How Roku Is Trying to Make Schitt Happen With Canadian Sitcom Children Ruin Everything

One year into its original programming push, Roku is debuting its first major international title.

This week, the company will launch “Children Ruin Everything,” an already popular Canadian series, on its free streaming service. Created by “Schitt’s Creek” and “Kim’s Convenience” alum Kurt Smeaton and produced by New Metric Media, the half-hour comedy revolves around young parents Astrid (Meaghan Rath) and James (Aaron Abrams) as they struggle to define their lives outside their roles as mom and dad.

Roku snapped up the U.S. streaming rights for “Children Ruin Everything” last October, ahead of its January debut in the Great White North. The show was CTV’s No. 1 new comedy of the season and had the biggest debut for a Canadian comedy among the 25-54 demo since 2019.

“We were so pleased with what we saw in Season 1, and it made us eager to jump quickly into production on a supersized second season,” says Colin Davis, head of scripted originals for the Roku Channel, noting that Roku is now “involved from outline to final cut” in the show.

In importing an established series from Canada, Roku is hoping to follow the example set by Pop TV and Netflix with “Schitt’s Creek,” which won an Emmy in its final season. Roku, better known for its streaming-TV devices, began its move into original programming early last year when it acquired 75-plus shows from the defunct Quibi. It launched Roku Originals several months later and has ramped up that lineup immensely since then, with “Swimming With Sharks” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas” among the titles.

All told, since the debut of Roku Originals, the company has launched more than 70 series, including acquired and internally developed content.

“We’re actively pursuing new projects to satisfy our consumers, and we’ll see that number continue to climb quickly,” says David Eilenberg, Roku’s newly named head of original content.

One reason for the push, per Davis: The addition of Roku Originals immediately goosed the number of the platform’s streaming accounts. By the end of the first quarter, Roku’s audience had grown to 61.3 million active accounts, up 14% year over year.

In November, Roku underlined just how quickly it plans to beef up its offerings by announcing it would develop 50 new originals over the next two years, and execs say they’re on pace to achieve that goal. The company recently brokered a movie-licensing deal with Lionsgate and is making a play for a minority stake in Starz.

During its first-ever NewFront presentation to advertisers on May 3, Roku previewed many of its upcoming projects. Titles included “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” starring Daniel Radcliffe; “Honest Renovations,” a home-makeover series hosted by Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis; “To Paris for Love: A Reality Rom Com,” a feature-length film following three real-life single friends, from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Zoe Saldaña’s Cinestar Pictures.

The Roku Channel is giving “Children Ruin Everything” the “Schitt’s Creek” treatment: It hopes that love and attention will help it connect with a wider audience.

“They’re in millions of homes, have massive promotional reach, great analytics — everything a show needs to find an audience, and perhaps be showered in accolades,” says Smeaton, who worked as a writer and co-executive producer on the final season of “Schitt’s.”

Rath maintains that parents and childless viewers will all gravitate to the series. For parents, “the specificity is shockingly relatable,” she says. “But a childless viewer will enjoy a huge amount of schadenfreude watching our family, taking great pleasure in witnessing us suffer.”

For Rob Holmes, Roku vice president of programming, it doesn’t matter if “Children Ruin Everything” was originally developed at Roku or is licensed: “What is most important is ensuring that we have content options that we are confident our users will engage with.”

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