Roku hardware is no longer required to access the movies, TV shows, and live news streams offered for free on The Roku Channel. Simply load it up on the web using your PC, TV, smartphone, or tablet and start watching.
Say the name Roku to people and they’ll immediately think of the little media boxes hooked up to TVs that offer access to lots of different video streaming services. But Roku as a company is increasingly getting into the media side of the business. Last year, The Roku Channel launched, offering a wide range of ad-supported movies you could watch for free as long as you had a Roku streaming stick, box, or TV. This week, that changes.
The Roku Channel has broken free of its Roku hardware shackles and is now available to access on the web. It remains a free, ad-supported service, but can be accessed from pretty much any device that can access the web and is capable of streaming media. The only limitation seems to be what region of the world you live in. For now, only consumers in the US have access to it.
Watching the channel still requires setting up a free Roku account, but doing so unlocks access to movies, TV shows, and most recently, live news as long as you don’t mind also watching the ads.
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If you use one of Roku’s devices, there’s something new for you, too. Roku is adding a “Featured Free” menu option to the home screen navigation. Selecting it will show you, “the latest in-season episodes, full past-season catch-ups and more.” It’s basically a summary of everything you probably want to watch and can do so with a couple of button presses. Expect it to appear on your device (in the US) within the next few weeks.
While this move won’t worry the big players such as Amazon and Netflix too much, they will watch with interest. Right now the market continues to grow for paid streaming services, but that can’t last forever and free, ad-supported options will eventually be considered. How The Roku Channel performs now it is untethered from hardware could help decide how quickly we see those options appearing on the market.