Roku is pledging to clients that their campaign will reach more TV households in primetime than the average program on a top-five cable TV network.

Roku noted that in 2022, streaming TV surpassed cable viewing for the first time (per Nielsen). In the first quarter of 2023, Roku reported streaming per active account reached a record high of 3.9 hours per day.

“We’re uniquely positioned to make brands unmissable in TV because Roku is not fighting for turf in streaming — we are the turf,” said Alison Levin, Roku’s VP of ad revenue and marketing solutions. She added that the company is “bringing the entire power of the platform, not just the pieces, to give marketers more of the scale, delight and flexibility that they love in TV.”

Roku hosted the NewFronts presentation at the Chelsea Factory in Manhattan.

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