Review: 'Roku Recommends'

Post by: Rick Ellis 04 June, 2021

Roku announced earlier this week that is launching a new weekly series called Roku Recommends, which will be hosted by Maria Menounos and Andrew Hawkins, who will "present streaming recommendations for the week, from trending originals and premieres to series debuts and not-to-be-missed classics." I suppose it would be considered snarky to mention that Roku might not need a show like this is the content discovery and search on their Roku Channel app wasn't so terrible.  This idea sounds a bit different than the "Roku Recommends" ad unit I reported on in early April.

But if you've been reading this newsletter for awhile, you might remember that I suggested a similar idea for Hulu a few months ago, but in that case I was proposing more genre-specific mini-shows:

One example of this would be for Christmas movies, which are spread across numerous channels. Viewers who enjoy these movies tend to watch a lot of them. And they would likely engage strongly with a five-minute show that highlighted the new Christmas movies of the week and where to find them. The potential internal challenge of this idea is that sales and marketing would see this as a place to wring money out of networks and studios by offering pay-for-play placement. But this idea only works if it's recommendations are organic and have credibility.

And that internal pressure from sales and marketing is why I am skeptical of the effectiveness of this Roku idea. I'm sure the show will push some viewers, but it sounds at first glance like this is more of a feature to sell to advertisers and content partners. And those partners likely have interests that aren't aligned with viewers.

The first episode is live now and it runs 16 minutes. There is a 60-second interview with Patton Oswalt and a "Top Five" things to stream this week. Which for the record, are these titles:

5) Girls5Eva (Peacock)

4) Alias (Roku Channel)

3) Cruella (Disney+ Premiere)

2) Mare Of Eastown (HBO Max)

1) Marvel's M.O.D.O.K. (Hulu)

And then there is the "Child Proof Lock" feature (sponsored by Walmart!), which is the suggestion of a TV show or movie that can be watched by the entire family. Hawkins' suggestion is Paddington 2, which can be rented at Walmart-owned Vudu (hmmmm). They also do a "Trending On Roku" feature, where the hosts pick a series that is "trending on the Roku app." Amazingly, Menounos picks the Roku Original reboot of Punk'd, which is one of the Quibi shows Roku picked up after that service shut down late last year.

There's nothing WRONG with Roku Recommends. But there aren't any surprises and you can see the sales department fingerprints all over the choices. And it's an interesting decision to only highlight things that have already premiered as opposed to promoting content premiering in the coming week.

Last modified on Friday, 04 June 2021 17:59