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Here’s everything you need to get started.
So you’ve made the wise choice of using Roku for your streaming needs. Now comes the fun part: adding the best Roku channels. Roku officially offers thousands of channels to users, in addition to the thousands of free Roku channels made by users on top of those. With so many options it can be overwhelming getting started. No matter what your budget or what kind of content you’re looking for, we’re here to help. Here are the best Roku channels to watch right now.
The best Roku channels
Cost: $8.99 per month for just Prime Video or $119 per year for a complete Amazon Prime membership
Amazon Prime Video is quickly becoming one of the best streaming services in the world, thanks to its extensive movie library, Amazon original series, and its support of premium channels like HBO and Starz. With Prime Video you can stream tens of thousands of shows and movies, from modern blockbusters to obscure ’70s kung fu. You also get access to Amazon’s original movies, including Oscar winners like Manchester by the Sea and original series like Jack Ryan.
- The best movies on Amazon Prime
- The 25 best comedies on Amazon Prime when you really need a laugh
- The best documentaries on Amazon Prime
The streaming service that launched the current cord-cutting revolution is still one of the best Roku channels. Netflix has invested billions of dollars into its original content, occasionally at the detriment of their box office movie selection. However, Netflix has the best original programming around, from sci-fi hits like Stranger Things to the thrilling doc Wild Wild Country. Netflix also has the easiest-to-learn interface in the business.
- The best Netflix original series of 2018
- The best Netflix original documentaries of 2018
- The best Netflix comedy specials of 2018
- The best Netflix original movies of 2018
Cord-cutting TV fans should make Hulu their first stop after canceling cable. Hulu subscribers can stream most new TV shows the day after they air, albeit with limited commercial interruptions. Along with thousands of TV shows, Hulu has an impressive library of movies, documentaries, and anime for your viewing pleasure. Like Amazon, Hulu offers add-on channels like HBO and Showtime so that you can collect your favorite shows in one place. They also offer Hulu with Live TV, allowing you to watch live cable through your Hulu app.
- The best movies on Hulu
- What’s new on Hulu
- The best documentaries on Hulu
- 10 sad movies on Hulu guaranteed to make you cry
4) DirecTV Now
Cost: Starting at $40 per month for 60-plus channels and topping out at $75 per month for 120-plus channels
The best option in streaming cable is arguably DirecTV Now. With packages starting at $40 a month for 60-plus channels and cloud DVR, along with pristine picture quality, it almost feels like you never cut the cord. Best of all, DirecTV Now doesn’t come with a contract like your old cable plan. Movie fans will appreciate being able to add HBO for just $5 a month. Other services stream live TV well, but DirecTV offers the best experience at the moment.
Cost: $15 per month
For decades, the only way to watch HBO was to have cable or tape stuff at your friend’s house. The premium movie channel has gotten with the times, however, launching its streaming service for cord-cutters. HBO Go requires a cable HBO subscription, but HBO Now is available for all. You get access to HBO’s award-winning original series, films, and documentaries, along with its current movie library. You don’t even have to wait until the next day to catch new episodes of Game of Thrones or Insecure, as they appear on the app the night they air.
Cost: $11.99 per month
HBO may get the most headlines, but Showtime has morphed itself into an unstable entertainment machine over the last decade. Original programming like Homeland, Shameless, and Dexter proved the channel could go toe to toe with Home Box Office. But its film selection is worth noting as well, focusing more on thoughtful dramas, horror, and comedy than its competition, and this Roku channel is one of the best ways to watch Showtime online.
- The best movies on Showtime and Showtime Anytime
- The best documentaries on Showtime
- The best Showtime original series of all time
Cost: Rentals start at $0.99 and go up to $9.99
Amazon and YouTube let you rent movies, but Vudu has the best selection of 4K rentals on Roku right now. With regular sales, free movies to stream with ads, and the latest digital rentals, Vudu is a reliable storefront. Vudu even gets some movies while they’re still in the theater. Best of all, the Vudu interface lets you test your network before you buy, so you don’t end up renting a 4K title if you’re internet isn’t fast enough to watch it.
Cost: $9.99 per month
For genre entertainment, it doesn’t get better than VRV. Collecting services like Crunchyroll, Shudder, Funimation, and more into one app for a flat monthly rate, VRV offers a $54.84 value for just $9.99 per month. The recent addition of a Nick channel, featuring Nickelodeon’s classic back catalog of live action shows (like Salute Your Shorts and All That) and animated series (like Catdog and Doug) is a nostalgic treasure trove on its own. For the best in anime, horror, classic Nickelodeon, and more geek gold, VRV is essential.
- The 15 best horror anime series streaming right now
- The best romance anime series you can watch online
- The best anime movies of all time—and where you can stream them
- 13 amazing anime couples that will make you believe in love again
Cost: $4.99 per month
ESPN’s Roku app requires a subscription to ESPN+ to fully appreciate, but the programming it offers is worth the $4.99 you’ll pay each month. ESPN+ gives you access to ESPN’s library of 30 For 30 documentary films, along with original series like NBA: Year One and Detail that provide an in-depth look at the history and current landscape of sports. When the season ends, ESPN+ is there to keep you in the game until play begins again.
Cost: $16 per month
If you’re longing for the comforts of cable TV but don’t want to splurge on a full-priced package, Philo is a perfect alternative. For just $16 per month, you get Comedy Central, MTV, BET, AMC, Discovery, Food, and 31 more channels of viewing goodness. The only downside of Philo is its lack of sports or news channels, beyond BBC World News, but considering what you’re paying, it’s a steal.
The best Roku free channels
1) Tubi TV
Tubi TV has taken Crackle’s crown as the best free service on Roku, with a massive library of over 7,400 TV shows and movies available for free streaming. This ad-supported network doesn’t have original content, instead focusing on its vast library of movies and series. Anime fans, in particular, should take note of Tubi’s incredible collection, but there’s truly a little something for everyone. While many services feature mostly direct-to-video films and old shows, Tubi puts award-winning films and series in your reach. If there were an ad-free option, we’d subscribe.
Crunchyroll is one of the leading anime streaming services in America, thanks in part to its free options. While paying customers can watch ad-free HD streams, free users can stream the entire catalog in standard definition with limited ads. Catch up on One Piece, Naruto, Overlord, Hunter x Hunter, and hundreds of other shows without spending a dime. Though with subscriptions costing just $6.99 per month, we recommend subscribing if you’re a fan. Or join the previously mentioned VRV to bundle the service. (Here are our picks for the best anime on Crunchyroll.)
Getting used to the organized chaos of YouTube might take a little bit of time, but no other service offers more options. With over a billion videos on the site, including shows, music, movies, documentaries, blogs, and more, YouTube is a never-ending stream of content.
- The best free movies on YouTube
- The most-viewed YouTube videos of all time
- The best documentaries on YouTube
- Full movies on YouTube: How to find old movies to watch
4) Sky News
One of the best Roku channels, Sky News is a 24/7 news network offering coverage from the U.K. and the rest of the world. Its award-winning programming provides a way for free Roku users to keep up with the news without access to a cable streaming program. The channel’s commitment to nonpartisan coverage may frustrate more ideological viewers, but for everyone else, it’s a beautiful solution.
5) PBS Kids
The downside of living on a budget as a parent is knowing you might be missing out on valuable content for your kid. That’s why PBS Kids’ approach to streaming is so remarkable, giving a free 24/7 feed on its app without a subscription or login required. The free Roku channel offers safe and educational programming updated every Friday,. Along with its live programming, PBS Kids offers on-demand streaming, plus guides to let parents know a show’s intended age group and learning goals.
Can’t get PBS over the air? The Public Broadcasting Station has the same commitment to sharing its focused adult content as it does its children shows. Enjoy your favorite PBS shows like Frontline, NOVA, and Masterpiece Theater free in beautiful streaming quality. The free Roku channel includes thousands of videos for you to browse; the only limit is how much time you have to watch.
To fully unlock Cartoon Network’s library you’re going to need a cable subscription, but there’s plenty of content to watch for free as well. Download the free Roku channel and look for the “Unlocked” section of the site. Here you’ll find all of the episodes available for streaming, including a host of Regular Show, Teen Titans, Adventure Time, and all your other favorite Cartoon Network shows. It may not be the complete package, but when you’re streaming on a budget, it’s enough.
Sony’s Crackle is an ad-supported service that features plenty of big Hollywood blockbusters and excellent TV series. Along with classics like Talladega Nights and The Karate Kid, Crackle has started to dip its toes into original programming. Its series The Oath, Start Up, Snatch, and Hook’d are surprisingly entertaining slices of TV, arguably worth a spot on AM in another universe. The ads can sometimes be a little much, but for free programming, it’s a steal.
Nosey is the home for daytime trash TV on Roku. Collecting classic episodes of series like Jerry Springer, Cheaters, Paternity Court, and Maury, Nosey offers a buffet of chaos to help you feel better about your own life. Sure, it’s garbage, but it’s incredibly interesting garbage and a lovely throwback to daytime channel surfing of yore.
10) The Roku Channel
You might be surprised to learn that Roku has gotten into the streaming game itself, offering a mix of news and movies for free to all users. Drawing its news from ABC and featuring movies like The Matrix trilogy and The Karate Kid, the Roku Channel is similar to other free channels on Roku. However, it runs better than almost any other streaming service on the device, in part because it’s made by the same people. When every other service fails you, The Roku Channel is there with the goods.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adapter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.