The Roku Channel just added a bunch of free stuff I won’t watch — here’s why it works

The Roku Channel just added a bunch of free stuff I won’t watch — here’s why it works
(Image credit: Roku)

The Roku Channel isn't just a hub of free ad-supported on-demand movies and shows — it also has free live TV-like content, much like Pluto TV. Looking at the list of 17 channels, though, you might scratch your head about some of these titles. 

The full list of channels is below, and while some of them seem like they'll be valuable additions, the odd titles remind you that The Roku Channel and Pluto have made whole "channels" — linearly-airing content streams — dedicated to single properties. 

Today's list features both the 1990s swimsuit-clad drama Baywatch and the kids show The Wiggles. Most of these channels arrive today (Tuesday, August 17), while The Wiggles channel comes on Friday (August 19).

While one could understand The Wiggles getting a channel — just plop Junior in front of it for some autopilot parenting — Baywatch just seems weird. There must be an audience for all this kind of stuff, though. Roku doesn't go into things blindly, but what's next, the Knight Rider channel? Oh, well, Roku's also added a dedicated channel for the British reality show The Only Way Is Essex. And looking into that show, I can clearly see it's something I won't be watching. 

The coolest thing at hand is how Roku's giving a second life to cable TV network El Rey. Robert Rodriguez launched the channel in 2013, and while it's aired some cool films, it was mostly of importance for the criminally under-seen pro wrestling program Lucha Underground. That said, Lucha Underground is long-since dead, and El Rey isn't planning to invest in original shows, according to Deadline

There's also the Tribeca Chanel for content from the Tribeca Film Festival, which will likely appeal to some cinephiles. 

The Roku Channel is also adding a lot of Spanish-language content, such as Estrella Games, a Spanish-language game show channel, Mega Noticias and RCN Más.

The Roku Channel's new channels make sense

Looking through the list, you'll see there's Real Madrid TV for fans of that football club, So... Real for reality TV, Haunt TV for spooky stuff, and the games and pop culture site IGN is getting a channel too. And while IGN has a following, a lot of this doesn't really ring as exciting — for me. That said, I'm just one person with my own particularly odd sensibilities.

It's not hard to see that The Roku Channel is basically trying to be a true cable TV alternative. You know how some people cut the cord because there's too many channels they're not interested in and don't want to pay for? The Roku Channel can add all the random stuff it wants, because you're not paying for it. This way, they can create a giant portfolio and hopefully find something for everyone.

Plus, The Roku Channel is available to anyone who downloads a Roku app, not just those who buy Roku devices.

Every new channel coming to The Roku Channel

  • AccuWeather Now
  • Baywatch
  • CBC
  • El Rey
  • Estrella Games
  • FilmRise Kids
  • FilmRise True Crime
  • Haunt TV
  • IGN
  • Mega Noticias
  • RCN Más
  • Real Madrid TV
  • So...Real
  • The Only Way Is Essex
  • Tribeca Channel
  • The Wiggles powered by Loop Media, Inc.
  • Vivaldi

The only potential downside

The risk here is that Roku may start to have too much stuff if it becomes hard for people to find the programming that appeals to them. 

Hopefully this won't be an issue. But if they've got tons of channels for stuff you're not interested in, that might create the equivalent of Hoarders, but for programming. 

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing 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.