The landscape of television has dynamically evolved in recent years, marked by an accelerated launch of various streaming TV options. A vast selection of subscription-based internet TV services are now at consumers' fingertips, making streaming entertainment a commonplace fixture in American households.
As consumers devote an ever-increasing proportion of their time to streaming media, TV providers rapidly shift their advertising onto these digital platforms.
The leading streaming platform provider, Roku, Inc. (ROKU), witnessed an upsurge in engagement metrics, such as active accounts and streaming hours, over the past few years. This heightened engagement has significantly echoed in the company's financial performance.
The company has seen a remarkable surge in stock prices, which have doubled since the year's onset. This uptick has notably surpassed gains in the S&P 500 and outstripped the year-to-date returns recorded by streaming giant Netflix, Inc. (NFLX).
To fully understand the factors underpinning ROKU's stellar performance in recent months, it's essential to analyze its progress comprehensively. Understanding the factors that catalyzed this growth will provide us with a more informed perspective for predicting potential future directions for ROKU, both as a company and in terms of its stock-price performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly boosted the adoption of digital streaming services. As millions of households worldwide had to spend the majority of their time indoors, there was a surge in first-time subscriptions to streaming platforms in 2020.
In July 2021, ROKU’s shares soared to a remarkable peak near $480, predominantly driven by an escalating demand for video-on-demand platforms, a trend amplified by pandemic-enforced home isolation. However, following this zenith, ROKU has experienced a slowdown in momentum, contributing to the company's stock price diving to roughly $39 by the close of 2022.
In 2020, ROKU’s users streamed nearly 59 billion hours of content, marking a 55% surge over 2019. This success solidified ROKU’s position as the custodian of streaming content within the U.S. market.
Unlike other streaming service providers, the company witnessed an upsurge in active subscribers. For instance, in the second quarter ended June 30, 2020, active accounts reached 43 million, and streaming hours totaled 14.6 billion.
Despite this success, the company is battling to hold its place in the fiercely competitive digital streaming arena. Although sales skyrocketed early in the pandemic and the company briefly entered profitability, the ongoing hurdles of intensifying competition, a saturated market, audiences gradually emerging from lockdown, and inflation strains its once robust performance.
At the end of the first quarter of 2023, ROKU unveiled its new in-house television line and rolled out significant updates across its operating system, enhancing features and expanding channel partnerships.
The TVs come in 11 diverse models ranging from 24-inch to 75-inch screens, spanning two different lineups and reasonably priced from $150 to $1,200. This strategy is expected to have aided TV sales, boosting top-line growth in the second quarter of 2023.
For the fiscal second quarter that ended June 30, 2023, ROKU’s total net revenue soared 10.8% year-over-year to $847.19 million with platform revenue, which is mostly ad sales, gaining 11.1% from the year-ago quarter and reached $743.84 million. Device earnings, hitherto hampered by supply chain and inflation issues, rebounded with an 8.6% year-over-year gain to $103.35 million.
In addition, there has been an uptick in ROKU’s engagement metrics as active accounts and streaming hours reached 73.5 million and 25.1 billion, indicating 16.5% and 21.3% year-over-year increases, respectively. This was driven primarily by the domestic and international success of the ROKU TV licensing program, coinciding with a predicted 40% drop by the end of 2023 in U.S. households availing cable TV packages from what was a decade earlier.
The popularity of ROKU's proprietary Operating System (OS) further bodes well for the company, claiming the crown as the best-selling TV OS in the U.S. for the quarter, outperforming some major competing systems combined.
It is also worth mentioning that as of June 2023, ROKU boasts an impressive cash and cash equivalents of $1.76 billion, without any debt.
However, there remain areas of concern for the streaming service provider. Average revenue per user (ARPU) declined 7.2% from the prior year quarter. It was steady with the first quarter of 2023, which also declined year-over-year. Advertisers reducing their budgeting amid an inflationary economic environment dealt a harsh blow to the company's operations.
For the second quarter of 2023, ROKU’s loss from operations stood at $125.96 million, a distressing 14% increase from the year-ago quarter. Its net loss stood at $107.60 million, while the net loss per share reached $0.76. However, it was much better than the past three quarters.
In ROKU's second-quarter results, brand advertising remained pressured as total U.S. advertising came in flat year over year. Spending on traditional TV fell 9.4% year-over-year, while traditional TV ad scatter sank 17.2% year-over-year.
Considering the promising top-line projections unveiled by the company, ROKU’s share prices rose 31.4% to $89.61 as of July 28, 2023, the highest daily percentile expansion since November 2017, which has more than doubled this year. This expansion resulted in an approximate $3 billion upswell in the company's market cap.
Recently, ROKU announced a layoff of 10% of its workforce, about 360 people, to cut costs. This action marks the third round of staff reductions within the past year, following its decision to slash 6% of its workforce (roughly 200 employees) in March and another 200 last November.
To trim expenses further, ROKU is planning several organizational changes. It might slow the hiring rate, consolidate office space, reduce its outside services, and conduct “a strategic review of its content portfolio” to save money. Following the announcement of these cost-cutting measures, ROKU's shares spiked almost 10%.
Despite these financial strategies, the stock is trading at a premium to its industry peers. ROKU’s forward EV/Sales multiple of 2.96 is 58.1% higher than the industry average of 1.88. Also, its forward Price/Sales and Price/Book multiples of 3.29 and 4.95 are 188.1% and 161.9% higher than the industry averages of 1.14 and 1.89, respectively.
Within a year, ROKU's overall price performance presented a decelerating trend until the end of 2022, then transitioned to a stable growth phase at the beginning of 2023. This followed a significant mid-year acceleration, followed again by slight deceleration. A comparison of the current share price with that of a year ago indicates long-term growth.
Yet the stock remains significantly below its zenith recorded two years prior, echoing broader pressure on the streaming category in general to establish profitable business models.
Furthermore, changes have been observed concerning institutions' holdings of ROKU shares. Even though approximately 80.8% of ROKU shares are presently held by institutions, of the 599 institutional holders, 264 have decreased their positions in the stock. Moreover, 81 institutions have sold their positions (1,306,808 shares), reflecting declining confidence in the company’s trajectory.
ROKU has raised its third-quarter net revenue forecast between $835 million and $875 million, putting aside charges related to severance and removing certain content from its streaming platform. This exceeds the earlier third-quarter estimate of approximately $815 million in revenue.
The entertainment giant also anticipates its adjusted EBITDA to conclude between a loss of $40 million to $20 million, which shows improvement from an earlier prediction of a negative $50 million. The Hollywood double strike is anticipated to influence media and entertainment spending adversely for the rest of the year. This scenario poses a relatively severe challenge, given ROKU’s extensive promotions provided for content.
ROKU has noted some recovery hints within specific advertising sectors, including CPG and health and wellness. Yet, the spending on M&E, already facing challenges across the industry, will likely face additional pressure due to limited fall release schedules. Despite these odds, the company remains determined to deliver positive adjusted EBITDA for 2024 with continued improvements.
For the fiscal third quarter ending September 2023, Street expects ROKU’s revenue to increase 11.3% year-over-year to $847.54 million, while its EPS is expected to decline 105.1% to negative $1.81.
Moreover, for the current fiscal year (ending December 2023), the company’s revenue is expected to increase 7.9% year-over-year to $3.37 billion. However, its EPS is expected to come at negative $5.04, indicating a decline of 39.4% year-over-year.
Streaming service provider ROKU is poised to capitalize on the escalating digital streaming and cord-cutting trend in the upcoming years. This positions the temporary slump it experienced in 2022 as a trifle hiccup rather than an enduring setback.
However, affirming that the company has fully rebounded and is back on its consistent growth path may be premature. Further confirmation of continuous revenue augmentation, ideally substantiated by several successive quarters of enhanced performance, is still needed.
Risk-averse investors would want to keenly observe ROKU for more tangible indications of renewed profitability over the ensuing quarters. There is a potential for the company to continue generating substantial returns, provided it can add persistent value to its platform for users, content producers, and advertisers.
The persistent issue pestering ROKU is its inability to yield regular profits. Furthermore, the company's ad-supported sales infrastructure is stretching back into profitable territory. Yet its recently instituted cost-reduction measures should alleviate some of these financial burdens from 2023 onward.
Seeing ROKU deliver on its projected outcomes would be encouraging. Considering this, all attention will be on the company's performance over the subsequent quarters.