Roku is making free, ad-supported TV channels a greater focus of its Roku Channel offerings, an attempt to lean into the kind of channel-flipping, sit-back-and watch experience you typically get with cable. And while its free TV offerings are still relatively meager at around 100 channels, the addition signals a greater focus on improvements to the Roku Channel’s overall offerings.
Roku—which supports streaming through media devices and on connected smarts TVs—has long-supported live TV offerings with an antenna, cable, or with apps like Sling or Fubo. But the company is now leaning into live TV in earnest—complete with an updated Roku Channel interface design as well as Roku remote navigation support.
The Roku Channel is adding more than 30 new channels to bring its free channel lineup to more than 100. In addition, the company will begin rolling out a discovery-focused Live TV channel guide in the coming weeks—a feature that’s meant to give users a similar experience to traditional, linear TV viewing. It’s also meant to make discovery much easier, and Roku will let users see up to 12 hours of upcoming content.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for our users to have easy access to free content, such as news, and the ability to find it quickly,” Ashley Hovey, Director of AVOD Growth at Roku, said in a statement. “We’re excited to enhance the streaming experience through a Live Channel TV Guide and bring more free content from the Roku Channel to the forefront.”
The streaming market has exploded in recent months as more and more people have found themselves spending increased time at home amid the ongoing global pandemic.
Roku, in particular, saw a massive surge in the use of its products since quarantine orders started, with the company’s active accounts totaling nearly 40 million as of April (up roughly 3 million from the previous quarter). Year-over-year, the Roku Channel—which serves viewers free, ad-supported content—saw a 100 percent increase in streaming hours during Q1, the company said.
As for Roku’s expanded channels, the company is adding more than 30 free, ad-based channels in categories that include news, kids, sports, lifestyle, as well as Spanish-language entertainment. ABC News Live, Cheddar, USA TODAY, fubo Sports Network, Crime360, Reuters, FilmRise selections, and Bon Appétit are just a few of the channels available through Roku’s dedicated free and linear TV lineup.
A Roku spokesperson told Gizmodo that access to news and information, in particular, “has never been greater and we wanted to give consumers as much access to information as possible.” Jessica April, Director Strategic Partnerships at Reuters—one of Roku’s news category partners—said in a statement that it is “a critical time for accurate and unbiased news coverage, and we’re excited to partner with Roku to deliver our world-class journalism to their users.”
The Live TV channel guide will begin rolling out in the coming weeks, the company said. Users will be able to find it as a bright purple tile within the Roku Channel or by pressing left on their Roku remote while streaming linear content.