You should be fairly familiar with Roku devices by now. Alongside over-the-air antennas, they’re one of the best gadgets you can buy if you’re looking to cut the cord from your cable company.
This content is delivered via Channels, which is Roku-speak for apps. The channels are divided into two groups: public (available through the Channel Store) and private (only accessible via a unique code).
Confused? Don’t worry. Here’s everything you need to know about using Roku channels.
What Is a Roku Channel?
The word “channel” is a misnomer. Roku channels aren’t like typical TV channels. You can’t flick between them to channel surf, and each channel hosts a vast amount of content. Really, it’s easier to think of Roku channels as apps.
You will find approximately 4,500 official Roku channels in the Channel Store. Combined, they’ll give you access to more than 450,000 movies and TV episodes. There are also several thousand private channels that you won’t find through the usual methods. More on these shortly.
Unfortunately, some of the channels are geo-blocked — you won’t be able to access them outside of their intended country. Even if you can install them, no content will play. You can work around the problem by installing a VPN on your router and creating a new Roku Account in the desired country, but a step-by-step guide of the process is beyond the scope of this article.
Finding Roku Channels
Finding Roku channels is quite straightforward, but the process differs depending on whether you’re hunting for public channels or private channels.
Public Roku Channels
Depending on your location, there are two ways to find public channels. Everyone can use their Roku device, while only people based in the United States can use the web store.
To use your Roku device, just select Channel Store from the menu on the left-hand side of your screen. You can then browse the channels by category.
To use the web store, go to channelstore.roku.com. The categories are displayed in the ribbon along the top of your screen. Scroll down to browse the various channels.
Private Roku Channels
Finding private channels is slightly more complicated. Our guide to the best private Roku channels is a good place to start, but in truth, we barely scratched the surface of what’s available.
Thankfully, there are a few internet sites that are dedicated to logging and cataloging private Roku channels. Here are three of the best:
- RokuGuide.com: RokuGuide keeps a directory of up-to-date private channels, but also regularly publishes “best of” lists for various categories and genres. At the top of the page, you’ll find separate lists for private and public channels.
- StreamFree.tv: StreamFree also does an excellent job of cataloging the channels. Rather than publishing everything, it restricts the list to the best 200 available at any one time.
- RokuChannels.tv: RokuChannels is arguably the most polished of the three sites. It has a Featured and a Latest list, so you’ll always be able to stay abreast of what’s hot.
Installing Roku Channels
OK, so you’ve found some channels you want to install on your Roku device. Now what?
Again, the process for installing channels differs depending on whether you’re installing public channels or private channels.
If you’re installing a public channel, it’s as simple as pressing Add Channel on the channel’s listing. However, if you’re installing a private channel, the process is more complicated.
First, you need to make a note of the private channel’s code. You will find it listed on the three sites I mentioned earlier. You can also occasionally find codes on public forums like the Roku subreddit on Reddit. Next, log in to your Roku account on a computer. Just navigate to my.roku.com/account and enter your credentials.
Scroll down the page and go to Manage Account > Add channel with a code. Enter the code you wrote down earlier and press Add Channel.
Click OK on the warning screen, and the site will show you the channel you’re about to add. Verify it’s the one you want, and click Yes, add channel.
So far, so good. However, if you now return to your Roku and try to locate your channel, there’s a good chance it won’t be there. Why not? Well, Roku says it can take up to 24 hours for new private channels to appear.
Luckily, there’s a workaround. On your Roku device, go to Settings > System > System Update > Check Now. Give the process a couple of minutes to run, and you should see your new app in Home.
For all the great features packed into your Roku device, there are also some annoyances. One of them is how channels are displayed on your Home screen.
If you have installed a lot of channels, navigating them all can quickly become a nightmare. There’s no way to group channels into customized folders or sort them by category, most used, alphabetically, or by any other useful order.
The best you can do? Reorder the channels in a way that makes sense to you.
To reorder channels, Click on Home and highlight the channel you want to move. Then, press star on your remote and select Move Channel. Using the D-pad on your remote, move the channel into its new spot, then press OK.
Deleting channels is easy. Click on Home and highlight the channel you want to remove. Press the star button on your remote, and choose Remove Channel from the menu.
Before removing a channel, however, keep in mind that (unlike the Google Play Store or Apple App Store) Roku does not maintain a centralized list of channels you’ve installed. Once you’ve removed a channel, it’s gone from your account forever.
If it’s a public channel, this might not be an issue — you should be able to find it again without too much difficulty. However, if it’s a private channel, the only way to reinstall it is to relocate the channel’s unique code. That might be easier said than done.
The Legality of Channels
It would be wrong of us to explain everything there is to know about Roku channels without discussing their legality. If you’re new to the world of Roku it would be wise to educate yourself as to the legality of Roku channels.
First, let’s clear up a common misconception: if you can find the channel in the official Roku Channel Store, it’s 100 percent legal. It has passed Roku’s internal testing and the company has deemed it legitimate.
Private channels are a different story. Indeed, the whole existence of private channels is somewhat accidental. Roku only made private channels a “thing” so developers could test their apps before launching them in the main store.
These days, Roku has become a hotbed of illegal content through private channels. Many of the apps even require a monthly subscription.
However, Roku has, of late, been taking a much heavier hand with such apps. Many illegal app developers have abandoned their projects and taken their work to Android TV instead.
So, if you’re hoping to find a trove of pirate content on Roku, prepare to be disappointed. And under no circumstances should you hand over money to the developer of an illegal app.
What Are Your Favorite Roku Channels?
We hope this piece has explained everything you need to know about Roku channels. If you’ve followed along, you should now have a good handle on how to find, install, organize, and delete Roku channels.
Only one question remains: which channels should you install? And that’s where you come in. We’d love to know about your favorite Roku channels. Both public and private. What makes these Roku channels so good? If they’re private channels, be sure to share the channels’ codes so we can check them out ourselves.
You can leave all of your suggestions, recommendations, queries, and codes in the comments section below!