Streaming media devices like Rokus are making expensive cable packages a thing of the past. After all, why shell out a huge sum on a monthly basis when a one-time payment device like Roku offers ninety-two different channels devoted to both television and movies (that’s without even including the channels devoted to food, weather, science, etc.)? Sure, many of those channels are subscription-based, but even those subscriptions are considerably cheaper than your average cable package.
So whether you’re thinking about cord-cutting, or if you’ve already made the jump and replaced your cable package with a Roku, or if you’re keeping your cable package and just want to take advantage of the extras have to offer, it’s worth knowing what the best channels your new toy has to offer, right?
A Brief Disclaimer
Before we start, there are a few important things to know: first of all, we’re not going to be covering music or sports in this post. There will be posts covering the best channels for music and sports in the coming weeks, but for now, we’re simply looking at television.
Secondly, you know about Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime; we know you know about those channels; we’ve devoted post after post after post to discussing the many, many features of those well-known channels.
So while any article about the best channels for television on Roku ought to include a discussion of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime Instant, we’re going to be focused on some lesser-known Roku channel options in the hope of bringing some deserved attention to them. We’re also hoping to offer some variety for those looking to expand their Roku experience beyond mainlining movies on Netflix.
Best Roku Channels for TV
Chow - In the interest of getting you out of your Roku comfort zone, why not check out the popular food channel Chow? With shows like You’re Doing It All Wrong (in which professionals teach you the proper ways to do seemingly basic things like pouring beer and making grilled cheese) and Cooking With Grandma (which is exactly what it sounds like; grandmothers sharing old-fashioned and hearty classic recipes), there’s certain to be something here to fill the void left by the Food Network.
The videos are a bit short, as is to be expected, so you can’t simply veg out in front of your TV and let the channel do the work for you, but there’s plenty of entertainment and much to learn. Chow is an essential addition for those looking for a well-rounded Roku experience.
Roku Newscaster - We’ll use Roku Newscaster as a sort of blanket news channel to cover that category. Many news sources, such as The Wall Street Journal, NBC, CNBC, The Huffington Post, Fox News, Weather Underground, etc. have their own Roku channels. And though many of those stations also have sections available on Roku Newscaster, they’re mostly devoted to audio content like the podcasts that fill up the PBS News Hour.
Nonetheless, Roku Newscaster will bring you the broadest range of coverage, offering content from stations as varied as BBC, Fox News, ABC, CNN, C-SPAN, Current TV, ESPN, NPR, and Al Jazeera. If you want more video programming, you’re better off relying on the stations offered by more specific news organizations. But Roku Newscaster is an invaluable source for information and viewpoints ranging from mainstream to eclectic to even radical.
SyFy - SyFy on Roku doesn’t function as a full-on replacement for the actual channel, but it is a wonderful supplement. With SyFy on Roku, fans of shows like Alphas and Merlin have access to a wonderful stream of extra features such as webisode, bonus clips, and Q&A’s with stars like David Strathairn. Plus, the interface is simple and intuitive.
HBO GO - While we’re on the subject of channels that serve as a supplement to your cable package, meet the granddaddy of them all. You will need an HBO subscription to take full advantage of HBO GO, but what a treasure trove this channel offers.
Leaving aside the bounty of recent movies offered, as well as every episode of current, hugely popular series like Game of Thrones and Girls, HBO GO offers their full back catalog. That means The Wire, Deadwood, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Band of Brothers, Boardwalk Empire and many, many more are presented in their entirety! What more needs to be said?
Showtime Preview - Keeping with the topic of premium cable networks with their own Roku channels, let’s check out Showtime Preview. Unlike HBO GO, Showtime Preview doesn’t require a subscription to the parent channel, but that’s because it offers far less.
What it does offer is webisodes, behind-the-scenes footage, and most impressive of all, a full-length episode of Homeland, Dexter, House of Lies, The Big C, The Borgias, and Nurse Jackie in the hope of enticing you to subscribe to the network. In short, it’s a channel working a promotional angle, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not to subscribe to Showtime (and with the hoopla around the much-discussed Homeland, who could blame you?), then this is a good way to find out if you’re meant to commit.
Disney - Now let’s move from one promotional channel to another. Disney’s Roku channel is another clip-heavy network, offering snippets of popular Disney movies in the hope of enticing you to pay more, but there’s still plenty of freebies to make this a channel worthy of adding to your Roku.
For example, there are music videos of popular artists (Selena Gomez, Demi Lavato, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus) that are sure to make your kids happy, even if they are arranged on an interface that makes them sort of unsearchable. There’s also a section called “Characters”, which is designed to help you find your favorite Disney personality. And lastly, there’s a section called “Funny Stuff”, which ought to appeal to adults considering how many Muppets videos it contains.
Crunchyroll - Admittedly, Anime is far from our field of expertise. But while we may have a lot to learn, if we were looking to get started, the Crunchyroll channel on Roku would absolutely be our way in.
Though Crunchyroll has premium membership options available (which offer same-day access to certain videos and an ad-free experience), most of the content on Crunchyroll is free, which means you can have access to the best anime and Asian entertainment right on your TV at no extra cost.
Vudu - We’ve sang the praises of Vudu elsewhere on this blog, but that post was mostly oriented around their catalog of newly released movies ready to be streamed in HD (or owned) for a minimal cost. What we neglected to mention is just how deep their catalog of current and classic television goes.
New episodes of hot shows like The Walking Dead, Duck Dynasty, and The Americans are available to stream almost as soon as they air for as little as a couple of bucks. So if you’ve chosen to cut the cord and are worried about not being up to date on your favorite shows, Vudu is the perfect channel to supplement your Roku.
Of course, Vudu is not a subscription service that comes with a monthly fee. You have to set up an account to use Vudu, to be sure, but considering that it literally costs nothing to start a Vudu account, why not give it a shot?
Though some of these channel’s virtues can only truly be appreciated when used as a supplement to a cable package, many of them achieve the goal of allowing you to eschew a cable package altogether (especially when coupled with a Netflix or Hulu Plus account, but as we said, we’re not getting into that here).
But whether you choose to keep your cable package and add a Roku to enjoy the extra viewing luxuries provided by HBO GO and SyFy, or if you cut the cord and rely on channels like Vudu, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Crunchyroll to provide a considerably cheaper and equally enjoyable substitute, it’s clear that Rokus are a must-have for any serious devourer of television!
Have a favorite Roku Channel for television of your own that we missed? Or do you just want to discuss some of the ones we mentioned? Let us know down below!