If you live in the United States, you have probably at least heard of Roku; I would put money on it. In fact, there is a good chance that you have used (and maybe even owned) a Roku device at one point or another, be it the Roku stick, box, or a Roku TV. As one of the first companies to make streaming widely accessible in the US, Roku has played a pivotal role in growing the streaming industry into the multibillion-dollar global industry that it is today.
Nowadays, of course, every company and TV network must have a streaming service of its own. This is evidenced by the influx of new streaming sites that have popped up over the last few years, such as NBC’s Peacock, HBO Max, Disney Plus, etc. (the list goes on and on and on). This trend, by the way, shows no signs of slowing down. Everybody wants a piece of the streaming site pie; it would seem.
It was, of course, inevitable, then, that Roku itself would also want to put some skin in the streaming game as well. The company already had millions of people around the world using their devices to access other streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu … why not create a live TV streaming service of their own. It is the logical move.
And, so, Roku did just that when they launched The Roku Channel. Unlike many of their competitors, though, The Roku Channel does not require its viewers to own a device or pay a monthly subscription fee. A certain amount of content on The Roku Channel is instantly free from the moment you visit the site. Instead of going the premium TV streaming route, The Roku Channel opted in to become an ad-supported free live TV streaming site.
As I am sure you already know, dear reader, it can be extremely difficult to find a high-quality free live TV streaming site. In fact, I have spent a great deal of my time over the years looking for just that. They are few and far between (if I may employ an understatement). I have been using The Roku Channel for quite some time now, though, both on my Roku Smart TV and on my laptop. It is easily one of the best free live TV streaming sites on the web today.
Now, just to be clear, I am using the phrase “free live TV streaming site” somewhat loosely here. I don’t say this because The Roku Channel does not let you stream live TV for free. I am only saying this because the channels featured here do not align with the schedules of their official live TV counterparts. You’ll find plenty of familiar cable channels on Roku, but they are the Pluto TV versions of these channels’ programming and not the official programming of the channels themselves.
In other words, you can tune into a live broadcast of, say, Comedy Central on The Roku Channel whenever you wish, 24 hours a day, and it will be airing Comedy Central shows. The schedule, though, of programming on The Roku Channel is not the same schedule that you would be able to watch on the official Comedy Central cable network. So, tuning into live events or watching the live airing of your favorite TV show, unfortunately, won’t be possible with The Roku Channel. Nevertheless, you certainly get access to a lot of free live TV here!
Aside from being able to stream free live TV, The Roku Channel also has a sizeable collection of on-demand TV series and movies available. The Roku Channel’s selection of free TV shows and movies is constantly in flux, and most titles are available for a limited time after they are added (sometimes the availability span can be as short as a few days). Buying the rights to the content in this way allows The Roku Channel to provide quality movies and TV shows at a cheap enough rate for the free TV streaming site to remain that way (free, that is).
So, is The Roku Channel the best free live TV streaming site on the web? Well, there’s only one way to find out for sure. Let’s take a tour of The Roku Channel, check out everything it has to offer and find out once and for all.
The Roku Channel offers a fairly standard streaming site design. Anybody who has used a premium streaming service in the past will immediately recognize and be able to navigate this one without any trouble. This is because, for the most part, it appears as if The Roku Channel has emulated the iconic designs of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
At the top of the page, you will be greeted by an extra-large banner advertising a featured movie or show. Oftentimes, this banner will direct your attention to a title that is slated to expire soon (and will no longer be available to stream for free). Scroll down a bit further, and you will find a series of collections that are organized by content type. Each horizontal catalog of movies and TV series can be browsed via a side-scrolling mechanism, resulting in a very intuitive and user-friendly browsing experience.
Keep scrolling, and you’ll find more categories: New This Month, Recommended for You, Live TV, Popular on the Roku Channel, and more. In a family-friendly move, The Roku Channel even features a list of popular children’s entertainment characters, allowing kids to browse content by their favorite character. This list of categories and various ways to browse content continues for a very long time until, eventually, you reach the bottom of the page.
Interestingly enough, The Roku Channel does not have a site menu bar. This is something that you may either love or hate. On the one hand, it does lend the site a bit of a sleeker look. On the other, well, site menu bars are so common for a good reason: they make browsing as easy as possible. The end result is that you will have to do a lot of scrolling in order to find the genre or kind of content you are looking for. However, if you know exactly what you want to watch, you can always type it into the search bar at the top of the site.
Content and Features
When it comes to streaming live TV for free, The Roku Channel offers one of the sleekest and most comprehensive live TV streaming experiences on the web. In fact, The Roku Channel’s free live TV streaming interface and features list is more impressive than those of some of the most popular premium live TV streaming sites that I have reviewed. If you are looking for a free live TV streaming site that is as robust as it is well-designed, you have come to the right place.
The first feature that really stands out for me is the picture-in-picture feature that makes for the perfect free live TV streaming experience. This is ideal, of course, for when one show is on a commercial break, and there is something else that you are also interested in watching … why should you have to miss out and constantly be switching back and forth between channels, right? Thanks to The Roku Channel’s PIP feature, you don’t have to. This is one of the coolest (and most useful) features that I have ever seen on a free live TV streaming site.
The Roku Channel also automatically logs your watch history, making it as simple as it should be to track down that surprisingly good show that you randomly watched. Plus, this allows you to pick right up where you left off if you are forced to switch devices in the middle of a stream.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
Yes, The Roku Channel is available as a mobile device. Available on both Android and iOS devices, The Roku Channel’s free live TV streaming app has received a mixed bag of reviews. Some people seem to love it, while others cannot stand it. My assessment? The mobile app has some big shoes to fill, seeing as the desktop and TV app experience both set the bar so very high. Nevertheless, if streaming live TV for free on your mobile device is important to you, The Roku Channel will certainly get you there.
Pricing and Plans
The Roku Channel is, indeed, a free live TV streaming site. But it is also premium-upgrade ready. The infrastructure of The Roku Channel is such so that you can add your premium subscription channels – whether they are Starz, Showtime, Cinemax, etc. – and be able to access them conveniently from one place. The Roku Channel is a free live TV streaming site that can also be a premium live TV streaming site if you so desire.
Therokuchannel.roku.com is, hands down, one of the best free live TV streaming sites on the web. With an incredibly user-friendly site design, cross-platform availability, and a broad selection of channels and on-demand content, it doesn’t get much better than The Roku Channel for streaming live TV for free. Come read my review today to learn more!