For countless entertainment seekers, Roku acts as a gateway to video streaming. Whether it’s through a Roku media streaming device or Roku software built right into your smart TV, Roku is the platform we go to for accessing the video services we love. However, Roku also offers its own video streaming service, the Roku Channel, for free. It doesn’t get past the best paid options, or even the free tier from Peacock’s Editors’ Choice, but the ad-supported service is well worth checking out.
What can you watch on the Roku channel?
The Roku channel has more than 10,000 free shows and movies. This puts it in line with competing free streaming services like Tubi (20,000 shows and movies) and Peacock (13,000 hours of content). The last time we checked Crackle, it only had about 1,000 free shows and movies. Free video services tend to take a more intuitive approach to entertainment, offering whatever licenses the company can register. Although Roku’s channel spans decades and genres, its library seems random, while its premium editor’s pick services, such as Netflix and Hulu, seem comprehensive.
TV shows range from the fifties Dennis the danger The original 80’s Miami Vice to Buffy the Vampire SlayerAnd the 2 girls brokeAnd the Xena: Warrior Princess. You can watch Ice Ventura or the first two a partner Movies on Roku, then wear them man on fire or snow hole When you are in a serious mood. His real-life trashy works include Hell’s Kitchen And some good old fashioned TVs in the day courts. You can even watch some dubbed anime, like whitening And the NarutoRetroCrush and Editors’ Choice Crunchyroll are the best free animation streaming services out there.
A lot of the content acquired from the Roku channel seems a bit outdated, but if you’re looking for something new that you’ve likely never seen before, Roku also has original offerings. The important thing about these shows is that Roku actually bought them from the ill-fated Quibi. That dead service spent a lot of money on serious star power to convince people that they wanted to watch “quick bite” videos on their phones. As a result, these reworked “Roku Origins” are impressive, from Punk’d And the Renault 911 Will Smith’s reality comedy show reboots into a show where Christoph Waltz hunts Liam Hemsworth for sports.
Though it’s funny to see Rachel Brosnahan talk about her precious golden arm on Roku, Editors’ Choice Peacock has superior backlogs, as well as more exciting original shows, like Bel Air A reboot featuring the delicious villain Carlton.
Besides on-demand content, the Roku channel provides free live TV. You have news channels like ABC and NBC. But you also have themed channels about Lifetime movies, Bob the builderAnd the escape project, or “The Asylum’s Glorious Parodies.” This is a great feature to enjoy along with on-demand shows and movies, but if you’re primarily interested in free live TV, Pluto TV might carry the channels you’re looking for.
If you’re willing to pay for premium content, Roku Channel sells paid channels from partners like AMC, BET, Starz, and Showtime. These networks also sell premium channels on other subscription services, such as Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+, or offer completely independent streaming subscriptions. You don’t need to go through Roku to get it, but it’s a good option.
Costs and platforms
Aside from the optional premium channels (the prices of which vary by channel), the Roku channel is completely free. You don’t even need to create an account to start watching content. However, there is only one level available: you should see ads. Peacock offers a powerful and worthwhile free tier, but customers can also pay $4.99 or $9.99 per month for a better experience.
As you might expect, you can access the Roku channel on anything with the Roku name on it, including HDMI dongles, smart TVs, and Roku’s Android and iOS apps. You can even view it through a browser or install it on your desktop. Non-Roku owners can watch programming through Amazon Fire TV or select Samsung Smart TVs. However, unlike Tubi, there is no Roku app for video game consoles.
Roku’s Web and Mobile Channel
Roku users will be familiar with the dark purple and black color scheme that dominates the Roku channel. The website shows the big starting image of a featured show before other shows and movies are rolled out into crammed rows. Categories include all the shows you’re already watching, as well as themed categories. Browse new hot offers or offers that are about to leave the service. Watch movies that are not on Netflix. Get a free taste of premium channels. Or let Roku recommend content they think you’ll enjoy. You can also directly search for content and save it to your list. Choosing a movie gives you a synopsis, rating, genre, and images. Shows also include a list of every episode in a particular season.
The video player itself is fine. You can skip 15 seconds back and play Picture-in-Picture. However, you cannot adjust the video quality (or even know the quality of the broadcast video). We understand the free services do not support 4K streams, but viewers still need to know that information. Streaming quality also depends on what you’re watching. If the display is not in widescreen, it is also possible that it is not HD. While playback was largely satisfactory over a home Wi-Fi connection (60Mbps download), some performances will struggle initially before smoothing themselves out and improving image quality. This happened a lot with live TV.
The mobile experience is much the same, except that you can choose between “Auto, Low, Medium, and High” video quality options. The real advantage for mobile users is that the Roku app also works as a remote control for any Roku device. So, use your phone to control the TV, quickly type text searches, or issue voice commands. As a free service, Roku lets you stream a Roku channel simultaneously to as many devices as you want without hitting a limit. However, you cannot download the videos to your mobile device for offline viewing, which is something we appreciate about premium streaming services.
Accessibility and parental control
The free services are especially difficult for police parents because there is virtually no barrier to entry. Any online kid can watch whatever they want without spending money or even creating an account. However, Roku’s channel has ratings for all of its shows and movies, and allows you to create a PIN to restrict access to adult content if you have an account.
For accessibility, you can turn English subtitles on or off. You can also adjust several subtitle display options, such as text color, font size, and window opacity.
Roku Channel and VPN
Watching a streaming service without paying money is one thing, but what if you could watch a streaming service without exposing your private online life? A virtual private network (VPN) is a vital tool for online digital security, as it impersonates your location to another part of the world. However, they tend to clash with their streaming services and regional licensing deals.
I tested the Roku channel using a Windows PC connected to ProtonVPN servers, and the results were disappointing (but expected). I can stream video while connected to VPN servers located in the US, but I’m locked out if I almost travel abroad. It’s strange that live TV works with an active VPN, but that may change in the future due to how quickly streaming services move to block VPN traffic.
ROCK ON, ROCO
If you already have a Roku device, you may also see what the Roku Channel has to offer. After all, it’s free. You can find a classic sitcom from your childhood, an old movie you never saw in theaters, breaking news, or an original hidden gem rescued from a quibi.
However, Editors’ Choice Peacock is a much more attractive free service that allows you to upgrade to a paid subscription even better. If you’re willing to pay from the start, Hulu and Netflix are also Editors’ Choice picks for general streaming audiences.
For more information on streaming, check out five reasons why you might want to drop your video subscription and keep cable. Additionally, you should read how live streaming ushered in a new golden age of trash television.
The Roku Channel won’t replace your favorite premium video streaming service, but it does offer free ad-supported classic movies, original shows, and live TV.
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