Streaming service Roku Inc. (ROKU) hit the public market on Thursday at $14 per share, at the high end of its expected range and garnering a $1.3 billion valuation. Amid the increasingly competitive on-demand video space, Wall Street has demonstrated its faith in the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company even as it faces off against tech titans including Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN).
ROKU jumped a whopping 68% in its first day on Nasdaq, trading up another near 20% on Friday afternoon at $27.93 and resulting in a $2.6 billion market capitalization. (See also: Amazon Gets Its Most Bullish Call Yet—a $1,400 PT.)
‘Even Investors Watch TV’
Roku sells hardware and software solutions for the streaming video sector, allowing customers to add streaming services such as Netflix Inc. (NFLX), YouTube and Hulu to a single device and access them in one place. The cash raised by the company will help it compete against a growing number of providers of streaming hardware products, such as Alphabet’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire Stick, yet Roku says investors should focus more on its advertising opportunities.
Roku, which is not yet profitable, reported revenue up 25% last year and 23% in the first half of 2017 to $199.7 million. While hardware sales fell 2% in the later period, investors see upside in the firm’s higher-margin “platform” business, which grew 91% over that the time to $82.4 million. The business covers ad sales, software licensing, branded channel buttons on Roku remotes and revenue cuts on subscriptions and on-demand content purchased on Roku devices.
Roku Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood told Business Insider that while “a lot of people think of us as a hardware company, the only reason we sell hardware is to acquire customers ... Even investors watch TV.” Wood says investors should think of the company as a “content distribution platform,” set to gain the most on selling advertisements against content in its digital platform, which it receives for free as content providers seek access to a larger audience.
When asked whether Roku will produce its own original video content, following Amazon, Netflix, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA), Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and a handful of other players, the CEO said there are no plans to do so now, though he noted "never say never.” (See also: Buy Netflix as it Widens Lead: Wells Fargo.)