Roku just unveiled new streaming TV changes that sound a lot like what Apple is planning

Key Points
  • The Roku Channel will soon offer premium content from Showtime, Epix and Starz.
  • HBO, Netflix and Hulu are noticeably absent, but Roku might be able to use the content to draw more eyeballs to The Roku Channel, where it can sell ads.
  • Users will only have a single bill, instead of bills for each premium service.
Anthony Wood, founder and chief executive officer of Roku Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Roku on Wednesday announced new changes that are coming to how its users watch premium TV shows and movies. It may help it boost ad revenue — hugely important for the company's success — and it's a move Apple is said to be planning, too.

The Roku Channel, a separate section of the Roku user interface on TVs with Roku software and Roku products, will soon let users subscribe to paid content from Showtime, Epix, Starz and a handful of other, lesser-known networks. Customers will be able to see all the shows and movies available on those platforms before they subscribe and can access the movies and TV shows from other devices, such as phones and tablets. They'll also be able to pay for all the services through one bill paid to Roku, instead of a separate bill for each service.

Apple wants TV content without R-rating: Wall Street Journal
Apple wants TV content without R-rating: Wall Street Journal

The change gives Roku's media partners a chance to include ad content inside of the Roku app instead of leaving it inside separate apps where fewer viewers can see the ads.

But there's a lot of missing content in Roku's new offering. HBO, Hulu and Netflix aren't available. Those apps are still available outside of The Roku Channel, but users will need to navigate to the home screen and away from The Roku Channel, which is clearly where Roku is going to try to keep its users' eyeballs.

The move also sounds similar to what Apple is planning. CNBC reported in October that Apple will mix its free original content with subscription channels inside of the TV app, which is available on iPhones and iPads. Apple may introduce its service as soon as this year.

Other companies may be planning similar offerings. Facebook is in talks with HBO, Showtime and Starz to offer TV shows and movies for its Facebook Watch users, according to Recode.

Roku CEO: Active accounts were up 43 percent this quarter
Roku CEO: Active accounts were up 43 percent this quarter