Phil Autelitano: Ten Ways to Monetize Your Roku Channel.
For Roku developers, and anyone launching a new Roku channel, creating a new TV channel is one thing, but once you have this great looking channel, jam-packed with compelling content, ready to roll, how do you plan to make money with it?
Undoubtedly your first answer will be, “With advertising!”
Most Roku channels are monetized with advertising. It only makes sense (no pun intended) because that’s how “regular” TV channels make money, and it’s a model that translates well from the old technology to the new.
Most Roku channels integrate with an advertising network that streams ads and pays you per M or per view. It’s a great system — it works, it makes money and I totally recommend streaming ads for EVERY Roku channel.
So there’s your #1 — video advertising networks. Sign up with a video advertising network, add their code to your channel and voila! you’re already making money. I do however recommend signing-up for more than one, as most ad networks only fill 40–60% of your ad breaks. (Contact me for more information about which ad networks work best.)
For more information on ad networks and how to make money with them, you’ll want to read this other Medium article, too: How to Make Money with Your Roku Channel
Next up, you can approach individual advertisers and have them pay you directly to advertise say, a 15- or 30-second spot on your channel, X number of times, etc. Of course, this requires a bit work — or selling — where the latter didn’t, but you can easily earn a lot more. Of course every channel is different, and some content is more “valuable” to potential advertisers than others, so I won’t try to tell you HOW MUCH to charge. You’ll have to feel it out at first. I’d suggest not being too pricey at first, considering the amount of registered viewers you have starting out.
You can sell advertising in addition to using the advertising network.
So there you have # 2 — direct advertising; sell ad “spots” on your channel and insert them manually into your content.
Now let’s move on to #3 — sponsorship. Consider finding ONE financial sponsor to sponsor your entire channel. This can be a lot easier than selling “spots” to individual advertisers, and it can easily be done in addition to using an ad network.
With sponsorship, you simply find a strategic partner to flip the bill for the entire channel, and hopefully, leave you with some profit at the end of each month.
Your content would need to be relevant to the sponsor — i.e., Bass Pro Shops sponsoring a fishing channel, or Betty Crocker sponsoring a cooking channel — and they’re probably going to want you to “brand” it with their own logo or theme, or at least a complimentary color scheme. And yes, they’re probably going to want some “say” in the content you present.
And that leads me to #4 — product placement.
Product placements are when companies pay you a fee to mention, display or feature their products within your content. You see this a lot on TV shows, where a company like Coke pays to have that show’s characters drink their soda. Sometimes it’s more blatantly obvious than others.
Depending on the content you create, you may have inherent opportunities to sell “product placements.” Sticking with the fishing and cooking channel themes, maybe Zebco, a manufacturer of fishing reels, is willing to pay for you to use their reels excslusively in your show — and periodically remind people of it. Or maybe they’re just willing to provide the equipment, and not pay, in which case, TRADE (barter) is always good, too.
For the cooking channel, maybe Betty Crocker will pay you to use ONLY their products in your recipes — or maybe they’ll provide them free or trade out, too. You never know unless you ask.
You’ll be surprised, when you start telling people you run a TV channel, how they all want to get involved. That’s part of what makes it fun and interesting.
Now on to #5 — Banner ads and text ads.Yeah these are kind of boring but, they DO make money. By banner ads and text ads I mean, incorporating them into your channel’s theme as well as into the content itself — i.e., superimposing them at the bottom of your videos, flashing them at the beginning or end of a sequence, or something as simple as adding contact info or URLs to it.
For instance, maybe you’re presenting a travel video on New York City. In that video you feature several restaurants. You can, in effect, sell those restaurants on having their contact info — phone, email, URL — superimposed. They’re not going to pay a fortune for it, but it all adds up in the end.
Almost there, #6 is donations.
If there’s one thing there’s a lot of on Roku, it’s churches and religious content. Most of them are able to present their content because of the generosity of people who donate. That’s not to say you have to be a church or a non-profit to accept donations.
Maybe you’re running a channel with specialized content for only a select few — like a birdwatching channel, or a channel for Scion enthusiasts, or the Donny Osmond fan club channel — in which case some of your viewers would be more than happy to donate regularly to help you keep it going.
Donations don’t have to come through the channel itself, (Roku isn’t enabled for that, yet) but can always be sent snail mail, or PayPal, or you can set up payment processing through a website.
If your content means a lot to even a small subset of people, don’t be afraid to ask for donations.
After donations, we have #7 — Subscriptions.
Subscription-based content (a/k/a SVOD, short for “subscription video on demand”) is a popular way to monetize your Roku content, though I would caution you in using this. Consider first that many viewers come to Roku looking for “free.” Chances are they’re already paying for Netflix and/or Hulu and/or Amazon, and/or Sling TV, and/or cable, along with their Internet. Asking them to pay another $1 or $5 a month (or even a one-time fee) on top of that may be asking for a lot. You’re content must be truly unique and should have a reasonably large following before you do that, and even then, you may be asking a lot.
Subscription payments can be setup directly through Roku (Roku Billing Services) — where viewers subscribe on-screen through Roku — or through a process known as “Registration and Linking,” where viewers sign up and pay on a website or app, and then receive a code to add the premium content to their Roku device.
Roku Billing Services is a service offered by Roku that allows you to sell access to your content, by one-time fees, and monthly- or yearly subscriptions, directly through the Roku Channel Store. They can also set you up to sell certain consumable and non-consumable products, although there is an application and approval process. And Roku takes 30%.
This is how a lot of channels offer pay-per-view movies and content. If you can go that way, great — I wouldn’t suggest running ads in your PPV content though.
You can find out more about Roku Billing Services on the Developer site.
Registration & Linking is a bit more complex and is best left to an experienced developer like Mediarazzi.
A good alternative to the subscription idea is to offer viewers an “ad-free” version of your channel for a set price or a monthly or yearly subscription. Say, $1 or $2 or $5 a month to “opt-out” of ads, for the ad-free version. In this sense, you change the viewers’ perception from “subscription” to “ad free” — although they’re one and the same, perception is everything.
Of course, you’ll want to weigh your opt-out price against versus the average viewer time on your channel, and hopefully set a price that still leaves you with something close to what you would have earned WITH ads, if you can. Be sure to take into consideration any cuts to Roku or other payment processing in doing so.
On to #8 — Performance-Based (or Per Inquiry) Advertising.
This may be a new one to you. With Per Inquiry Advertising, you run the ad spots for your advertisers but instead of them paying you up-front for the spot, they pay you a commission on the back-end for all the sales those ads generate.
If you have a busy channel, this can be more lucrative than being paid up-front.
Per Inquiry Advertising is typically done through the use of a special toll-free number or a specific product code — i.e., “ROKUDEAL” — or it can be set-up with a coupon code (use code “SPICE123”) or an affiliate URL — i.e., “Sign up now at www.RokuDeals.whatever!” with that URL masking an affiliate link that forwards directly to Roku Store.
In all of those instances, the video content must be customized with the specific phone number, code, or URLs. In many cases it’s often worth the effort.
Traditional TV channels do this a lot with consumer products like Sham-Wow and Ginsu Knives, but it can also work well with services. And it doesn;t always have to be a direct purchase — maybe the advertiser is willing to pay just for a lead it generates, like an insurance quote, or a mortgage quote.
AdNexxt (mentioned previously) also offers performance-based advertising solutions to Roku channels.
Next up is #9 — Infomercials.
Bigger than commercials, infomercials typically run 15, 30, or 60 minutes. They’re not exactly ideal for Roku, but with the right production, amid the right content, they can be perfect for this venue.
Infomercials can be created to incorporate the basic advertising element — i.e., telling and selling like most ads do — along with the Per Inquiry and/or product placement elements mentioned previously. This makes for a win-win situation for everyone.
The best infomercials are the ones that don’t “look” like infomercials. They have actual value, they actually teach you something WHILE selling you. They can be an entire show about real estate investing, for instance, but peppered with plugs for a specific real estate “free report” or “book.” Or they can be an interesting “show” on healthy living or food or travel, but riddled with calls to action.
Don’t rule out infomercials if you or your advertiser have the ability to create them. They can serve two purposes — they can act AS content AND as revenue-generating advertising.
Finally, #10 — Brandvertainment.
One of the best uses for a Roku channel is to build brand loyalty. Compelling content related to your brand, whether directly or indirectly, (what I like to call, “Brandvertainment”) will keep viewers coming back and keep your brand name in the forefront of their minds. Red Bull, Cuisinart, Paula Deen, Whisky a Go Go, Optima Batteries — these are just a few examples of “branded” channels; that is, channels used primarily for the purpose of promoting their brands and building brand loyalty. Brandvertainment, while “indirectly” monetizing your channel, is just as powerful, if not more so, than all of the other monetization strategies discussed above.
You have to be careful though. There’s a fine-line between “Brandvertainment,” and blatant advertising or infomercials. If all of your content is nothing more than a collection of sales pitches, with no entertainment value, then you’re not really building your brand or brand loyalty, you’re merely just advertising and viewers will quickly see right through that.
Brandvertainment must be able to stand on it’s own. It should be quality and entertaining content first, branded second. That’s where it’s power lies.
Phil Autelitano’s company, Mediarazzi, develops and monetizes TV channels for Roku. You can learn more at: http://www.mediarazzi.com.
If you’re looking to launch a Roku or other connected TV channel or already have a Roku channel you want to monetize, email email@example.com today!