Disney Plus with ads doesn’t work on Roku — here’s why

(L to R) A phone with the Disney Plus logo and a Roku remote in a hand.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Tom's Guide)

As you may have heard, Disney Plus with ads debuted on Thursday (Dec. 8). Roku device owners, though can't access the $7.99 per month plan that's meant to help avoid the new $10.99 per month price increase. 

Editor's note: Tom's Guide has learned, from a source familiar with the situation, that Disney Plus with ads isn't on Roku because of a disagreement over the terms of the contract. This would seem to make the issue mostly about how the ad sales are split between the two companies. We will continue to monitor the situation for more updates.

In Disney Plus' Help Center (opens in new tab), the service simply notes "Disney+ Basic is not currently available on Roku devices ... or the Microsoft Windows Desktop app." It does not provide any news on when this should arrive. But we would hope (now that we've learned this snafu is about a contract) that Roku devices should get this support soon.

This was a bit of a surprise, as Disney didn't mention the lack of support in its press announcement (opens in new tab) that the ad-supported Disney Plus basic was live. That said, Netflix with ads had a similar (but arguably less severe) issue at launch.

While Netflix with ads was available on the two biggest streaming platforms (Fire TV and Roku), it didn't work on the Apple TV 4K and legacy Google Chromecast (3rd Generation and Ultra) devices.

Analysis: Disney Plus can't skip Roku

While we think Disney Plus with ads beats Netflix with ads overall (both on streaming quality and completeness of its library), this is a big problem. Roku is one of the two biggest streaming device platforms (alongside Fire TV), and you can't cut out that big a swath of the market with your latest endeavor.

Roku is also a prime platform for Disney Plus with ads, a tier that's meant to try and keep users at a lower price (while the main ad-free Disney Plus just went up to $10.99 per month), because users there are used to ads. Roku is constantly filling The Roku Channel with new free linear TV channels. 

These "channels" are known as free ad-supported streaming TV (aka FAST) programming. Amazon integrates ad-supported TV (and many an advertisement) into Fire TV devices, but not as strongly.

As noted above, this lack of support is apparently tied to an inability for both sides to reach a contractual agreement. Given the sizes of both Roku and Disney Plus, an inability to close this deal would be a mistake.

Stay tuned to Tom's Guide for all the news about the best streaming services, as we track the industry's embrace of advertising. For those curious, Prime Video and Apple TV Plus are two of the last competitors holding out.

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Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.