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The Platform's the Thing as Roku Rocks Its Latest Quarter

By Rick Munarriz - May 10, 2018 at 2:02PM

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The streaming media device maker and platform operator sees platform revenue overtake hardware revenue for the first time. We know the growth driver at Roku, and it's the one behind the wheel now.

Cord-cutters continue to flock to Roku (ROKU -5.04%) and its platform. Roku stock opened 6% higher on Thursday after the company behind the namesake video streaming platform and devices put up a better-than-expected financial report. It's a far cry from the 14% hit the stock took the week it posted disappointing quarterly results three months earlier.

Revenue rose 36% to $136.6 million in Roku's first quarter, well ahead of the $120 million to $130 million it was targeting in February. Platform revenue more than doubled -- up 106% to $75.1 million -- more than offsetting a 3% decline in player revenue. This was a milestone quarter for Roku, as the fast-growing and higher-margin platform revenue topped player revenue for the first and definitely not the last time.

A TCL smart television running Roku TV.

Image source: Roku.

Making your streams come true 

Roku is the pioneer of over-the-top streaming video devices, but it has evolved beyond the streaming box and stick. It has been championing its platform as the operating system that is now standard in one of out every four smart TVs sold in the country. Roku selling less hardware isn't a deal breaker. Its active accounts have risen 47% to 20.8 million over the past year, and Roku users are spending more time on the platform. Streaming hours soared 56% to 5.1 billion during the quarter. 

The popularity of Roku as a platform -- beyond its inherent intuitiveness -- rests in its agnosticism. The tech giants can bicker about backing each other's streaming initiatives. Good luck seamlessly streaming YouTube TV on Fire TV devices. Roku plays nice with everybody. It may not make money on every third-party stream, but it does have some affiliate and ad deals in place to cash in on its free platform. Average revenue per user over the past 12 months is clocking in at $15.07, and while that may not amount to much on a monthly basis at a buck and change per user, it's 50% higher than it was a year ago. Throw in Roku's rapidly expanding audience of active and engaged accounts and you see why platform revenue is more than doubling. 

Roku is still not profitable, but the $6.6 million in red ink is its best performance outside of the holiday-spiked fourth quarter. Three months ago, it was bracing investors for a deficit of at least $15 million. 

The near-term outlook is encouraging. Roku's guidance calls for $135 million to $145 million in revenue for the current quarter. Landing on the low end of that range would translate into a problematic sequential decline in revenue, but we've already seen how conservative Roku is with its sneak peeks. Analysts were modeling $135.3 million in revenue for the second quarter ahead of the report. 

Roku is nudging its earlier full-year guidance higher. It now sees $685 million to $705 million in revenue, up from its previous forecast where $675 million was the midpoint. It's also beefing up its gross profit outlook while lowering its net loss target. 

Roku stock has been a wild one in its rookie year of trading. The stock soared after impressing investors last year in its first quarter as a public company, only to fall short the following period. The third time appears be the charm -- or at least it's charming investors again.

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