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TV streaming up 50 percent during lockdown says Roku, but concerns remain

Unsurprisingly, we are all watching a huge amount of television right now

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TV streaming device maker Roku says its users watched 49 percent more content in the last quarter than they did a year ago.

This amounts to 13.2 billion hours of streamed televisions viewed by Roku's approximately 39.8 million active user accounts between December and the end of March. Users increased by three million, or around eight percent, during the same time.

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What's particularly impressive here is how the 50 percent spike in viewing time spans across the entire quarter, while much of Europe and the US didn't enter lockdown conditions until March. Roku said: "Beginning in late Q1 Roku started to see the effects of large numbers of people 'sheltering at home'. For Roku, this has resulted in an acceleration in new account growth and an increase in viewing."

However, this does not directly result in increased sales and profit for the company. Consumers in many countries are not able to visit stores where Roku devices are sold, and numerous online retailers are either temporarily closed, fulfilling orders more slowly than normal, or are restricting the items they sell to those deemed essential.

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With that in mind, Roku has chosen to withdraw its full-year 2020 financial outlook "due to economic uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic."

In estimating its financial results for quarter one of 2020, Roku predicts revenue of $307-$317 million, with a total gross profit of $139-$144 million, and a net loss of between $55 million and $60 million.

While the Roku platform still offers plenty of new and old TV and movies to watch, the company could see a lack of content later in 2020 and stretching into 2021.

This is because the pandemic has caused the postponement of TV and movie production, which will likely result in a gap in available content in the coming months. There has also been a substantial dip in ad revenue for YouTube creators, whose work is available through Roku but is now in decline due to their inability to leave home.

Speaking about changes to marketing budgets due to the coronavirus pandemic, Roku CEO Anthony Wood said: "We have been working closely with advertisers to help update their plans to reflect new viewing patterns and adjust their overall marketing mix which has been affected by social distancing."

Wood added that he expects "some marketers to pause or reduce ad investment in the new term".

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