Roku is bringing its free, ad-supported Roku Channel to the UK. The service, which is available starting today, will give access to over 10,000 on-demand movies, TV episodes, and documentaries, including Fifth Gear, Skins, Get Carter, and The Wicker Man. You’ll be able to access the Roku Channel on Roku devices, Now TV sticks, and Sky Q set-top boxes, and streaming quality goes up to 1080p, depending on the content and exact hardware you’re using.
All of this content is available for free, but there will be ads interspersed throughout the course of whatever you’re watching. Roku says that it’ll try to show viewers a similar amount of ads to what they’d see on other platforms, and in the case of TV shows, it’ll attempt to place ads during the show’s original ad breaks. You won’t have to watch an ad before you start watching something, and Roku tells me it won’t allow the same ad to play more than once in a half-hour period.
The Roku Channel originally launched in the US way back in 2017, and since then, it’s expanded with the launch of an online web-player, live news, and a dedicated kids and family section. Perhaps most significantly, in 2019 Roku added the ability to subscribe to pay TV content providers from within the Roku channel like Showtime, Starz, and HBO.
Although there’s no sign of the US’s live channels, web interface, or premium TV subscriptions, the kids and family section has made the cut. This will provide a dedicated section for family-friendly content, and Roku also says this content will show fewer ads. However, there are no separate user profiles available within the Roku Channel, so you can’t give children a dedicated profile, safe in the knowledge that they won’t stumble across anything they’re not supposed to.
Although Roku is best known for its streaming hardware, its CEO Anthony Wood said in 2018 that he sees the company more as an ad business than a hardware business. Now, with the UK launch of the Roku Channel, this focus on ad-supported content is getting a big boost outside of the US.