Free web channels launch on Roku boxes
As promised, Roku’s set-top boxes now include a bundle of free Internet channels for watching video and viewing photos through your television.
Roku originally launched as a way to stream Netflix’s Instant Watch movies onto TV sets, but has since added Web channels such as MLB.tv and Amazon Video On Demand. Now, users can activate additional, free channels with even more content.
Notable examples include the photo-sharing Web site Flickr, the streaming radio service Pandora and several sites for original Internet television, including Blip.tv and Revision3. Other channels include MotionBox, MediaFly, Facebook Photos, Twit.TV and FrameChannel. There’s also one new premium channel, a social networking site aggregator called MobileTribe.
Roku made its channel store intentions known last month, when it launched a pair of new players with added functionality. New and existing users will get the Channel Store automatically through an update, and more channels will appear over time.
Roku has made available a free software development kit, allowing developers to create and submit channels for free, though Roku will act as a gatekeeper for the content. So don’t expect The Video Bay or any other channels that don’t have the rights to the videos they’re showing. “If you want to put up South Park, you better be Viacom or someone else who has the distribution rights to that,” Roku spokesman Brian Jaquet told Multichannel News.
I’m disappointed but not at all surprised that Hulu, TV.com and other hosts of cable television shows aren’t included in the Channel Store’s initial line-up, as content owners are skittish about allowing their videos to play over set-top boxes. On the other hand, their absence creates a unique opportunity for Internet television channels to be seen by a wider audience. If enough customers decide that these offerings are good enough to replace cable when paired with Netflix, Amazon and MLB.tv, premium content owners will have to change their thinking. Or maybe I’m just overly optimistic.
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