Live-streamed Division I men’s college basketball is coming to the Roku Channel this weekend.
A slate of 11 Conference USA, Atlantic 10 and Patriot League games, broadcast live on Stadium from March 2-14, will tip off Saturday in matchup between Fordham and Davidson.
Call it “March Pre-Madness”—the games won’t have the viewer impact of the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, but the slate includes quarterfinal matchups of the Conference USA championship tournament—a determiner, at least to some extent, of who gets into the big March Madness 66-team tourney.
A full schedule of Stadium’s men’s hoop slate can be found here.
We’re not talking about the Roku Channel symbolically offering the appearance of getting into live sports. The fast-growing AVOD platform is live-streaming some key conference matchups at a pivotal portion of the season.
The free-to-consumer Roku Channel, which is available as an app in the Roku ecosystem, as well as on the open internet, has been the key driver as Roku transitions from a maker of OTT devices to the operator of an ad-supported streaming platform.
Roku’s platform revenue increased 85% year over year in 2018, reaching $416.9 million, which accounted for more than 56% of total revenue. In the fourth quarter, platform revenue reached an all time high for the company, $151.4 million, a whopping 77% year over year increase.
In November, Roku announced that the Roku Channel would be adding live sports and entertainment to a programming menu that already included live-streamed news channels. Through channel additions including Adventure Sports Network, Combat Go and EDGESport. Roku touted a flora and fauna of niche competition events that included Street League Skateboarding and the Muay Thai Grand Prix Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
Virtually lost in the announcement was the addition of unnamed “live games and events” through Stadium. It's not on the level of the NBA, but men’s college hoop carries national mainstream sports audience weight—consider the 2.12 million viewers drawn by ESPN for game between top-ranked teams Duke and Syracuse.