Meet Roku, which means “six” in Japanese.
Roku is an Internet streaming-video player. It costs about $50 and hooks up to a television, allowing free viewing of on-demand Internet movies, TV shows and other content on more than 600 channels, the majority of which do not incur any monthly charges.
“I really believe it is the next generation of television,” said Dale Jackson, who along with partners John Cusato and Paul DiFranco has set up a 15,000-square-foot Roku television studio in Chantilly called Zom-Bee TV.
The studio features classic horror films hosted by commentators and original programming, including the shows “Cinema Insomnia,” “Corpse Collective” and the music show “The White Label Lounge.”
The channel launched Oct. 14.
Jackson said that for movie and television content owners or distributors, Roku represents a cost-effective way to deliver shows to a rapidly growing number of households.
As an open platform, Roku’s streaming player enables content owners to bypass traditional distribution routes and reach viewers and consumers directly.
“Roku’s platform allows a wide variety of channels, and one benefit is that, at least for right now, it is not regulated,” he said. “So, we are free to have guests on our shows speak freely.”
The studio sells advertising, and so far has landed Best Buy, McDonald’s, Nicoderm and the North Face as clients, Jackson said.
“We are able to minimize royalties overhead by showing old horror movies that are in the public domain,” Jackson said.
Barely more than a month old, the studio is expanding its programming.
The studio’s “The White Label Lounge” is its first non-horror-themed show. It features local hosts Steve Nerangis, 40, and Pete Buchbauer, 29, interviewing musical guests and recommending new music, from the Chantilly studio off Gum Springs Road.
“Because we are from different musical generations but both have good taste in music, I think we keep the show fresh,” Buchbauer said.
The show has landed interviews with musical artists from around the world, including members of Styx, Senses Fail, Kix, Vampires Everywhere!, Faster Pussycat, the Early November, Fozzy, In Flames, Cherri Bomb, Lostprophets and Foxy Shazam, as well as actor Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro in the movie “Napoleon Dynamite,” and the filmmakers behind the documentary short “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”
“I sort of think of our show as a cross between ‘Last Call With Carson Daly’ and the way MTV used to be, when they were about new music,” Nerangis said. “We generally start off by recommending a band, then showing a video or two and then interviewing someone from that band in depth.”
Viewer and fan Amy Helmick, 36, said she is hooked on the show.
“It is unique in that it is local but also very good,” she said. “I like the music, and the recommendations so far have been top-notch.”
Helmick said she became acquainted with the Roku player when her boyfriend, who works at Best Buy, came home with it one day. “It is really convenient, and I like the fact that you don’t have to pay for a lot of the programming,” she said.
The studio employs about 13 people, including set designers, sound technicians and camera operators. There also is an intern from George Mason University working as the studio’s social media director.
Andrea Sakellaropoulous, 21, is an English major with a concentration in film and media studies. “I really like being here,” she said. “I think this experience is going to help me break into this industry.”
“I certainly hope that by this time next year, Zom-Bee TV is firmly entrenched and producing at least 10 original shows full time,” Jackson said. “That’s my goal for right now.”