Roku joins UK streaming wars with free ad-funded channel

8 Apr 2020

Roku, the electronics and media company, has launched today in the UK with a free, advertising-supported streaming channel.

The Roku Channel is available for people who have a Roku media player or a Now TV device. It is also available on Sky Q.

Roku, which was founded in 2002 as a digital media player manufacturer, launched an ad-supported streaming channel in the US in 2017. That channel included licensed content from film distributors such as Warner Bros and MGM.

The company was reported to have begun talks with entertainment companies about producing original content to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. A Roku spokeswoman told Campaign that this was a "rumour" and that it has no plans to do this.

For now, in the UK, Roku’s content is dependent on licensing deals with content partners, including Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Television, All3Media International and Endemol Shine Group. 

The majority of The Roku Channel’s advertising will be 15- and 30-second video spots that run during ad breaks – or "ad pods", as a spokeswoman described them to Campaign. Roku is also offering brand sponsorship, such as on a range of shows or particular content that would also be made ad-free. 

Roku said the channel would give UK consumers access to more than 10,000 films, TV episodes and documentaries. Its most well-known titles include Homes Under the Hammer, Skins and Britain’s Best Bakery, while its film selection includes Get Carter, The Wicker Man and Les Misérables. There is also a children’s entertainment section, featuring Bob the Builder, Teletubbies and Fireman Sam.

Rob Holmes, vice-president of programming at Roku, said: "Ad-supported viewing is one of the fastest-growing categories on our platform and we are excited to meet the consumer demand for free TV."

Source: Omar Oakes, Campaign Live