Roku, Tubi keep bulking up on original content

"Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas" will debut on the Roku Channel later this year. (Roku/Lionsgate)

The Roku Channel and Tubi, two of the biggest free, ad-supported television services (FAST) in the U.S., keep bulking up on original content to stand out in the crowd.

The Roku Channel is snatching up the recently canceled NBC comedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” for a new holiday special, which will be first original feature-length film. The film will air for free on The Roku Channel in the U.S., as well as on Roku in Canada and the U.K. All 25 episodes of the series will be available to stream for free on The Roku Channel in the U.S. starting later this fall.

For NBCUniversal, this is the second recently canceled series that has been revived by a streaming rival following Netflix’s decision to bring back “Manifest” for a final season.

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“‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ is the kind of show that doesn’t just entertain people, it speaks to them,” said Colin Davis, Roku’s Head of Original Scripted Programming, in a statement. “The show has a healing power about it, which is brought to life by the incredibly talented cast through music and dance. That connection with the audience is what makes bringing a holiday-themed film like Zoey to life with the original cast so special. We are absolutely thrilled to call ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ our first Roku Original film and make it available to both longtime fans and new ones on The Roku Channel this holiday.”

Roku’s first original full-length film follows other recent original content moves including the continued launch of the content slate acquired from Quibi.

At the same time, Tubi, the ad-supported streaming service owned by Fox, announced that it will debut “Corrective Measures,” a new original film starring Bruce Willis and Michael Rooker, in spring 2022. The announcement follows shortly after Tubi debuted “Tales of a Fifth Grade Robin Hood,” an original series starring Jon Lovitz.

Roku, Tubi and other free, ad-supported services ramping their original content strategies will likely lead to a boost in advertising revenue for the platforms. According to recent research from nScreenMedia, the virtuous cycle of expanding audiences attracting more and better content, attracting more advertisers, driving up ad values, and, in turn, attracting more viewers with better content, will nearly double revenue in the next two years. The research firm estimates that ad revenue earned by virtual linear channels will grow from $2.1 billion in 2021 to $4.1 billion in 2023.