The Roku Channel is a great way to enjoy TV shows and movies without paying up for a streaming service. And now, it’s also becoming a great way to watch sports for free.
In a press release, FIFA announced that its streaming service FIFA Plus is coming to The Roku Channel along with a few other free streaming services. FIFA Plus may be one of the lesser-known “Plus” services, but it does offer a wide range of soccer content — or football content, depending on your preferred terminology. It offers original content, match replays, archived content and even live broadcasts in over 50 countries.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the U.S. or England made that list of 50 countries. While U.S. users can access some live matches from select national leagues, FIFA’s announcement says, “more than 50 countries including Brazil, Japan and The Netherlands can enjoy live broadcasts of the matches” in reference to the Women’s World Cup.
We couldn’t find a full list of the nations, but I imagine that if it was available in the U.S. FIFA would be touting that fact given that it’s a major TV market and the home of the current title favorite and two-time defending champions. Most likely, FIFA gave up the rights to show the games on FIFA Plus in some markets when it signed broadcast rights deals with major networks (in the U.S. games are exclusive to FOX).
In addition to The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, LG Channels, VIDAA (Hisense) Channels and Rakuten TV will all get access to FIFA Plus as a free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel. FIFA Plus is also available as a free app on Samsung smart TVs, LG webOS TVs, Hisense’s smart TV VIDAA platform, Amazon Fire TVs, and both Android TVs and Google TVs.
Sports is the next major push for The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel and other free streaming services have already compiled compelling offerings when it comes to TV shows and movies. Even prestige TV shows from HBO can now be watched on The Roku Channel.
But sports is still a relatively weak point for FAST channels, in no small part due to sports being live events that typically are limited to one channel at a time in broadcast rights deals.
Using the Women’s World Cup as an example — FOX isn’t just going to give up the rights to being the exclusive home of games in the U.S. It pays a lot of money for that right. It would want to negotiate a separate deal with Roku to put those on The Roku Channel, and Roku would need to make sure it’s getting its money’s worth in such a deal — which certainly wouldn’t be cheap for Roku.
But Roku is trying. The FIFA Plus announcement joins Roku’s announcement that Formula E is coming to The Roku Channel. That makes it two channels that will occasionally show live sports announced in a matter of a month, all for free. Just don’t expect Roku to stop with these two channels. Live sports are clearly an area where Roku wants to get more involved — and fast.