Streaming can be both a traditional TV replacement and a grand addition to what ever one does for entertainment. Because Roku has thousands of channels available we put this article here to help you find some of the best free ones. The suggestions from this article are meant to solve problems and give Roku owners options that will entertain and inform them.
We imagine you are familiar with YouTube at this point. It is one of the best-known brands in streaming both via its website and mobile apps. The breadth of information available on YouTube is as diverse as the world and worldwide web. The YouTube channel for Roku is a very well designed app that organizes content in a way that makes it discoverable and accessible. If you already have a YouTube user name and choose to sign in, you will be able to access your viewing history, which will inform what you see suggested to you. YouTube’s TV interface breaks down by Music, Gaming, News, Movies, Subscriptions, and Library. The music section works like an independent music app breaking down genres and making suggestions based on what you have listened to in the past. The Gaming section is a bit more particular with content from game streamers and live options to watch others play, News on YouTube gathers clips from multiple sources in a way that lets users keep up with the day’s news from a number of perspectives. Movies allows users to find free ad-supported content along with content to buy or rent. Subscriptions culls every YouTube channel you have subscribed to so that you can jump to your own particular areas of interest and the Library is home to viewing history, any videos you have uploaded under your user name, as well as your personal playlists.
Tubi is a growing source for free content from FOX and tons of other studios. The purchase of Tubi by Fox opened up a new avenue for fans of its programming, but there is a lot more. Tubi has at last count 57 content categories of totally free content. Just to poke fun at its paid competition there is even a category called Not on Netflix and an exclusive category called Only Free on Tubi. When we checked this listing there were 107 exclusives. You can find Hollywood hits, Bollywood hits, Anime, classic 1980s cartoons, and lots more. Tubi also has a channel listing where users can zero in on content from specific providers. Whether you are looking for the latest episode of The Masked Singer or a classic western you can find it on-demand on Tubi TV.
Pluto TV is a hybrid service that works as both an on-demand service and a live TV choice. In its live TV grid, viewers will find a regular stream of channels organized in a traditional manner by genre. There are content sections for Movies, Entertainment, News Reality, Crime, Comedy, Classic TV, Home/DIY Explore (educational), Sports, Gaming/Anime, Music, Latino and Kids. The selections in the live section range between collections of programming from partners that are arranged into daily schedules, Internet-based live streaming services from news organizations and over the air networks, and channels dedicated to one specific show or theme. Not many of the channels found on Pluto TV will show up in a cable lineup but you can flip along and find something to watch any time. Pluto TV also has a huge on-demand section also broken up by genre. There are 99 categories of on-demand content on Pluto TV. With a watchlist available users can map out the choices and get to their favorites in a few clicks.
Peacock is a hybrid of free TV offering with the option of paying for more content. The content is built on the library of Comcast and its many cable and broadcast network shows and films. Peacock also features a live streaming section called channels that gathers popular shows from across the Comcast owned news and entertainment spectrum to educate and entertain viewers for free. Its selection is surprisingly deep. To make sure you understand what is free and what is not the app has premium content labeled with a purple feather.
Pandora is one of the oldest music apps available for streaming. The app is commercially supported with clips playing ever so often after a number of songs. The service is fun because users can look for music based on type like “classical music or Rock Music” and just immediately tap into a huge selection of songs from a specific genre or create channels focused on specific artists supported by related content. For instance, choose Bonjovi and you may also get selections from Poison, a big hair band of the same era. If you have never just put music on your TV while you are reading or cooking you will love to discover Pandora.
The Roku Channel is a Roku original. The searchable channel offers tons of free movies and TV shows from a number of Roku’s content partners with a promise of limited commercials compared to TV and even many other apps. The channel breaks content into a manageable 36 genre rows and also offers a cool Live TV grid that integrates Internet-based channels with any sort of live premium channels a user has subscribed to via the Roku Channels subscription section. The live TV grid has 60 plus live streaming channels from across the entertainment and news genres.
Plex is one of the oldest streaming options on Roku. It has numerous features that make it a must-have. Outside of the original core function that allows users to organize digital media and share it the people behind Plex have been working to make the app more accessible to less technically minded users with a number of new features. First of all, Plex offers a large selection of free movies and TV shows. Plex also has its own live TV grid of Internet-based channels. The app also features a great podcast player, a customizable news aggregator, and short webisodes. The channel is very diverse and could almost stand on its own as an operating system.
Shout factory is a production company with ties to many libraries of popular content. Home to MST3K, classic Johnny Carson, Rifftrax, Japanese TV, cult films, and series, the offbeat channel has a lot to offer those looking for content you can’t find everywhere. There is a live feed on the channel that plays a curated selection from its offerings including occasional special selections like marathons and seasonal entries.
The PBS channel on Roku is a sort of hybrid offering. The channel has a live feed of whichever PBS station is considered local to your area. It also has free on-demand content. Where it can get confusing is that it also has content that is only available to PBS supporters locked behind a pay wall. But its live option, which launched in 2020 is a first of its kind feed as far as established national networks go.
Crackle is a free Movie and TV channel that houses films and TV shows from Sony Pictures along with exclusive original content. The content is broken up into 12 categories which are scrollable from A-Z or Z-A. The service leans more heavily towards movies than TV shows, which tend to lean towards the later decades of the 20 century. The movie selection though is quite robust. Users can create profiles for Crackle and build viewing history and watchlists. The app is also searchable and is part of Roku’s integrated metasearch. It is a modern snappy interface with options to sign in and customize further.
Popcorn Flix has 40 categories of films put together in what I would describe as an old fashioned interface as far as streaming apps go these days. There is not a unifying menu or search feature nor a profiles option. The selection is wide though with something to catch a number of different types of viewers. I would expect this channel to get a facelift to bring it up to modern standards in the next year. Until then there is a lot to see including some fun documentaries, offbeat horror, Stand up comedy and more.
Roku Tips and Tricks
Roku Tips and Tricks is sort of like what we do on our YouTube Channel. It presents short videos that explain features and answer FAQs around Roku. It is worth adding even if you have had a Roku for some time and a most definitely something you should put on any Roku for a new user. I have always felt like seeing what a feature or setting looks like simplifies things and is far better than depending on forums or Facebook groups.
Stirr is a service brought to us by Sinclair Broadcast company. That affiliation allows Stirr to tie into local newscasts from across the country and may well be the home of one of your own local stations. This is a nice option for users who want to see their local news on demand. Stirr offers users on-demand access to older movies and TV shows through an easy to search menu. It also, like others features a live TV grid of selections with a heavy dose of owned and operated OTA networks. This does not include say ABC, NBC etc. But users can see live feeds of things like Comet TV, BUZZR, Charge and others along with news, sports programming and more.
XUMO a former startup that was recently purchased by Comcast is a live internet TV aggregator with a wide selection of on-demand content as well. XUMO was one of the first in this type of offering and has grown and matured to offer a great mix of content via its curated live feeds, internet-based TV options, and 24 categories of on-demand content. It even features a Karaoke channel.
VUDU is another hybrid channel of sorts. It exists as both a content store and a free movie provider. The channel was born early in the streaming revolution as an outgrowth of Walmart. Longtime streaming fans may even remember a day when there were “VUDU Boxes” designed simply to offer the app on its own. These days VUDU still sells movies but has an extensive listing of free ad-supported movies as well. There are 27 sections of free content. The movies range from indie to old favorites. the interface is modern, intuitive, and easy to use. You would be remiss not to have this in your Roku lineup.
The CW app is one of the rare network apps that is not built into a provider agreement. While other recognizable broadcast networks offer recent content only to pay-tv subscribers the CW operates like its own in-house Hulu where fans can access all of their shows within 24 hours of airing. The app will hold on to the five most recently played episodes at a time so it is not a place to start a long-running series. But it is a great way to keep up with any show you would like to watch on an ongoing basis.
NewsOn is an app designed to allow users to access regional news from anywhere in the country. This is great for those who are traveling and would like to see the news from back home, but also very important for viewers who would like to get a more local understanding of national stories. If there is a shooting at a mall in Dallas CNN may have one way of reporting it. But a local Dallas based station is going to approach it from a very different perspective. Users have utilized NewsOn over the years to follow the path of major hurricanes on their way up the coast through the eyes of the reporters who know the locals and appreciate their perspective. It’s the local national news.
Radio station streaming
TuneIn Radio is a longstanding music app that allows users to access traditional radio stations from across the country. The app offers avenues to listen to live sports, Podcasts and like we said to start radio stations. By providing access to radio stations from across all genres of music it allows users to find their favorite local channels and discover radio stations from across America. Users can search for channels by call letter and frequency number.
iHeart Radio radio is a free radio station agregator that allows users to find stations from across the spectrum of stations by state, call letters and frequency. Users who create a profile can make playlists and build libraries for content. The service offers a number of podcasts as well.
Both of our featured channels sound identical. The main difference is that the thousands of stations across the country tend to align with one offering or the other. You can’t get the same exact channels on each so to get the full breadth it is best to have both.