Roku brings premium subscriptions to Roku Channel, taking on Amazon Prime Video

A big update is coming for Roku’s free content network, Roku Channel.

The set-top box company announced on Wednesday that it will soon launch premium subscriptions on its movies, TV, and live events platform called The Roku Channel. 

Users will be able to subscribe to their favorite paid cable networks like Showtime, Starz, and Epix. Other paid subscription services coming to Roku Channel include CollegeHumor’s Dropout, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Noggin, and Tastemade. 

Roku touts that premium subscriptions can be setup with a single click. Those who subscribe to premium content via Roku Channel can manage their subscriptions through a single interface and be able to pay for each services’ fee on a single bill. Pricing for each service is the same as if your subscribed outside of Roku Channel, so the aggregated bill and management interface is really the main selling point from Roku. Premium subscription content can be viewed on any device that supports Roku Channel. 

Amazon offers something very similar to what Roku is rolling out through its Amazon Prime Video service with add-on channels. However, there are pros and cons to each service.

SEE ALSO: YouTube now offers free, ad-supported streaming Hollywood movies

A major difference between the two services right now is that Roku does not currently have an option to sign up for HBO. While it’s very possible a deal is currently in the works to bring HBO to Roku Channel, this is certainly a glaring absence at launch, especially with Game of Thrones’ final season coming up in April of this year.

Another negative, as The Verge points out, is that your subscriptions will only allow users to watch the services from within the Roku Channel. For example, if a user signs up for Showtime within Roku’s platform, they won’t be able to download Showtime’s standalone apps and use their subscription to watch the content there.

However, one major plus that puts Roku’s service ahead of Amazon is that there is no initial subscription necessary on Roku’s end to use the service. To subscribe to any premium network on Amazon, a user must be an Amazon Prime member at a cost of $119 per year or subscribe to Prime Video at $8.99 per month.

Roku Channel is a completely free, ad-supported streaming service provided by Roku. Just this past summer, Roku further expanded accessibility to Roku Channel when it launched a website allowing users to view content from any web browser. Previously, viewers needed one of Roku’s set-top streaming player to watch it’s free content channel.

An update will also be coming to Roku’s iOS and Android apps at the end of this month, bringing Roku Channel to tablets and mobile devices. The company will first begin rolling out premium subscriptions to Roku devices by the end of January as well.

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