There has never been a better time to buy a Roku. Thanks to the new hardware released in October 2017, Roku devices are the fastest, most powerful, and most versatile they have ever been.
Once you set up your Roku device, it’s time to start installing some channels, which are essentially the Roku equivalent of apps.
The channels on Roku are divided into two categories: Public and Private. If you want to install a private channel, you’ll need to enter the unique code on Roku’s online portal. The public channels are available in the Channel Store on your device.
We have previously looked at the best private Roku channels, so now we’re going to focus on the public channels. Here are the best Roku channels you really shouldn’t miss, all of which are free to install and do not require monthly subscriptions.
Movies and TV
1. The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel is an official release from Roku that lets you watch movies for free.
It offers hundreds of Hollywood movies across many categories thanks to content from several major studios, including Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros.
You don’t need an account to watch the content, but be warned that you will have to sit through some ads.
Download: The Roku Channel
OVGuide has more than 10,000 free movies. You won’t find the same number of recent releases as on The Roku Channel, but it’s a great place to watch B-movies and classic films.
Again, no registration is required. You just need to install the channel to get started.
3. Pluto TV
Pluto TV is a completely legal way to watch live TV.
The company has partnerships with NBC News, MSNBC, Sky News, and Bloomberg to bring you 24/7 coverage of the world’s current affairs. The channel also offers lots of minor channels, including Crime Network, Funny AF, IGN, Pro Wrestling, and All-Day Anime.
Lastly, you can enjoy a small library of 1,000 on-demand TV shows.
Download: Pluto TV
The PBS channel delivers everything you’d expect, offering thousands of on-demand TV shows.
You’ll find classics like Masterpiece, Frontline, and NOVA, as well as cutting-edge documentaries and even some original web content.
Crackle is well-known to cord cutters. It offers free TV, some old movies, and even some original content. The exact shows you can enjoy varies between countries.
Because Crackle works on multiple platforms (including Android, iOS, Apple TV, PlayStation, and Xbox), your recommendations list and watch history will sync up regardless of which device you’re using.
6. The CW
The CW channel is the official Roku app from the American television network of the same name. It’s entirely free to use, so no cable subscription is needed.
It offers the last five episodes of a given series on-demand. Shows are generally available 24 hours after they air on TV.
Download: The CW
Despite the name, Popcornflix is in no way related to the thoroughly illegal Popcorn Time P2P app. The service is entirely above board.
The app features full-length movies; there are no TV shows included. Movies are organized by common categories, though you’ll occasionally see special categories for holiday seasons and other events.
8. CBS News
If you’re a cord-cutter in need of news, you can’t go far wrong with the official CBS app. It offers 24/7 live streaming of its news channel, along with on-demand segments such as CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, Sunday Morning, and Face the Nation.
Download: CBS News
9. Reuters TV
The Reuters app doesn’t offer 24/7 streaming, but it does provide live feeds when there’s significant breaking news.
The app aims to give you a customized news experience, offering a summary of snippets based on your interests. The snippets can be anything between five minutes and 30 minutes long.
Download: Reuters TV
If you’re more interested in local news than global affairs, this is the channel for you. It offers more than 170 live local news channels from across the United States, and you can watch reruns from the previous 48 hours.
Unlike some other local news apps in the Channel Store, NewsON does not require a cable subscription to operate.
11. Hasbro Studios Free
Hasbro Studios Free is an excellent app for fans of classic cartoons. If you want to entertain your kids or rekindle your own youth, it’s a must-have channel.
You can sit down as a family for evening entertainment with GI Joe, Transformers, and more.
Download: Hasbro Studios Free
12. PBS Kids
The number of shows on PBS Kids isn’t vast, but it’s more than enough to amuse young children for hours.
You’ll find classics such as Sesame Street and Curious George, as well as modern releases like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, Super Why, and Wild Kratts.
Download: PBS Kids
HappyKids.tv is an educational channel primarily aimed at toddlers and infants. It offers music, stories, guides, and games. The material covers topics such as the alphabet, counting, colors, and animal sounds.
If you run out of things to watch, check out its sister channel, HappyKids.tv 2.
14. TuneIn Radio
Unsurprisingly, the ubiquitous live local internet radio app has a Roku channel. It offers more than 100,000 radio stations to all users, covering everything from music and sports to politics and chat shows.
The app is free to download and use, but subscribers can enjoy an additional four million on-demand programs. A subscription costs $7.99/month.
Download: TuneIn Radio
Pandora is another well-known audio app. The free tier has some limited features, but it still delivers on the core premise of learning your musical tastes over time and playing tracks you’ll enjoy. It’s perfect for background music at an event.
You can subscribe to Pandora Plus for $4.99/month.
Vevo is a joint venture between Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. You’ve probably seen a countless number of their music videos on YouTube.
The Roku app provides Vevo’s complete catalog of 75,000 songs. You can watch the songs on demand or enjoy a non-stop feed of music from your favorite genres.
17. Text Twist
We have covered some of the best Roku games elsewhere on the site, but Text Twist deserves a special shoutout.
It’s great for family fun. The app gives you either six or seven random letters, and you face a race against time to make as many words as possible before the clock runs out. If you can work out the top answer, you can move onto the next level.
Download: Text Twist
If watching other people play video games is your thing, you should install the official Twitch app. Some people think Twitch has changed gaming forever.
Like the smartphone app, you can use it to follow your favorite gamers, watch eSports events, and tune in to a live stream of almost any title you can think of.
To maximize your enjoyment, create a free account for personalized recommendations.
If you’re a cord cutter, you’ll almost certainly be aware of the Google Chromecast. It allows you to cast almost any video content from the Chrome web browser (on desktop or mobile) straight to your television.
Firefox offers similar functionality. Just install the Firefox browser on your smartphone, and this app will let you cast videos to your Roku device.
20. Web Browser X
Web Browser X is the only web browser on the Roku platform. It’s not perfect — the interface isn’t inspiring, and it’s not always smooth.
Nevertheless, if you just want to browse the news or flick through Reddit, it’s more than adequate.
Note: We can’t vouch for the channel’s privacy, so we recommend you don’t use Web Browser X for online banking or other sensitive tasks.
Download: Web Browser X
What Are Your Favorite Free Roku Channels?
We have introduced you to our pick of the best free Roku channels. We have tried to offer a little something for everyone, so there’s a wealth of content across a huge range of categories and genres.
However, given the fact that the Channel Store includes more than 5,000 apps at the time of writing, we have barely scratched the surface here. To be honest, we could give you 100 channels and still not do justice to the breadth of content available to Roku owners.
What are are your favorite free Roku channels? What makes them so unmissable? Or what makes them unique enough to justify recommending to your fellow MakeUseOf readers? As always, you can let us know in the comments below!