Roku is taking another step to go beyond merely selling TV dongles. Roku Channel—the company’s free streaming service, which is accessible via an internet browser—will now include the option to subscribe to premium channels such as Showtime and Starz.
The idea is to help people consolidate their subscription streaming services, the company said on Wednesday. Roku Channel watchers will get access to more than 25 premium channel providers, all of which can be managed on a single monthly bill.
The ad-supported Roku Channel offers a selection of TV shows and movies, and was originally only offered via Roku-powered TVs and dongles. But since August, it’s also been accessible on PCs or smartphones by visiting the site on a browser. (However, to watch the content you must create a Roku account.)
Premium subscription offerings will first be available to select owners of Roku hardware ahead of a wider rollout in early 2019.
Netflix, Hulu, and HBO are noticeably absent from the launch list. Also, if you choose to subscribe to a paid service, you’ll only be able to access it via the Roku Channel—and not over the Showtime or Starz standalone app, for instance. To address this shortcoming, the company announced another big change on Wednesday: Later this month, you’ll be able to access the Roku Channel via the company’s mobile app.
“For the first time, users with iOS and Android devices will be able to use the Roku mobile app without a Roku device, enabling them to watch The Roku Channel anytime, anywhere in the United States,” it said.
The goal is to make Roku Channel a “one-stop shop” for both free and premium content, the company added. But it’s going to face some stiff competition from the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple, which also sell streaming hardware and have been making moves to offer more content. Amazon has offered premium add-ons for Prime customers since 2015, as has Hulu.
In addition to Showtime and Starz, Roku Channel will let you pay subscriptions for Epix, Baeble Music, CollegeHumor’s DROPOUT, CuriosityStream, FitFusion, The Great Courses Signature Collection, Hopster, Magnolia Selects presented by Magnolia Pictures, MHz Choice, NOGGIN, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Tastemade, Viewster Anime and other premium streaming channels.
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