With the Roku, like many other burgeoning technologies, there can often be more headache than relief.
This is true in that the Roku has a plethora of channels, many of which are next to useless. The only way around this is to research the best or literally explore the channel store and try each and every one… which would take quite some time, trust me!
So for the average person who is after the best in the shortest amount of time I have attempted to whittle down the enormous selection of Roku channels to just the very best channels Roku has to offer. Of course this is some what personal and so I only share this so that you have some starting point to maximize the best of what the Roku has to offer.
Firstly I am assuming that the average user is after mostly free or cheaply priced offers and that they are mostly after Movies and TV Shows with little to no interest in eccentric channels about radio shows for Christian Evangelists.
So without further ado, the best Roku channels (2014):
Click on the Icons to Add the Channels to your Roku Account
Netflix is a given, its technically the Roku HQ. Its not necessary mind you and I’m not saying you can’t do without this… but you would be crazy to try, especially if you don’t have cable or at least some other subscription service. There is nothing like always having quality media where ever, whenever and however you want. That being said Netflix does not typically have recent media, it usually lags TV shows by about a season for example.
The Plex channel is an entirely unique creation! With this channel you can build up a veritable library of awesome media, in almost any file format. One of the biggest drawbacks with the USB feature of the Roku is that the playable file types are limited to say the least (ie. No ‘.mkv’ support). This is remedied and then some with the Plex channel. If you have or are able to acquire a bunch of media on a household computer, than this is the channel for you. With a little one-time setup all your computer stored media can be accessed via Wifi on your home router directly and stylishly to your Roku powered TVs. Also check out RARflix its Plex with a different spin on the menu layout and currently offers more features like it finds and streams trailers for your media from the menu.
The YouTube channel is I would hope an obvious choice. YouTube is under appreciated by most and still is probably one of the most recognized online streaming video website. Its under appreciated in my opinion because people don’t realize that the content on YouTube is so much more than random user-created content. There is full episodes of some really entertaining content such as Looney Tunes Tv Shows, Full Documentaries (National Geographic, BBC, etc.), Music and Music Videos ad nauseum (can be added to playlists and stored via your YouTube account), etc. Really the Roku experience isn’t complete without YouTube!
Hulu Plus is an excellent channel and if Netflix didn’t exist I would say it was essential. That being said Netflix is nearly all around a better channel. It has better streaming quality if you are going for 1080p offerings, no advertisements, no restrictions on viewing via the Roku (make sure have Overplay or similar installed), can be very kid friendly, and offers some quality ‘Netflix only’ content such as House of Card’s and Orange is the New Black. The two major advantages with Hulu Plus that makes it a good addition to the Netflix experience is that is often offers recent TV shows very soon after they are originally aired (ie. next day). Also Hulu offers more main stream recent TV shows, but less TV shows in general to Netflix, so if recent TV is your thing this is a good choice.
Pandora is the best customized radio channel for the Roku. So if your thing is to have radio playing and you want it to play your favorite artists and music similar to them, then this channel is an easy choice.
Sky News is probably the most reliable quality free news channel on the Roku. There is BBC, Fox and others but they are often more glitchy, need a cable subscription or just offer less customization. This channel is less essential if you have a newer Roku that offers the News category directly from the main menu.
Amazon Instant Video is a great way to stream from your amazon account any media you may have already purchased or wish to in the future. With Amazon Prime you get access to a variety of movies, tv shows and music, some of which may require an additional charge. The downside of this channel is you need an Amazon Prime account priced at about $99 USD/year. This also offers other Amazon benefits like free-2-day shipping for Amazon and a few other incentives. Also check out Amazon Cloud Player channel for music needs.
NoWhere TV is an excellent Private channel and offers a wide range of possibly interesting media. This is a channel worth spending a little time exploring what works for you personally. It is FULL of streaming content from local news Channel feed to RT and BBC content to archived films.
Justin.TV is an amazing free channel for the Roku. If you want the option of 24/7 streaming content for some of your favorite shows then this channel is a must. Like other channels this is more of an app and offers ‘sub channels’ such as Simpson 24/7, Big Bang theory 24/7, South Park 24/7 and many more. The streaming quality is often not the best but almost always watchable and sometimes you will find the odd HD content.
Unfortunately this private channel is no longer working 🙁
FilmOn is a potentially very excellent private channel. BBC News and Channel 4 live are just some of many benefits here. I watched coverage of the Super Bowl 2015 on this channel and whilst it was Channel 4’s british coverage it was more than satisfying considering it was live and free.
This channel has been resurrected 🙂
Check out my updated list of the best Roku channels for 2015 here!