New Roku Channel Offers Free Movies

There are over 5,000 channels (apps) available for the Roku streaming player, but until now Roku didn’t offer a streaming channel of its own. The Roku Channel is currently rolling out to all Roku players and offers free streaming of popular movies. The splash screen of the app calls it “Free TV for You.” It’s free because it’s ad-supported. Movies are interrupted by commercials for an experience similar to watching traditional broadcast TV.

Roku does have two other channels to help you discover content, however they link to other streaming channels when you watch the video. Roku Recommends and 4K Spotlight make it easy to find suggested content. Roku’s recommendations have helped me discover new channels and shows I wouldn’t have found on my own.

Some of the content on the Roku Channel is licensed directly from studios including Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. Other content is streamed through a partnership with channels such as American Classics, Fandor, FilmRise, Nosely, OVGuide, Popcornflix, Vidmark, and YuYu. Movies play directly in the Roku Channel app but may be sourced by one of the partners. The Roku Channel is a way for Roku and its partners to receive ad revenue for streaming content.

Most of the movies offered by the Roku Channel are classic or popular older movies. The newest title I found was 2012. Popular movies include Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), A River Runs Through It, The Russia House, Moonstruck, Big Chill, Seven Years in Tibet, Karate Kid, Pursuit of Happyness, Mask of Zorro, The Magnificent Seven, Hang ‘Em High, Talladega Nights, and family fare including Marvel animated movies and Zookeeper.

There are also about a dozen TV shows but they don’t share the same quality as the movie titles. It looked promising that Season 2 of Bonanza was available to stream, but the rest of the shows were single seasons of old talk shows such as Jerry Springer and Geraldo. Currently there are less than 250 titles. While the number will certainly grow, the intent is to make it easier to discover content.

Movie titles are listed in carousel rows of genres including Action Hits, For the Win! Sports Movies, Dramas, Comedies, Wild West, and Fright Night. Binge This: Awesome Franchises lists the Legally Blonde and Look Who’s Talking movies.

Roku explained in a blog that the goal is to offer movies with far fewer commercial than you get with other streaming services and live TV. The video starts playing immediately when a title is chosen with no commercials at the beginning. Movies are interrupted by ads every 20 to 30 minutes. There are only a couple of commercials during each break so it’s less obnoxious than watching a movie on a commercial cable channel.

According to an report in TechCrunch, Roku’s advertisers can customize ads for each user based on his or her zip code and streaming behavior. In other words, if you downloaded kids channels, they might target you for toys and children’s products.

The Roku Channel will appeal to cable cutters who want to add another free movie option. It is appealing to find movies for free that are typically only available for rent or sale — Eat, Pray, Love is an example of a movie that’s hard to find for free. Still, I don’t like to watch any commercials. Whether I’m using the Dish Hopper Auto Hop feature, or paying extra for Hulu and CBS All Access, I invest in avoiding commercials.

The picture and sound quality of content on the Roku Channel are fine and like all things Roku, it’s easy to use. If you like to take breaks in your viewing, go to the channel store and download the Roku Channel app. It’s still new so how it evolves remains to be seen.