Fox's Tubi is the latest free streaming service to explore original shows

Tubi could make the most of viewers stuck at home during the pandemic.

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Roku isn't the only one adding original shows to a free service. Bloomberg sources claim Fox's Tubi will pay to create original content after relying primarily on existing shows like The Masked Singer. It'll initially focus on movies, according to the tipsters, but it's reportedly considering TV shows and may be willing to pay up to $4 million per episode. There was no mention of particular titles or release windows.

Fox's financial chief Steve Tomsic recently acknowledged talks about producing Tubi originals, although he didn't mention the kind of content or exact spending. He did, however, say the company would "cost effectively" explore shows and avoid the all-out productions you see on subscription services.

There's certainly an incentive to start spending. The COVID-19 pandemic helped Tubi's use surge 58 percent in 2020, with 33 million members. While that won't give Amazon or Netflix reason for pause, it's evident there's a growing audience. And like any streaming service, originals would give Tubi a way to keep those viewers instead of letting them drift over to rivals.

The challenge, of course, is the budget dictated by a free, ad-supported platform. Tubi may have a major TV network behind it, but it still has to worry about turning a profit with limited revenue. It might struggle if it can't attract well-known stars or produce blockbusters. With that said, Tubi doesn't have to make the next Borat or Ma Rainey to be successful — it just has to add enough viewers to justify the cost of any originals.