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, include a very small selection of simple games, the vast majority of them are made for streaming content.
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).
Food Network Kitchen
This app allows you to access both live and on-demand video streams devoted to cooking. Food Network hosts and stars offer help in making some great recipes for your own home kitchen. You can also watch a selection of Food Network shows as well.
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 new 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.
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.
Hidden Roku channels
Not all of the Roku apps are available on the channel store directly. A few are only available if you type in a code so they will show up on your Roku home screen. Many of these channels are available in this manner because they are still being tested by the app’s developer.
If you have an invite code, here’s how to add one of these hidden Roku channels
- Sign into your Roku account via the official Roku website.
- Click on “My Account” in the menu below your account icon.
- Click on the “Add channel with a code” link under the Manage Accounts section.
- Type in the code in the box, and then click on the Add channel box.
That’s it. Keep in mind that you might have to wait up to 24 hours for the new Roku app to be added to your home screen.
Here’s a list of just some of the better hidden Roku channels that are currently live along with their known access codes. Keep in mind that these hidden channels are not officially sanctioned by Roku so you download them at your own risk. Also, these apps could disappear, or stop working, without warning.
- Nowhere TV – NMJS5
- El Cartel TV – chibchombiatv
- Weather Radar – radar
- DISHWorld – DISHWorld
- MultiLive – DNLMPK
- SpaceTime – CN6MRTG
- AOL On – aol
- Unofficial Twitch.tv – TwitchTV
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 one exclusive TV series, the spy drama Cypher. It will soon add all the 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 $8.99 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.
Price: Starting at $5.99 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 Handmaids 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 $12.99 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 2021, you will be able to watch all of the Warner Bros theatrical movie releases on the service day and date with their theater releases.
Price: Starting at $5.99 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).
Apple TV Plus
Price: $4.99 a month with a free trial
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.
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 $20 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.
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 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.
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: A few major Roku apps are no longer available to download from the channel store. That includes apps like Spectrum, the official Twitch app, and more recently TYouTube TV. 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.
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.