Roku just lost a ton of channels – can this upgrade plug the gap for cord cutters?

Roku OS
(Image credit: Roku)

It’s been a potentially frustrating week for owners of Roku streaming sticks and boxes. The mega-popular provider of online TV dongles and devices executed its long-planned move to remove uncertified channels from its set top box, meaning viewers lost access to potentially hundreds of streaming channels as of February 23, 2022.

Looking to soften the blow somewhat, Roku has announced a new upgrade to its own Roku Channel, taking a leaf straight out of the Netflix playbook.

Going forwards, the Roku Channel (which provides free ad-supported streaming to anyone with a Roku account) will finally get access to a ‘Save List’, letting users mark shows and movies they want to watch at a later date. These will then be added to a ‘Save List’ row in the Roku Channel interface.

Roku had already bolstered the Roku Channel hub earlier this month, adding 25 new channels to the Live TV Guide in the US that pulled in content from Ax Men, Crime ThrillHer, Fox Weather, Ice Road Truckers and Modern Marvels, among others.

Roku's secret weapon lost?

Though long overdue, the Save List is a welcome addition for anyone looking to better organize their Roku TV viewing habits.

But it’s not enough to paper over the gaping hole left by the removal of its uncertified channels. They were Roku’s ace in the hole – making it a secret portal to all sorts of unusual TV channels not offered by other platform providers like Amazon’s Fire TV or Apple TV.

By putting in a code provided by channel developers, users could access channels not yet certified for inclusion from the official Roku store. While the quality of this content was sometimes questionable (and lots of adult-only viewing made it through to Roku this way), it also provided a route for niche content makers to get their channels in front of people. 

Beta channels and the Independent Developer Kit will replace the uncertified channels.

“The Roku IDK and beta channel feature will facilitate broader innovation, improve beta testing, and offer a better development experience and a more standardized development process across streaming platforms,” said Roku in a statement.

It makes sense that Roku would move to a format where it can better police the content finding its way onto its platform. But the fun of the Wild West-like uncertified channels program, for better or worse, is now lost as a result. The closest thing we’re left with is to sideload Android-based TV channels to Android TV devices or Android-based streaming sticks like the Fire TV – though this is a more laborious process, and lacks the wealth of options that Roku had secretly been building up for more than a decade.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.