Later this month, Roku will begin selling premium subscriptions to streaming services directly through The Roku Channel. Roku executives have indicated that The Roku Channel is the future of the platform and will probably become the actual home screen of Roku devices, so it’s no surprise to see paid content make its way to the channel. Customers will be able to subscribe to Showtime, Starz, Epix, and other services in a manner that is very similar to Amazon Prime Video Channels.
The Roku Channel first launched as a collection of free ad-support movies and shows to watch on Roku devices. The company later added more content, like news and sports, to the channel and made it available on other platforms, such as smart TVs and the web. Its availability through a web browser is what makes The Roku Channel already accessible on Fire TV devices, even though Roku has not yet released an official app.
Prices for premium subscriptions through The Roku Channel are identical to prices through Prime Video Channels or directly through the service. A disadvantage of subscribing through The Roku Channel is not being able to use that subscription to access content through the service provider’s own app. That is something that became possible with Prime Video Channel subscriptions over time, so there is a good chance Roku will gain that capability in the future as well.
One advantage of Roku Channel premium subscriptions versus Prime Video Channel subscriptions is that you don’t need to be a Prime member to subscribe. That always seemed like an odd limitation with Amazon’s service and I expect that Prime Video Channels will soon be available to all Amazon customers as well, to stay competitive with Roku.
One of the launch partners with Roku’s premium subscription offering is Epix, which was previously only available through traditional TV providers. This confirms that a standalone Epix service will now be available. While it’s not yet available through Prime Video Channels, it will likely be added soon enough.
At launch, customers will be able to subscribe to the following paid streaming services through The Roku Channel: SHOWTIME, Starz, 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, and Viewster Anime. Notably missing from Roku’s list of launch partners is HBO.
Since subscriptions through The Roku Channel can only be accessed through the channel itself, Roku has also announced that access to The Roku Channel will be added to the Roku app. This essentially makes The Roku Channel a cross-platform streaming app, much like the Prime Video app. Access to The Roku Channel will be available on the Roku app on Android and iOS smartphones, but, as Roku ventures deeper into becoming a streaming content provider, it’s likely that the app will eventually come to other streaming devices, such as Fire TVs, Android TV, and Apple TV.