Roku Channel Adds Premium Subscriptions

Posted on January 29, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 11 Comments

Striking ahead of Apple’s widely-expected video service, Roku has added premium subscriptions to its own Roku Channel service.

“We’re focused on making it easy to find great entertainment of all types on the platform and adding premium subscriptions is a natural evolution for The Roku Channel,” Roku Vice President Rob Holmes says. “As a top five channel by active account reach, The Roku Channel is already a great source for free, ad-supported entertainment and provides significant user engagement. By making it easy for users to discover, subscribe to and watch premium subscriptions, we believe this offering will result in increased subscriptions and user engagement for our subscription partners and an even better user experience.”

Roku is best-known, of course, for its streaming video set-top boxes and, more recently, a growing selection of Roku-powered smart TVs. But the Roku Channel is the firm’s attempt to expand its market to include content. So it competes, in many ways, with the other services that you’ll find on Roku devices, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and many others.

To date, the Roku Channel has offered over 10,000 free and ad-supported video services. But with this week’s expansion, it becomes a more full-featured offering where users can browse, trial, and subscribe to paid services like EPIX, Showtime, Starz, and other less well-known offerings. Roku says that 25 premium subscriptions are available immediately.

Premium subscriptions are rolling out in phases across modern Roku devices (model number 2450 and higher) and smart TVs, the web, and on iPhone and iPad. Android device support is coming in early February.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Roku Channel Adds Premium Subscriptions”

  1. mattbg

    I'm tempted to have a look at Roku, despite not really needing another source of streaming media.

    It's a hard place to have a foot in the Apple ecosystem and needing to buy an Apple TV to access any of it. Even if you could accept the price and the relatively lackluster nature of the device, I don't want a big box with its own power supply shackled to every TV - especially not those that I want to put on the wall.

    I just bought a Canadian TV series on iTunes that aired in the 1990s. It's only available on iTunes Canada. Movies Anywhere doesn't work in Canada. I've just realized that I can only watch it on one TV in my house - the one with the Apple TV 4K which is a device that I'm becoming more frustrated with by the day.

    I like Apple, but their service strategy needs some serious work. They need to get iTunes on Roku and they need to support Chromecast. What is the deal with this company and their gated community? It makes sense if they provide a superior experience through their control, but with streaming media almost everyone else is doing a better job.

    • Polycrastinator

      In reply to mattbg:

      I doubt they'll support Chromecast because Google, but with Smart TV Manufacturers bringing iTunes and/or AirPlay, that change is coming. It will be interesting to see if they go to Roku as well. They might not want to support streaming devices that compete with Apple TV.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to mattbg:

      You act like it's only Apple to blame for their stuff not being on other devices. Google is not easy to work with. Especially for competitors. Just ask Microsoft. And do you know Apple didn't go to Roku and Roku said no or are you just speculating.

      Plus I don't think AppleTV is worse then anyone else. I have an older Roku and didn't like the interface as much as the AppleTV interface. The Amazon interface is a bit nicer, but if you aren't Amazon you don't get the same placement. Now it's been a while since I used either of them so maybe I should plug them back in and update them and check again.

      • Yaggs

        In reply to lvthunder: Apple wouldn't have to ask Roku if they were allowed to make an app for their OS... They would just write the app and release it on Roku. Most of the apps on Roku are exactly that. Amazon has one.. Google Play has a Roku app... I don't see why Microsoft doesn't build one... thank God we have Movie Anywhere so this isn't as big of a deal, but that doesn't cover all the movies someone might own.
        Microsoft, with Office 365 at least, has finally figured out that if you make a great service and put it on devices people are actually using then you stand a better chance for your services to thrive. Apple still sees things through the a hardware tie in lens. Maybe the semi-fall of the iPhone will be the wake up call they need to change their hardware first mindset.

        • lvthunder

          In reply to Yaggs:

          Yeah, just ask Alex Jones if you need Roku's approval to have an app. You have no idea why there isn't an app. Sure you have speculation or theories, but you don't know the truth. One could be announced tomorrow. You never know.

      • mattbg

        In reply to lvthunder:

        My frustration is more to do with small things that add up.

        For example, why doesn't it show the current time on the playbar? Why does the Plex app have strange frame rate stuttering that neither the HTPC version or TV-native version has? Why can't I mark an episode as played in iTunes (FFS!)? Why can't I turn the damn thing off? Why can't I access the skip function via IR so that I can at least try to replace the silly remote it comes with?

        I hate the remote. Not that it's not functional (if you manage to hold it the right way up in the dark) - it's just so obviously trying to be clever at the expense of real functionality.

        I just get the feeling they don't care about Apple TV - maybe the price or margin is not high enough for them. That'd be fine if you could access iTunes content somewhere else.

        Not too enthusiastic about AirPlay support - running your battery down to stream content to your TV.

        The best thing I can say about it is that some of the apps are decent, and some aren't available for any other streaming device.

  2. mos0788

    I'm tempted to have a look at Roku, despite not really needing another source of streaming media. at ahmednagar

  3. yoshi

    When it comes to Smart TVs, I would take Roku any day over the others. But for streaming interfaces, I think Apple TV is the best. There are only 2 things I hate about the Apple TV - the price of it and the stupid remote that comes with it.

  4. billyboy

    I have heard that HBO Now is not part of this offer. Also that the subscriptions only work on Roku devices and not on other streaming devices. Can anyone confirm this?

  5. JoePaulson

    I came to Roku because I had subs....I doubt I will ever use this.....It is nice though for those who want an easy way to add features to their device with little hassle (into and out of the service)

  6. Hoomgar

    Nice.  Being a Roku owner/user since day 1 version 1 I do have to say they have been doing a better job of keeping up.  This is something they should have done years ago but at least they are getting to it now.  It's a great move for them.

    I have only ever purchased 3 Roku units since they released the very first model and all 3 are still in service and working fine.  Of course the latest model is what I use in my den and therefor the only one that matters as far as features and content like this for me.  I'm not sure what support for things like this the original model may still have as that is now in the hands of extended family and I no longer use it myself.