We’ve written before about the tiny Roku video streaming devices, primarily in the context of being a full featured way of getting Netflix and Amazon Prime video streaming from the internet to your television/video screen.
The units are small and very easy to connect to your screen, and inexpensive, ranging in price from $50 to $100. Amazon sell them for slightly less, and of course Amazon gives you free shipping too (and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can then use the Roku device to stream the free videos that Prime members are allowed access too).
The Roku devices conveniently connect to your internet via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet, and typically via an HDMI type cable to your television. They are easy to set up and use.
Increasingly, television sets and even Blu-ray players come with additional intelligence themselves that allows you to access video streaming services, but Roku is sometimes better – in particular, we’ve noticed that the Roku units tend to be among the first to support new Netflix features (such as sub-titles, multiple account profiles, Super HD, 5.1 audio, etc). So although we have both a Blu-ray player and a television that can directly access internet streaming and Netflix/Amazon, and a Chromecast player too providing yet another route to such services, we generally use the connectivity through our Roku box.
The first thousand reasons to get a Roku player are easy to explain. Each reason is a content channel. There are more than a thousand different channels of content on Roku players at present. Not all of these are free, and not all of them are very useful to everyone, and many seem to duplicate existing channels either also on the Roku box or else available through satellite or cable connections that you might also have. For example, there are 53 different weather channels for you to choose from.
But, whether you need them or not, the point is simply that the Roku box currently is a gateway to an enormous range of 1000 different channels of content, with more appearing (and some disappearing) on a regular basis. Note that they’re not all free, but you can of course make your own decisions about which channels you want to pay for, and you can usually turn your subscriptions on or off at short notice, so if there’s something you don’t like or don’t watch as much as you’d expected, you’re probably not stuck with any appreciable commitment.
These channels – both pay and free – are readily accessible. You simply work through the layers of content menus, and you can choose the channels you want to add to your active list of channels, and of course, you can add/change/delete and generally edit your choices at any time.
Talking about readily accessible, you can of course control your Roku player through its provided remote control, but you can also control it through an app that you add to your Android or iOS smartphone/tablet. And, with so many choices of channels, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start looking first for a particular television show or movie, so they also offer a search function that searches across their channels to find the content you seek.
So, that’s the first thousand reasons to get a Roku player. What about the second thousand reasons?
Roku Private Channels
The answer might be surprising – in addition to the public channels that you can access on your Roku player, you can access still more ‘private’ or unlisted channels. There are many more private channels available for people to subscribe to – some are also free and some are not free, and while some allow everyone to join, others are truly private and don’t allow unknown people to join.
The public channels are there for you to discover and see via the Roku’s built-in logical menu structure, but the private channels require you to already know the private channel address or code to directly enter into your Roku device. However, this special procedure is a one time thing, only. Once you’ve added a private channel to your viewing list, it appears ‘normally’ on your list of channels for future access.
Note that all Roku channels are not necessarily channels in the sense of a typical television channel. They may not have ongoing original real-time programming. Some channels are repositories of shows and other more static content that you can then work through and watch as and when you wish – by way of random example, the BBQ Pit Boys channel has over 325 barbecue recipes. These channels are more like YouTube collections than the original historical concept of a content channel.
Other channels add new shows perhaps once a week, or from time to time, or when special events occur. There are even channels that allow you to watch your internet connected security cameras, and – inevitably/unavoidably – X-rated channels such as wouldn’t appear on the regular Roku listings.
How many of these private channels are there? That’s anyone’s guess, and also a number that changes from week to week; some of the channels seem to come and go quite quickly. This site sells Roku channel creation software and services, and says that it is being used by 3040 different Roku channels, and who knows how many other private channels have been created using other software, too.
The private channels are channels which Roku takes an official ‘no opinion’ stand on. Roku says it doesn’t vet or approve private channels, but neither does it restrict or censor channels. There are no known security/privacy issues (yet) with adding private channels to your Roku account.
There’s also one particular private channel that might be of special interest to you. You can create your own home private channel and use it for streaming pictures, audio and video from computers on your network to your Roku connected screens and sound systems.
When you’ve found a channel you want to add to your Roku account and player(s), you go to the Roku website and enter its channel access code here. That is about as easy, quick, and simple as you’d ever hope for.
How do you find out about private channels? There are a number of websites that list them, and the best thing to do is simply search for ‘Roku private channels’ on Google or Bing.
Chances are you’ll find a few that you like, and so, if you don’t already have a Roku player, will have uncovered still more reasons to get one.
5 thoughts on “Another Thousand Reasons to Buy a Roku Video Streaming Device”
Nice article. We purchased our first Roku, a Roku 3, this Christmas. An avid streaming family (AT&T calls us heavy bandwidth users at >200GB/mo) we are very familiar with streaming on smart devices, phones, ps3, wii, xbox 360, etc. It is our “cable”.
I wholeheartedly agree that “[these devices] allow you to access video streaming services, but Roku is sometimes better.” I would say it is outright superior in nearly every way. Especially the Roku 3; first because it is so much faster, second because its internal search accesses the major databases: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, Crackle, and many more. And it is simply a better search interface. Couple that with the fact that any smart device (I use an iPad and my iPhone) can be made to be the best of touchscreen remotes, complete with qwerty keyboard, and the second place finisher for streaming is a distant second.
The one caveat I have for would be first time Roku users, the ESPN channel, which was fabulous for watching the BCS championship (i loved toggling back and forth to spidercam), was nearly unwatchable at times due to what I can only guess are bandwidth issues on ESPN’s side. Generally I have zero bandwidth issues from the majors (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix), but ESPN’s channel is horrible, as are some others, which I would imagine have less funding. To be clear, what I am referencing si you are watching, and then it drops the connection and says “Loading…” from anywhere of a dozen seconds to a minute or two. Bad in any situation, unacceptable during a live game (yes I missed key plays)
Bottom Line: just because a channel exists that is the Holy Grail for you (as ESPN was for me), doesn’t mean its all roses, regardless of your bandwidth.
Still no youtube channel on Roku. Otherwise, I would update my six year old Roku. I guess Google does not want to play nice.
YouTube is available on Roku. See, for example, http://www.roku.com/channels/#search/youtube/by-popular
Thanks. I am now buying the new high end Roku.
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