The Roku Channel_9.6.17 (6)

Hands On With Roku’s New “The Roku Channel”


Today Roku announced the launch of a new streaming service that will put a ton of 100% free movies and TV shows all in one place. The new channel will be called “The Roku Channel,” and it will bring in a collection of top films from leading movie studios including Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Bros.

Now I was able to go hands-on to give you a look at what you can expect from Roku’s new FREE streaming service: (Please watch the video for our full review.)

Note: Right now the Roku website is giving errors when I try to add the new channel. I was able to add the new channel to my Roku by going to the Roku Channel Store on my Roku Ultra. 

My first impressions:

  • A great lineup of movies for a day one launch.
  • I was surprised to see day time TV shows included for free.
  • No ads play at the start of the movie, unlike most free services.
  • The channel felt smooth and easy to use.
  • The Roku Channel uses your Roku account to keep track of what you have watched and where you left off.

Roku says the new “The Roku Channel” will be rolled out in phases over the next few weeks. You will need to add “The Roku Channel” to your Roku player from the channel store because it will not be automatically added to your Roku.

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  • Cooper McChester

    Lost me at commercials.. Hey Roku/Crackle, allow me to pay 2-3 bucks a month for commercial free and I would probably take that offer.

    • TheJrockfreak .

      im the opposite I would rather have commercials if it means i can keep it for free. commercials dont bother me at all

      • D.C. Taylor-Stroyer

        For me, it depends on how the commercials are presented. Too many ad-supported streaming services just let the commercials interrupt – every 3 minutes – right in the middle of a line of dialogue. And then you’ll see the same commercial run 3 or 4 times in a row, right in the same break. When I used to watch WeatherNation via their Roku app, you’d get the same Dish Network Flex Pack ad every 5 minutes, featuring the overly-played scream from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, because of course, nowadays, EVERY commercial has to feature classic rock (and roll).

        • TheJrockfreak .

          now i will agree there because tubi tv does that, the commercials come in at the most random times

    • jmgnyc

      I’m on the no commercials bandwagon. I cannot stand them. I haven’t watched a commercial since the days of the VCR. If Roku needs ads to profit and survive I think they’re going to be in trouble. The world has changed. I’m sure the content providers love the idea of ads though.

      • pawdog

        Ad supported content is still big, big business. I would never watch a movie with interruptions but things that are designed to be interrupted are tolerable if there are no other ways to experience the content like sports and news. I’m glad to see quality content available to folks that are tolerable of ads. There are plenty of ways for us that feel otherwise to get our stuff.

        • jmgnyc

          I can barely tolerate ads with sports. I tend to DVR and start watching 30-45 minutes to avoid them. I agree though that ads are at least tolerable for sports and news.

          • Evan

            At least Golf Channel ads are golf related.

          • Mike Thaler

            I’ve been doing the same thing for years. If you start a basketball, F-Ball or BB game 45-60 min after the start – you should be caught up to real time near the end.

      • Cooper McChester

        Yeah, I am not against a commercial version but I will not use it unless they have a commercial free version. I had Hulu a few years ago and canceled but when they came out with C free, I signed back up and have kept it since.

        • jmgnyc

          Same with me for Hulu. I only joined for the ad free version. Same with CBS. I’d rather spend money on iTunes/Amazon rentals or purchases than watch a service with ads. Plus I’ve had some really bad experiences with my latest Roku and HDCP handshaking and I’m beginning to think it will get retired once the new Apple TV comes out.

      • Phuq_Me

        Another entitled person thinking everyone should work for free except them of course.

        • jmgnyc

          I said no such thing.

      • HiroRoshi

        Wow, there’s nothing wrong with free services that have commercials. The problem is services that charge yet still have ads.

        • jmgnyc

          You’re right, there’s nothing wrong with free services that have commercials. I personally will pay for a service that does not have commercials before I watch a free one with commercials. I think a lot of people will do the same. Roku trying to build a business model based on commercials is a bit like trying to ride a dying horse in my opinion.

          • HiroRoshi

            Google has a biz model based on ads, many do.

          • jmgnyc

            Google is internet advertising, not “in video” advertising for the most part. That’s a decent business model. Even Google has seen the need for ad free and offers and ad free Youtube for a fee. Google Play video has no ads. The most comparable service seems to be Crackle. I don’t know anyone who uses Crackle.

          • HiroRoshi

            YouTube? Pluto will be a good test, it is gaining in popularity more than any free service.

          • You think that most people will prefer ad-free experiences even though they have to pay for it? I avoid commercials too, but think there’s strong evidence that a lot of people (perhaps even a majority) are willing to watch commercials if they can get on demand content for free and are even willing to pay for live streams that include commercials.

          • jmgnyc

            I think there is a market for free services with commercials but it won’t be the majority in my opinion. The most successful services are ad free like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Showtime, and Starz. Hulu, CBS, AMC, FX and even Youtube felt the need to offer ad free options. The cable lite streaming services are often judged by having a DVR with the ability to FF through ads. The free, ad supported services like Crackle and Pluto aren’t exactly ruling the world. Tivo and other DVRs that provide commercial skipping are still hugely popular. So I’m not certain where there is evidence for free services with commercials being the most popular. Ad supported video in the home is a dwindling trend at the moment. I’m not sure that’ll turn around.

          • Perhaps “strong evidence” was an exaggeration on my part.

            I think there are several factors here that make it unclear of what the (long term) trend really is. One factor is how many American households don’t own any streaming media players? Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and certain Blu-ray players and DVRs don’t necessarily offer access to the large variety of services that Roku, Chromecast, and Fire TV do. Another factor is advertising; paid services can do (and, for older brands, have done) so much more of it and in multiple forms, whereas free services mostly advertise online, if at all (although I seem to recall seeing Crackle featured on Roku and/or Fire TV packaging). Also word-of-mouth is something that we should avoid underrating; paid services are much more likely to attract that in many circles. Anyway one thing we can tell is that Tubi TV, Pluto TV, Crackle, PBS, PBS Kids, WatchFreeFlix, and Youtube are among the most popular Roku channels. (I’m not sure if there’s a way to tell what’s most popular on Fire TV.) A potential additional factor is the availability of high-speed Internet access at home.

            In other words, public awareness and access limit the choices people make.

    • Daniel Richards

      probably wouldn’t hurt to add an ad free option, but still offer the ad based version, would give people a chance to checkout the content and the app and see if it’s worth the money to get rid of the ads before paying, kinda like a free trial they can make money on via the ads.

  • Nick Costides

    Hold on, maybe I have this wrong. Another web site is reporting that this app is actually an aggragator from other subscribed services like Amazon, Netflix. Is the reason that no commercials showed up at the beginning means you already subscribe? Love a clarification.

  • Michael Smith

    No “The Roku Channel” on my Roku 3 yet. Not too thrilled about commercials either. It’s tough trying to watch a one and a half hour movie over two and a half hours because of the commercial breaks. FXGO VOD isn’t too bad but Crakle, TubiTv etc.. I refuse to watch because of the commercial breaks. Vudu Free is tolerable.

    • HiroRoshi

      Then rent the movie on PPV. How can people complain about 100% free. Don’t get it.

  • Evan

    Let me guess Starz type content which is old. How long will they have Inside Out?

  • Growler

    Sort of on / off topic, but could someone tell me if all the same “channels” available for the Roku boxes are also available on the Roku TVs?

    • ChanceDM

      I think in general, yes. I have a Roku TV as well. Not sure about this particular channel though. Some are only available on certain models.

    • Jenna Alis Saunders

      pretty sure there are no Roku TVs that won’t be supported. correct me if I’m wrong but, I don’t know of any that came out before 2011. I believe they came out much later than that

  • Lynnneez

    There are very few commercials. I can’t imagine anyone being bothered by them. It’s not at all like Hulu’s incessant and excessive number of commercials. The selection is also pretty decent. I would guess that more Roku users value “free” and don’t care about a few commercials.

    • Yes, some people are much more accepting commercials than others. But for those who, like me, strongly dislike them, there are ways through a little more effort and/or money to avoid them.

      • HiroRoshi

        And there are many PPV and other pay services if you don’t want ads. Good to have a mix than no free services at all. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about totally free as an option.

        • Good point. It’s very good to have options. However, on the Internet, you can find people who will complain about anything.

  • Paul

    I am currently watching ‘Little Monsters’ on the Roku channel. Took a bit to load the movie. I just hope there are very few commercials.

  • Strider

    this makes it sound as though it won’t be rolling out to ROKU devices that aren’t currently sold by ROKU. From the ROKU Channel page at ROKU.com: “The Roku Channel is available now on select Roku devices, and will be rolling out to all current generation devices in the coming weeks.”

    • Yeah, the term “current generation” is misleading. They’ve clarified it to mean models introduced since 2011. While rather slow and not compatible with every new channel (but apparently will get this one), the Roku 2 XS lives on.

      • Jenna Alis Saunders

        I believe the term “Current Generation” in this case means they are still updating the OS on it.

    • Jenna Alis Saunders

      Roku Confirmed that they will be putting “The Roku Channel” on all devices that the Roku OS is still being updated on. is your OS version above 7.7.x? if yes your Roku is still being updated

  • Nick Costides

    Question, from what I’ve been reading on other sites, it’s also aggregating movie content from other services like Crackle, Popcorn flix, OVplayer, etc. Is this true? If so it could look like a huge library.

  • Mike Thaler

    I started to watch “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” on one of these channels – but gave up because of the numerous LONG ad breaks. (Same ads.) I would have paid $1 or $2 for the movie or even pay a monthly fee.