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.
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.