Roku, at its NewFront press event yesterday (May 3), announced that Roku City — its beloved screensavers — are getting branded takeovers. The first partner? Roku must be loving it, because McDonalds golden arches are entering Roku City — as seen above.
Roku City, if you're not familiar, is the nickname of one of the stock screensavers available on all of the Roku devices. And while this screensaver already displays ads which appear on virtual billboards, today's announcement is about something grander.
Specifically, Roku announced that "Roku City Brand Experiences," wherein its screensaver will (their words) "become an icon not just for consumers, but for marketers too." And the McDonalds fast food company is the first into the screensavers.
Roku says that McDonalds will "become unmissable" in Roku City, which it claims appears in "nearly 40 million homes" per month.
This was just one of the announcements at the Roku event. The company also revealed that brands will get the ability to "be active hosts in content discovery," stating that new "home and garden and sports experiences" will "curate the best content across all of TV, right from Roku's home screen." Roku already offers a Sports Zone, so we're curious how this will differ.
New Roku Original shows were announced, including Celebrity Family Cook Off, which comes from executive producer Sofia Vergara. Social media star Juanpa Zurita will host Carpe DM, and a Side Hustlers docuseries about entrepreneurship from Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine.
The Great American Baking Show — which stars featuring Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry — is also coming back, as is Honest Renovations.
Also, expect ads to be more intelligently placed. Roku revealed it will offer partners contextual AI to search its show and movie library for plot moments that "match a brand’s message and place their ads in real time."
Analysis: Is Roku City going to lose its charm?
Advertising, when done ham-fistedly, is a key way to annoy audiences. As much as we want to doubt Roku would ruin the Roku City reputation — it was written about somewhat-glowingly in the New York Times — we're concerned.
Specifically, the line that gives us pause is that McDonalds will be "the first brand to become unmissable" (emphasis ours) in Roku City. There's a difference between impossible-to-miss and excessively-done, and we'll be the judge of that.
Currently, the ads in Roku City are lightly-added, in small billboards. And each billboard features a glowing icon underneath it, which casually signals to customers how they can access the advertised content. These are, we'd argue, not-impossible to miss, so we're curious about what will change going forward.
If the integrations will be done as seen above? Roku seems to have figured it out. Hopefully nobody goes further over-the-top.