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Roku outage shows the dangers of overly connected smart TVs

Roku remote with a Netflix button among others in front of a TV.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Did your Roku stop working the way it was supposed to on Wednesday night? Well you weren’t the only one, thanks to some serious disruption to the company’s services that rendered Roku devices and Roku TVs pretty much useless.

Users took to social media and the Roku subreddit to report their problems. Meanwhile Down Detector (opens in new tab) shows the problems began at around 7.30 p.m. ET and lasted for about four hours. 

Roku outage graph on down detector

(Image credit: Dowm Detector)

Meanwhile, Roku acknowledged (opens in new tab) the problem at around 8.30 p.m. ET. ”Roku is aware of an issue reported by users who are unable to access some Roku services,” it said on its community forum. “If you are trying to activate your device, please try again later.”

The company later announced at 1 a.m. ET that they believed the situation to be resolved. However, there was no confirmation as to what caused the outage, and why it affected Roku devices the way it did.

Obviously the situation is worse for people with a Roku TV. Not being able to use your streaming device is very annoying, but not as annoying as the fact your TV won’t boot up due to problems beyond your control. 

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Some users even reported that they couldn’t use any TV input, including cable boxes and DVD players, despite the fact they have absolutely nothing to do with Roku.

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If a streaming stick suffers connection problems you can always do something else, such as play video games or watch traditional TV. If your whole TV fails, you’re essentially up the creek without a paddle.

Fortunately, some people did find workarounds (opens in new tab), including switching the TV to ‘store mode,’ or unplugging the Ethernet cable to disconnect the unit from Roku servers. Unfortunately, that last one would only work if you had a hardwired TV connection in the first place.

Here’s hoping, for the sake of Roku TV owners everywhere, that the company realizes this is a problem and fixes it. That doesn’t stop further outages affecting the actual streaming aspect, but when you’re consuming content that relies on the internet there isn’t a huge amount you can do about that.

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.