Wednesday's last-minute buyers of Roku Inc (NASDAQ: ROKU ) shares still aren't sure if their decision was the right one. Roku stock gained nearly 9% during regular-hours action. Then, it waffled, albeit with a bullish bias, in after-hours trading following the post-close release of the company's first quarter numbers.
The results were better than expected, to be clear. But, with losses still being booked and more losses expected for the foreseeable future, it's difficult to get too excited.
On the other hand, to the extent a great story and enticing prospects are enough to incite bullishness, the Roku earnings report (re)set the stage for the kind of rally we saw from Roku stock shortly after September's IPO.
Roku Earnings Recap
For the quarter ending in March, Roku Inc turned $136.6 million worth of revenue into a loss of $6.9 million. On a per-share basis, the company booked a loss of seven cents. Analysts were calling for an operating loss of 15 cents per share , and sales of $128 million. Both Q1-2018 figures were also better than the year-ago loss of $1.79 per share and top line of $100.1 million.
Perhaps more important, advertising revenue ended up surpassing revenue generated by sales of its set-top boxes.
'Platform' revenue of $75.0 million was not only more than twice its year-ago tally, 'Player' revenue of $61.5 million actually fell from Q1-2017's total of $63.7 million as the company refocused its attention on forging OEM partnerships and using the Roku platform as a means of making money.
To that end, the average revenue per user grew to $15.07 last quarter versus $10.04 for the same quarter a year earlier, mirroring not just user growth, but growth in the amount of total time spent consuming digital video through the Roku platform.
The letter to shareholders, ultimately signed by CEO Anthony Wood, noted:
"The secular shift from legacy TV distribution to streaming continues unabated. Our purpose-built TV operating system and advertising platform continue to lead the market. Moreover, our advertising and content partners are benefiting from our increasing scale. Nearly half of our roughly 21 million active users have cut the cord or have never had a traditional pay TV subscription, which means that they simply cannot be reached through linear TV."
Roku can also deliver quality as well as quantity to advertisers. The company determined earlier this year that its ads, on a per-exposure basis, were 67% more effective than ads shown via traditional cable television venues.
Still the Name to Beat
Despite clear progress and expectations for more of the same going forward, the analyst community is only lukewarm on the company, collectively rating Roku stock just a bit better than a "Hold." The average target price is an equally tepid $36.57, versus today's closing price near $35, and that was with a 7% jump during Wednesday's regular trading hours.
And yet, the rhetoric being voiced by the stock's few bulls holds water, and isn't being refuted.
Case in point: Before Wednesday's release of the company's first quarter results, KeyBanc analyst Evan Wingren wrote :
"We believe its purpose-built TV operating system, OEM relationships, growing platform, and early content efforts set it up for long-term value creation as streaming video continues to see adoption globally," adding "Although the majority of streaming viewing has shifted to ad-free environments, we believe that ad-supported streaming will continue to see strong adoption over the long run and could provide a tailwind to Roku."
D.A. Davidson's Tom Forte echoed that Roku was Roku was well positioned to capitalize on the rise of streaming video as an advertising platform.
Last quarter's huge improvement in advertising revenue underscores Forte's muted optimism, and Wingren's outright enthusiasm.
Yet, much like other analysts, Forte is hesitant to outright deem Roku stock a "Buy," perhaps waiting to see how, or if, rivals like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL ), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL , NASDAQ: GOOG ) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN ) respond with an approach they've yet to utilize.
One such approach is partnering with retailers. Amazon recently teamed up with electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE: BBY ) to sell Amazon Fire-equipped televisions at its stores.
Needham analyst Laura Martin thinks that partnership won't lead to trouble for Roku, however, as Roku is already the leading brand in the set-top box business , and the name OEMs and content providers (not to mention advertisers) want to work with.
Roku already boasts 70% of the OTT market's programmatic ad revenue . Advertises are often slow to tinker with a mix of ad-spending dollars that's working as-is.
Looking Ahead for Roku Stock
For the quarter currently underway, the company is expecting revenue of between $135 million and $145 million. It didn't offer per-share earnings guidance, but analysts are expecting a loss of 16 cents per share on revenue of $135.3 million.
For the full year, the pros are modeling a top line of $674.7 million, while Roku said the figure would be something between $685 million and $705 million. That still won't likely be enough to get the company over the profit hump. Analysts are still looking for a loss of 40 cents per share for the whole year.
Both are still better than year-ago levels though, as Roku Inc continues to refine its business, finding the right balance between marketability, demand, pricing and ad inventory.
In short, Roku stock remains the "Buy" investors continue to fall in love with, even if the professionals aren't on board.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter , at @jbrumley.
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