Starting to get annoyed that Netflix seems content to drop Hollywood movies in exchange for their own originals? All of a sudden, Roku has a pretty good deal for you — free is usually a pretty good deal, right? Mostly known for their streaming set-top boxes and smart TV OS, Roku just announced their first streaming service. The Roku Channel will stream a bunch of older movies from a handful of studios, and it’ll be available to everyone for free with not even an account required.
So far, Roku has partnered with Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers to stream movies on demand. At least at the outset, Roku seems to have no interest in producing their own original content — as of today’s launch, they’ve just got older movies from those studios’ back catalogs.
The channel is free to access, but of course, Roku has to get paid somehow. The channel will be ad-supported, so you’ll have to stomach ads interrupting the movie you’re watching every once in a while.
If you don’t mind the occasional ad, the Roku Channel should be a pretty sweet way to get your classic movie fix. We do wonder how long this will last and how it will look in the months to come, though. Roku says they’ll be adding new movies every month, but their blog post today makes it sound like they’ll be letting titles lapse on a month-to-month basis, too. It’s no surprise — it costs a lot to license these movies, so if Roku wants to make money on ads, they’ll need to be careful about how many movies they keep on the roster at once.
But, the move is probably a necessary one for Roku. The success of their set-top box business is predicated on people still using older TVs without built-in smart TV interfaces — considering that just about every new TV is a smart TV these days, there’s an expiration date on that business. Roku wisely moved into the smart TV game themselves by working with TCL to put Roku OS on their TVs, but they’ll still need to find other ways to bring in stable money and keep the machine going.