Have you decided to cut the cord in 2023 and are trying to decide which streaming device is best for you? Roku products stack up pretty well against competing devices from Amazon and Google. One of the perks you get from adding a Roku device to your home is easy access to The Roku Channel.
The Roku Channel offers free streaming options for both movies and television series, including some original content that is exclusive to the platform. The app has both live and on-demand streaming options.
This article was updated in July 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
Table of Contents
- What Is The Roku Channel?
- How To Watch
- Content Available on The Roku Channel
- User Experience
- Final Thoughts
For the purposes of this review, I purchased a Roku Express to watch The Roku Channel on my home television. I also set up a Roku.com account, which is free and gives me access to The Roku Channel via my smartphone, tablet and the internet. This review will provide a combination of information on the service and tips for using it based on my hands-on experience.
What Is The Roku Channel?
The Roku Channel is an app for watching movies and TV shows that is attached to the popular Roku streaming devices.
Roku streaming devices and televisions come preloaded with applications that include the Roku Channel, but you also can get access to the content through smartphones, tablets and computers.
The Roku Channel has a growing library of original content and also offers the ability to integrate your subscriptions to other streaming services on its content menu for easy access.
How To Watch The Roku Channel
You can watch The Roku Channel without access to a Roku device, but that may require signing up for a Roku.com account. Let’s look at the sign-up process and the devices that will support the content.
If you already have a Roku television or streaming device, such as a Roku Express or Roku Premiere, you likely were prompted to sign up for a Roku account during your setup of that device. That same login information will serve to access The Roku Channel. You should already be signed in on your Roku streaming device, so it likely will not prompt you to log in to enjoy the channel. However, you will need your login information to access the content from a non-Roku device.
You can sign up for a Roku account via your Roku device, or you can set one up without a device on Roku’s official website. Here’s a quick look at the type of information (name, email address, date of birth, etc.) that is required to sign up.
Watching Without an Account
The Roku Channel used to cater only to users who signed up for Roku accounts, but that’s no longer the case in 2023.
You now can access The Roku Channel via a web browser or the Roku app without signing up for an account. You can watch content as a guest, but you won’t be able to pause and resume content on another device or save favorites, which are key advantages to having a Roku account when using The Roku Channel.
Devices and Apps
If you’re trying to stream The Roku Channel from your television, you will find it already installed on the following:
- Roku TV
- Samsung TV
As of July 2023, you can now download The Roku Channel on Google TV devices as well.
If you’re looking to stream the channel on a television that is not one of the above, you’ll need one of the Roku streaming devices from this list:
- Streaming Stick Plus
You don’t need a television to access The Roku Channel. You can watch it via the Roku app on your phone or tablet. It is available on the Google Play Store (for Android users) and the Apple App Store (for iOS users).
You also can view The Roku Channel via web player on your laptop or personal computer through its official website.
Content Available To Stream on The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel has a content mix that includes live streaming television, on-demand movies and TV series as well as access to premium subscription options. I’ve gone through the content library to highlight some titles that may be of interest.
The Roku Channel has dipped its toe into the original content waters. And it could change the way that free streaming services operate moving forward.
In 2021, Roku acquired the rights to the content created by the now-defunct subscription streaming service Quibi for $100 million.
That acquisition provides Roku users with original content from stars including Kevin Hart, Liam Hemsworth, Chance the Rapper and Chrissy Teigen.
The Roku Originals section of The Roku Channel launched with 30 titles, and in March 2023, I counted at least double that number in the growing original content menu.
The shows include reboots of the MTV classic Punk’d (hosted by Chance the Rapper) and the Comedy Central hit Reno 911!
Popular On-Demand Movies
As is the case for many of the free streaming TV options on the market, the library of on-demand movies is a little bit dated. You’re not going to find a popular new release for free on this service, but what you can find are several well-known titles that were box office hits at one point.
And you’ll find that the options rotate often, so act soon if you see a movie that you like featured. You’ll get plenty of big stars, with titles that feature Leonard DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington, among others.
Here are some of the more recognizable titles available in recent months (availability changes often):
- “Napoleon Dynamite”
- “The Wolf of Wall Street”
- “The Devil Wears Prada”
- “Man on Fire”
- “Hurt Locker”
- “Fifty Shades of Grey”
- “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”
- “Donnie Darko”
- “Last Action Hero”
Titles such as “The Dark Knight,” “Batman Begins,” “Caddyshack” and “The Terminator” have appeared as free options on the service in the past.
Popular On-Demand TV Series
Having reviewed several free streaming services, I think this is actually one of the best menus of TV series out there. It has some very recognizable titles from several different genres and eras.
Ranging from recent hits like “Two Broke Girls” to classics like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “I Dream of Jeannie,” there likely is something available to entertain most anyone:
- “Two Broke Girls”
- “My Name Is Earl”
- “Downton Abbey”
- “The Ghost Whisperer”
- “The Mentalist”
- “Murder, She Wrote”
- “I Dream of Jeannie”
- “Project Runway”
- Rules of Engagement
- The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
- Leave It to Beaver
- The A-Team
Titles such as “Cold Case,” “Growing Pains,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Without a Trace” have been featured on the service in the past. Keep in mind that TV series often rotate on and off the platform, so you may want to prioritize viewing a show you like while it’s available.
Popular Kids Content
- “Bob the Builder”
- “Thomas and Friends”
- “Peppa Pig”
- “Paddington Bear”
- “PJ Masks”
- “The Pink Panther”
- “Care Bears”
- “Strawberry Shortcake”
Live Streaming TV Channels
The Roku Channel also offers more than 350 free streaming TV channels. In addition to some recognizable brand names such as ABC, NBC and FOX, Roku also partners with both Pluto TV and XUMO to stream additional live content.
Some of the live channels that are now available on the channel include:
News and Weather
- NBC News Now
- FOX Live Now
- Estrella News
- Yahoo! Finance
- USA Today
- The Hill TV
- Newsmax TV
- Weather Nation
Entertainment and Food
- Antiques Roadshow
- The Bob Ross Channel
- Vanity Fair
- Hell’s Kitchen
- Bon Appetit
Sports and Games
- Fubo Sports Network
- ACC Digital Network
- Family Feud
- Game Show Central
- Deal or No Deal
Pluto TV Content
- MTV on Pluto
- Comedy Central on Pluto
- BET on Pluto
- CMT on Pluto
Access to Premium Subscriptions
While a good amount of the content on The Roku Channel is available free of charge, there is an opportunity to upgrade to get premium services through the app.
The following premium content providers offer subscription options through The Roku Channel:
- Acorn TV
- Lifetime Movie Club
- Hallmark Movies Now
The monthly charges for these subscriptions vary by service and promotional deal, but the handy part about accessing them through The Roku Channel is that you’re able to manage them all right from your Roku.com account menu. If you’re into paying for one or two subscriptions at a time and then rotating to a new service, having all of these options together in one spot could help you keep things in order. It may also help you avoid paying more than you intend via auto-renewals.
My experience with The Roku Channel was a pretty good one, relative to some of the other free streaming apps on the market. The advertisements were not nearly as bad as traditional television, and the interface was user-friendly, clean and responsive.
How Bad Are the Ads?
I found that there were far fewer commercials on The Roku Channel than on a standard television broadcast.
When watching on the Roku app, you’re able to track your progress with the commercials. The image below is of a two-minute commercial break during a movie I watched. In the bottom left corner of the screen, you’ll notice how the app kept me updated on the number of commercials remaining in the break and the amount of time left per commercial.
If you’re watching a standard 30-minute sitcom like “Who’s The Boss?,” you could see as many as five commercial breaks.
However, my experience varied a bit with the sitcoms. During one episode I watched, there was just one commercial break. It featured three 30-second commercials and did not appear until more than 17 minutes into the 23-minute episode. At that pace, you’re going to be enduring far fewer commercials than you do with traditional television.
When watching a full-length feature film like “The Dark Knight,” you can expect to encounter as many as 11 commercial breaks during the two-and-a-half-hour run time. But, much like my experience with the sitcoms, I noticed that sometimes I didn’t actually see a commercial break at the designated spots on the progress bar.
The number of ads shown over the course of a movie appears to be time-related, as a shorter film like Caddyshack had only seven during the 1:37 run time.
I found The Roku Channel’s user interface to be pretty simple to use.
Like many other streaming services, the content was broken down by genre. What I liked about this one was that the first three options were the most useful. First, there was a “Continue Watching” tab for content that you’ve already started. This will help you pick back up where you left off on a movie, or it can help create that “Netflix binge-watching” experience for TV series by letting you jump right back into the next episode.
The next two are “New This Month” — which had all the latest additions for easy browsing — and “News, Sports and Entertainment” live streaming TV options.
Once you’ve determined you’re interested in a piece of content, you can find out all the pertinent information on it by clicking on the tile. That will give you a chance to see a movie’s rating, release date, run time, cast and a plot synopsis.
If you’re using your Roku.com account while viewing, you’ll be able to resume your content if you had to stop before the show was over. That would include switching platforms. So, for example, you could start watching a movie on your Roku streaming device and finish it on The Roku Channel’s website.
As you can in the image below, it offers you the option to resume viewing or play from the beginning.
Tips for Enjoying The Roku Channel
Has some of the available content caught your attention? If so, here are some tips for enjoying it on The Roku Channel:
- Sign up for a Roku account: As I illustrated in the user interface section of this review, being able to stop content on one device and pick it back up on another is pretty handy. Likewise, having it keep track of your current season and episode of a show you’re into will save loads of time.
- Purchase a Roku streaming device: This may seem simple, but you likely will get the most mileage out of The Roku Channel if you’re viewing it on your television. The Roku Express has a suggested retail price of $29.99, but you can often find a better price.
Final Thoughts on The Roku Channel
Still trying to decide whether or not you should add The Roku Channel to your streaming portfolio? Here are some pros and cons to think over.
The Roku Channel: Pros and Cons
|FREE!||Limited availability on non-Roku streaming devices|
|Surprisingly good movie and TV on-demand selection||Must pay for premium portions of service|
|Live streaming TV also included||Not much new release content available for free|
As far as free streaming TV services go, The Roku Channel is one of the top options.
Not only does it have one of the top on-demand selections available, it also has the deepest library of original content libraries available on a free streaming TV platform.
Do you have experience watching The Roku Channel streaming service? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Clark.com community!
- July 2023: Updated approved devices to include Google TV devices.