Roku takes on traditional news stations with help from ABC News Live

The Roku Channel, the free ad-supported streaming service packed into every new Roku device, is about to expand its offerings from TV shows and movies to the world of 24/7 news. Starting soon, you’ll see four news sources - including the likes of ABC News, Cheddar, Newsy and People TV - on the service.

The services, Roku says, will be more than just video playlists provided by each news organization, but rather a combination of live content and linear news. In the case of ABC News, all of this content is controlled live in a format Roku hopes will provide the blueprint for other major OTT streaming news networks.

“Now more than ever people want to find out what’s happening in the world from a straightforward news source they know and trust,” said Colby Smith, Vice President, ABC News Digital. “After experimenting with thousands of livestreams and analyzing the data, we’re excited to launch ABC News Live for younger viewers who increasingly rely on Roku and non-linear platforms for their news.”

As for the Roku Channel itself, it’s growing in popularity. In a conversation with TechRadar, Rob Holmes, Vice President of Programming at Roku, says that the free streaming service is now a top 15 channel on the Roku platform as well as the #3 ad-supported channel.

Also new for the Roku Channel are collections - essentially bundles of TV shows or movies that Roku assembles in-house to meet a specific need for its customers. You might see an Action TV bundle, for instance, that combines martial arts films, police dramas and superhero films. This, Holmes says, will provide viewers a number of options based on their overarching tastes. 

Roku, party of four, your TV show is ready 

Coming later this year is Roku OS 8.1. It will feature a number of improvements, but the feature that stands out is the addition of private listening support for up to four devices. 

Ideally, this means you and up to four friends or family members can listen in to the same TV show or movie via the Roku TV app without disturbing the rest of the house. 

Before this, private listening was limited to one at a time via the built-in headphone jack on some of the higher-end Roku remotes or on the Roku TV app.

Roku OS 8.1 is expected to roll out on devices like the Roku Ultra, Roku Streaming Stick+ and Roku Express, among others, starting in May. 

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.