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The best Roku channels (or apps) to watch on your new streaming device
Let’s say you have bought, or received as a gift, a new Roku streaming device or a new big-screen TV with the Roku OS installed. What do you start watching? There are thousands of Roku channels that you can download, but most of these Roku apps are not worth the time.
Thankfully, there are still quite a few great Roku channels that you can find that will be well worth your time, and in some cases your money. Here are our picks for the best Roku channels you can currently watch. Some of these Roku apps will require paying a monthly and/or a yearly fee. Some of these channels are actually hidden from view. However, there’s a surprising amount of great Roku apps you can download and watch for free.
Read more: Best Roku deals
What are Roku channels and what’s the difference between channels and Roku apps?
Roku channels are basically the company’s name for Roku apps. Even Roku’s own support page states, “Channels are applications for your television.” So when you download one of the thousands of Roku “channels” on your set-top box, streaming stick or smart TV, you really are downloading one of the many Roku apps.
Now that we have that out of the way, Roku channels allow you to access tons of streaming services on your Roku OS device. While there are a few Roku apps that do other things besides stream video or audio, including a very small selection of simple games, the vast majority of them are made for streaming content.
Free Roku channels
Most of the Roku apps you can download offer streaming video content for free. However, since there are literally thousands of them, here’s a quick list of the best free Roku channels you can download and watch right now.
What happened to the “hidden” Roku channels?
Until March 1, 2022, a few Roku channels were not available to be downloaded via the normal methods of searching or browsing for them. They could be accessed if you had a special code, which you could then type into the My Account section of the official Roku site. Typing in the code allowed the app to be automatically downloaded and added to your home screen. That option has now been done away with by the company. In its place, Roku has a new beta channel system, which allows app developers to release early versions of their Roku channels to up to 20 users. That will allow developers to test these apps before they go public.
Best Roku channels
Here’s a look at the absolute best Roku apps you can get right now:
We start our list by checking out Roku’s own content channel. It offers tons of free streaming movies and TV shows, plus some live TV news, and sports channels as well. You will likely find a great movie or show to watch. In addition, you can sign up for other premium services in the Roku channel, like Starz, Showtime, and others. You can even watch selected episodes from these premium services for free via the channel.
Roku is planning to expand its free channel with original content, which will be offered under the Roku Originals brand. It’s already added some exclusive movies and TV shows, including the spy drama Cypher. In the summer of 2021, it started adding content from the shut down streaming service Quibi, including some series that were made for the service but were never released. Finally, Roku recently bought the rights to all of the previous and current episodes of the long-running home renovation series This Old House.
Price: Starting at $9.99 a month
Netflix started the video streaming trend, and it remains the biggest premium service with over 200 million subscribers worldwide. The Netflix Roku channel allows you to access the service and all of its exclusive series and movies, with tons more original content being added every month.
Price: $7.99 a month
While it doesn’t have a ton of original content (yet), Disney Plus has lots of great classic and more recent movies and TV shows from the vast Disney library (with a few 20th Century Fox titles thrown in for good measure). The family-friendly service is slowly building up its original content library, include the first two seasons of the hit Star Wars show The Mandalorian. 2021 will be an even bigger year for the service, with several Marvel Cinematic Universe series debuting, and much more. It’s a must for your Roku channels list. It’s easy to add, manage, and cancel, too.
Price: Starting at $6.99 a month with a free trial
Hulu has been around for almost as long as Netflix. Its main attraction is that it has a number of current broadcast network TV shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox. New episodes are available the next day after they are broadcast on their respective networks. You can also watch lots of classic and more recent movies and TV shows, and you can stream a number of original movies and series, including the Emmy-winning drama The Handmaid’s Tale. You can also sign up for Hulu Plus Live TV, which offers lots of live streaming cable TV channels, plus cloud DVR, for extra fees.
Amazon Prime Video
Price: Included with Amazon Prime at $14.99 a month with a free trial
Amazon Prime’s streaming video section lets you stream thousands of TV shows and movies, including original series like the hit superhero show The Boys. Amazon also offers a limited number of live sports events that will only be available on Amazon Prime Video.
Price: $14.99 a month
One of the most recent of the Roku channels is HBO Max. You can watch nearly everything from the HBO pay cable channel library, plus lots of other stuff, including shows like Friends and Doctor Who. You can also watch a growing number of original series and movies, including Raised by Wolves and The Flight Attendant. Best of all, in 2022, you will be able to watch all of the Warner Bros theatrical movie releases just 45 days after they debut in theaters.
Price: Starting at $6.99 a month
ESPN remains the biggest name in TV sports coverage. The ESPN Roku channel lets you watch live sports from football to NBA basketball to MLB baseball and more. In addition, you can sign up for ESPN Plus for an extra fee for access to even more sports shows and coverage. You can even give a gift card to friends.
Pluto TV offers hundreds of its own channels to watch. ranging from classic TV to live news programs and much more. The service also has lots of shows and movies to stream on-demand. Best of all, Pluto TV is completely free (supported by ads).
Price: $4.99-$9.99 a month
Previously launched as CBS All Access, Paramount Plus has a ton of content from the Viacom CBS library of television shows, along with movies from Paramount Pictures. You can watch every Star Trek TV episode, along with shows from Comedy Central, VHI, MTV, Nickelodeon, and more cable networks. The service is also beefing up its exclusive original shows and movies, including revivals of classic kid shows like Rugrats and iCarly. Prices begin at just $4.99 a month (with ads) or $9.99 a month (without ads and the addition of live-streaming the CBS network).
Apple TV Plus
Price: $4.99 a month
The folks in Cupertino are in the streaming movie and TV business with Apple TV Plus. It offers a small but growing number of (mostly) original content. Including acclaimed TV series like The Morning Show and Ted Lasso. It also has a few original movies like the recent WWII drama Greyhound. Apple TV Plus is on Roku and other major streaming devices.
Like Pluto TV, Tubi TV is completely free to stream as one of the Roku channels. It also offers up recent and classic TV shows on-demand, and that includes movies and shows that are not available for free on other digital stores and streaming services.
Price: Starting at $25 a month with a free trial
There are many internet-based live TV streaming services, including Hulu Plus Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and others. One of our favorites is Philo, which lets you stream over 60 live TV channels, plus cloud DVR support, for just $20 a month.
Price: Starting at $6.99 a month, with a free trial
The TV shows and TV movies made from across the pond are some of the best around. BritBox lets you watch some of the best BBC and ITV shows, including classic Doctor Who and, more recently, Downton Abbey. You can even watch news programs and UK soap operas the day after they are broadcast in Britain.
Price: Starting at $9.99 a month, with a free trial
Some Roku channels offer more than video. You can also listen to music and podcasts on your Roku devices. That includes the most popular streaming music service, Spotify, which serves up your favorite tunes and podcast.
Price: Free, with Premium option at $11.99 a month.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget about YouTube as one of the many Roku channels. Yet, it’s also perhaps the biggest free streaming video service, with tons of great content to access from its millions of content creators. Plus, if you sign up for YouTube Premium, you can ditch those annoying video ads.
Price: Free, with premium options starting at $4.99 a month
Here’s another recent entry in the many Roku channels that are available; Peacock joined Roku not that long ago, after reaching a deal in fall 2020. Peacock offers viewers a way to stream content from NBCUniversal’s TV shows and movies, and much of that content is available for free. Peacock is also the exclusive streaming service for the US version of The Office.
Price: Starting at $4.99 a month, with a free 7-day trial
The new kid on the block offers tons of reality and documentary series from the Discovery family of cable channels. You can also watch a growing number of Discovery Plus original shows and specials, including spin-offs of popular shows like 90 Day Fiance, and much more. Learn how to get Discovery Plus on Roku here.
Three former members of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett), formed Rifftrax over 10 years ago. Since then the trio, along with some friends, have continued to riff over bad movies and shorts with hilarious results. The Rifftrax channel allows you to watch a small selection of their work for free, but for the price of $5.99 a month, you can watch hundreds of movies and shorts being riffed, with more being added every month.
Q: How many Roku channels can I have on my account?
A: In theory, you can have as many Roku apps on your account as you want. In practice, if you have a lot, you may sometimes see channels take time to load since your device has a limited amount of storage space.
Q: Do Roku channels get removed after they launch?
A: This does happen on occasion. For example, the official Twitch Roku channel was removed years ago. More recently, the Spectrum TV and YouTube TV channels were removed for new Roku users for several months before they were both put back in place. If you happen to have a removed Roku channel still installed, keep it there. If you delete it from your account, you won’t be able to download it again.
Q: Do roku channels cost money?
A: Some do, some don’t. Most Roku channels are completely free to download and add to your device and only cost money to activate a subscription. If you want to make sure you don’t make accidental purchases, you can set a Roku PIN to require a passcode.
Those are our picks for the best Roku channels for your new streaming purchase or gift. Of course, there are plenty of other channels to check out, and we will update this list when new ones are released.