Roku Channel's Free Live News Is a Big Deal

Staff Writer
Updated

Many cord cutters — as well as those who refuse to leave cable TV behind — place live news near the top of their list of priorities when deciding how to consume television. And Roku just gave them a big reason to choose its purple brand.

Live News is coming to modern Roku devices (dating as far back as the Roku 3) in May, starting with live, ad-supported content from ABC, Newsy, Cheddar and People TV.

MORE: Best Streaming Devices - Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV 4K

In a private meeting last week at the Tom's Guide office, Roku representatives showed off the ABC News feed inside the Roku Channel app, which impressed me with its design and content. The window presents three live feeds of reporting from press conferences, events and other locations, with audio from the largest feed on the left, and headlines for all three feeds.

Newsy, which was founded in 2008, provides news content with a focus on giving stories context, and actively trying to remove editorial perspective and bias. Cheddar (in the interest of transparency, I have appeared on this network) presents the tech and stock news of the day, while People TV provides celebrity news and behind-the-scenes packages for upcoming cover stories.

The News channels will be in the Roku Channel app, which provides free, ad-supported movies and TV shows for Roku owners. The channel launched last September, and Roku told me that it's the third-most-popular ad-supported channel on the platform.

The Roku Channel's movie offerings have consistently been more robust than its TV programming, and Roku told us that expanding the TV selection is something it wants to do in the future.

Roku also told us that it's looked into adding live sports, which is also a major reason why consumers feel hesitant to cut the cord. The big hurdle in Roku's way, I learned, was how the contracts for sports events are based on a dense set of extremely fragmented contracts that involve local market blackouts.