When it comes to streaming content, Roku has become a household name, and for a good reason.
Roku and Roku TVs provide access to thousands of channels, including a plethora of free ones. Sifting through the vast sea of Roku channels can be a time-consuming task.
To help you quickly find the best free content, I’ve compiled a list of my top picks, each with a unique value. Here’s a glimpse into my personal experience with these channels and why I believe they are worth your consideration.
What’s Changed: Evolving Streaming Landscape
Before we delve into the best free Roku channels, it’s essential to note a few recent changes in the streaming landscape.
- Peacock, which was once a free option for streaming NBCUniversal content, has shifted its business model. It is no longer free and now offers premium tiers with additional content and features.
- Locast, a service that once provided access to local over-the-air channels, faced legal challenges that led to its shutdown. The service streamed local over-the-air channels for free, but a lawsuit initiated by major broadcasters ultimately resulted in Locast ceasing its operations. This change impacted those who relied on Locast for local programming.
- Free, ad-supported television, or FAST channels, appear much like live TV channels you see on a subscription service. But now, FAST-oriented services, Local Now, Plex and the Roku Channel, are driving major growth because they are a budget-friendly option for TV viewers.
By design, FAST channels cater to every kind of TV watcher across multiple genres — from Westerns to Horror flicks. Some people may complain about the ads, but they say less when they realize how much money they are saving every month.
Cord-cutters have even seen VIZIO Smart TVs and the new Tablo 4th Gen combine FAST channels with OTA channels into a single menu. With these developments in mind, let’s explore the best free Roku channels that remain accessible for streaming.
My Experience with finding free Roku Channels
I own a variety of Roku devices, including a Roku TV, Roku Ultra, and Roku Express 4K+. I’ve been testing hardware that uses Roku as a streaming hub since 2017.
Over the years, I have been writing about Roku’s evolution, from its hardware improvements to the regular software updates that enhance the user experience. I regularly write about and test out new features and content additions that Roku brings to the table.
With this firsthand experience, I can confidently recommend these specific Roku channels for people who are new to streaming, as well as for longtime cord-cutters who want to refresh their home screen with a diverse roundup of free movies and TV shows.
- What’s Changed: Evolving Streaming Landscape
- My Experience with finding free Roku Channels
- What Are Free Roku Channels?
- The Roku Channel
- COMET: A Nostalgic Dive into Sci-Fi Simplicity on Roku
- Tubi: A Hub for Quality Movies
- Kanopy: A Cinematic Treat
- Plex: Unearthing a Hidden Gem for Free Roku Entertainment
- Freevee: Originals, Subscription-free
- PBS: Diving into Quality Programming
- PBS Kids: Learning Meets Fun
- Local Now: Hyperlocal News Hub
- NewsOn: Panoramic Local News Digest
- Roku Channels FAQs
What Are Free Roku Channels?
Roku Channels are essentially Roku apps, and can be found in the Roku Channel Store.
When you first connect your Roku to your TV and an internet connection, you will find some streaming options out of the box. Every Roku device comes with the Roku Channel pre-installed, and it alone can give you lots of on-demand movies, TV shows, and free, ad-supported channels (a.k.a. FAST channels).
As a longtime cord-cutter and tech enthusiast, I’ve found that free Roku channels are the most valuable building blocks for anyone moving away from pricey cable TV packages. These free channels offer a range of content without the need for costly subscriptions.
The Roku Channel
Why it’s a must-visit: It’s Roku’s All-in-One Free Streaming Destination
The Roku Channel should be in your regular TV-watching wheelhouse because new channels and free programming are constantly being added to the mix. Beyond its diverse range of free movies and TV shows, Roku has more than 350 live TV channels.
Remember when Warner Bros. Discovery moved their discontinued HBO shows off of Max? They are now on the Roku Channel.
If you are breaking away from a cable subscription for the first time, The Roku Channel is a good starting point to get a feel for what life without legacy pay TV is like.
You can quickly catch up on nightly news with ABC News Live or NBC News Now. There are local weather reports, or you can just channel surf. The difference is that you can do it for free instead of relying on a cable box.
The “Featured Free” section on Roku’s menu is a game-changer. It aggregates free shows and movies from standalone Roku channels, including Discovery, National Geographic, and free services like Pluto TV. The best part? You don’t even need to download these individual Roku channels to start watching.
Another valuable feature is “My Feed.” While it may seem like a tool for rentals and purchases, it’s a goldmine for discovering free movies. Instead of searching for specific titles, add the name of an actor or director, and soon you’ll receive recommendations from free apps like Tubi and Pluto TV. My Feed becomes your personal media butler, reducing the time spent searching for something to watch.
Pluto TV: A Must-Have for Free Roku Entertainment
Why it’s my top pick: Pluto TV has a dialed in menu, and the best library of movies and FAST channels
Pluto TV is a well-known and essential addition to your Roku channel lineup. Even if you are familiar with Pluto TV, it’s worth checking out the new homepage that now has new sections such as “Most Popular Movies”, “Top TV Series” and “New Movies This Month.”
The sections might not sound terribly innovative, but it really comes down to the stellar library powered by Paramount Global. Paramount Pictures and TV networks such as CBS, Nickelodeon and Showtime all have some offerings on Pluto TV.
With approximately 250 channels, this free platform has the best user experience out of its growing number of competitors.
The live TV section is neatly organized, making it easy to find what’s currently playing, whether you’re in the mood for action, comedy, or horror. Personally, I’m a fan of the Pluto Thrillers.
Pluto TV also provides numerous news channels and sports coverage for the sports enthusiasts. They regularly introduce pop-up channels that will host a marathon for a specific TV show, movie franchise or genre.
Pluto TV has achieved a sweet spot that fills the need of people who like to channel surf and those serious about quickly settling in for a movie. But here’s the hidden perk that I think is often overlooked: the on-demand section is an awesome, massive library that keeps getting better over time.
It’s fair to say that Pluto TV does not carry a bunch of new titles that you’ll find on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But you will find high-quality movies that stretch back from the 70s to the last few years streaming in High Definition (720p and 1080p). And these are movies that you actually want to watch. Pluto TV is definitely a must-have for your Roku.
COMET: A Nostalgic Dive into Sci-Fi Simplicity on Roku
Why it’s fun: COMET offers a single live stream of old-school Sci-
COMET has a simple interface with a single live stream, a schedule and nothing else. It’s a simplistic app on Roku, but really fun.
It reminds me of the earliest Roku apps. Every time I use it, it instantly whisks me back to the earliest days of Roku apps. Its interface is strikingly simple: a straightforward live stream with an accompanying schedule and nothing more. There is no on-demand library, and there is something that’s charming about that.
This minimalist approach might seem out of place in today’s world of flashy apps, but for me, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Every time I open the COMET app, it’s like unwrapping a surprise gift. Sometimes, I find myself engrossed in an episode of “The X-Files,” and other times, I’m plunging back into the mysterious worlds of “The Outer Limits”. It’s unpredictable, in the best possible way.
Fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will find multiple seasons here as well.
The charm of COMET lies in its simplicity. It doesn’t try to overwhelm with countless options; instead, it offers a live feed and that’s it.
Even though I like watching Comet as an OTA channel, it’s fun to flip on the app once in a while, not knowing what sci-fi treat awaits.
Tubi: A Hub for Quality Movies
Why it’s a win: Under movies, check out the “Highly Recommended on Rotten Tomatoes” section.
Tubi is no longer just your go-to channel for a dose of B-level action flicks, and horror movies
Sure, you can still find plenty of those movies. But it’s now also great for a cozy afternoon at home when you want to see a great movie you have seen before. Under the movie section, the queue titled, “Highly Recommended on Rotten Tomatoes” reaches across genres, and comes from the recommendations of real people.
Right underneath, you will find a queue for what’s new on Tubi, and a dedicated queue for “Cult Classics.”
Tubi has 250 FAST channels. I have been following the evolution of this streaming service for a few years now. It’s worth noting that since Fox Corporation acquired Tubi in 2020 for $440 million, there have been a number of upgrades content-wise. But the delivery of FAST channels isn’t great compared to other services like Pluto TV. Being able to channel surf and watch TV at the same time is a must for me.
Kanopy: A Cinematic Treat
Why it’s unique: Kanopy is free and almost as good as The Criterion Channel and Mubi.
If you’re on the hunt for free Roku channels that deliver a curated film experience, Kanopy should top your list. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate Kanopy not just for its expansive collection but for the essence of cinema it captures.
This channel isn’t a mere aggregator; it feels like a carefully curated film festival on demand. As someone who’s traversed its digital aisles, I can attest to the sheer depth of the Criterion Collection it proudly hosts. Whether you’re a fan of golden-age classics or modern cinematic gems, Kanopy seems to have a finger on the pulse of what true cinephiles crave.
But beyond the mainstream, Kanopy’s World Cinema category has proven to be a reliable choice for a satisfying movie night at home.
Many of these films have earned accolades globally. Each film, in my experience, offers not just a story but a unique cultural immersion.
And for families? The inclusion of a thoughtful “kids section” on Kanopy ensures younger viewers aren’t left out. Based on my dives, it’s a blend of fun and learning – a combination that’s often hard to nail.
So, if free Roku channels with a touch of cinematic brilliance are on your radar, my firsthand experience nudges you toward Kanopy.
Plex: Unearthing a Hidden Gem for Free Roku Entertainment
Why it’s useful: The Discover Tab: My Go-To for Movie Nights
Plex might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of Roku channels, but trust me, it’s a hidden gem.
Plex itself has evolved into a powerhouse for on-demand TV and movies. Plex has partnered with major studios like Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, MGM, and even Crackle.
But since the search feature on Roku isn’t that great anymore, I am directing you to Plex. With a free Plex account, the Discover tab shows you the most watched free movies this week, and where to find them.
The Discover tab isn’t perfect. You will still need to manually jump over to tubi or whichever streaming service has the movie you want to watch. But Plex is giving you a robust engine to sort through the endless landscape of streaming services.
Plex started as a software hub for movie enthusiasts to watch their personal collections.
Plex has an estimated 238 FAST channels, including FilmRise, fubo sports network, a variety of news networks and lifestyle channels. There is a lot to watch, but I wouldn’t say that the menu is all that elegant. You can watch many of these FAST channels elsewhere and with better navigation.
While Plex is free, I highly recommend setting up an account for a personalized experience.
Freevee: Originals, Subscription-free
Why it’s worth it: Freevee Originals and Amazon Originals without a subscription
Freevee is an up-and-coming Roku channel that has plenty of movies and some Amazon Originals worth watching.
If you were a fan of the Amazon Original “Bosch”, you may already be using Freevee to watch Season 2 of “Bosch: Legacy.” I was surprised to see another Amazon Original “Goliath”, starring the great Billy Bob Thornton on Freevee as well (for a limited time).
The user-friendly interface of Freevee allows you to navigate through the “Movies” queue. Fans of British TV will find plenty to watch as well. All of the movies and TV shows here are ad-supported. I thought the service was a little heavy on comedies, but you will find some titles here that aren’t on other free streaming services.
PBS: Diving into Quality Programming
Why it’s a value: You can get a local live PBS station and a free on-demand library.
The PBS app for Roku is for those seeking a reliable source of top-quality programming. This Roku channel offers viewers several avenues to enjoy PBS content without any cost attached.
The PBS app on Roku grants access to live broadcasts of local PBS stations across most regions of the United States, completely free of charge. This feature is particularly invaluable for fans of programs like “PBS NewsHour” and “Frontline,” as it allows them to stay current with the latest news and in-depth investigative journalism as it unfolds.
PBS’s commitment to accessibility extends to its on-demand offerings, accessible via both the PBS app and the PBS website. You can catch up on episodes from beloved programs like “Austin City Limits” and a myriad of other PBS shows. These episodes typically become available the day after their live broadcast and remain free to watch for approximately two weeks before transitioning into the PBS Passport library.
PBS Kids: Learning Meets Fun
Why it’s a must-visit: Merging Learning with Entertainment for Kids
PBS Kids should be a staple on your Roku if you’re fostering a vibrant learning environment for young minds at home. The library here is not very deep, but it does rotate on a regular basis and you will find a live stream of the local PBS Kids station.
The live feed can be handy if you can’t get PBS Kids for free by using a TV antenna.
You can expect to find episodes of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, “Rosie’s Rules” and “Wild Kratts.”
For parents taking the plunge into the world of streaming for their kids, PBS Kids is a sanctuary where children are encouraged to learn and grow—all within a secure digital space. Parents can rest easy knowing their kids are consuming quality content, free of cost.
Local Now: Hyperlocal News Hub
Why it’s a must-visit: Best for local weather forecasts
Local Now should be on your radar for its hyperlocal weather updates. I use this app the most for weather forecasts because it’s coming from The Weather Channel, and it automatically launches into the forecast when I open the app.
After the quick forecast, it shows local radar for my area. This makes the app more premium than other weather apps you will find on Roku, which are not as quick to give you a forecast for your specific city or region.
Local Now and The Weather Channel are owned by Allen Media Group. Local Now does have FAST channels and on-demand movies that you might find useful. But I am mostly tuning in for the weather.
For someone transitioning away from cable and into the world of streaming, Local Now provides snappy local updates you’re used to for free.
NewsOn: Panoramic Local News Digest
Why it’s a must-add: Local news stations from across the U.S.
Getting national news from free hubs such as CBS News or NBC News Now is handy.
But NewsOn carries live and on-demand segments of your local news station. With 275 local TV stations from over 165 markets, it covers more than 75 percent of the U.S. population.
One neat feature of NewsOn is that there is no geo-blocking, you can watch local newscasts from another state, or across the country. The video quality is as crisp as any subscription, and the navigation and menus are simple to use.
For those branching out from their regular news sources, NewsOn acts as a panoramic view of what’s happening across the nation, but on the local level.
Roku Channels FAQs
Here are a few questions that readers regularly ask me about Roku Channels.
Are Roku Channels free?
- Yes, Roku Channels are indeed free to add to your device. However, it’s important to note that some channels may offer a combination of free and premium content. While you can access a wide range of free content, there may be additional paid options or subscriptions within certain channels. So, while the channels themselves are free, the content they offer can vary in terms of cost.
Do Roku Channels sync between devices?
- One of the convenient features of Roku is that your channels and preferences can sync across multiple Roku devices, as long as you use the same Roku account on each device. This means that if you’ve customized your channel lineup or settings on one Roku device, those changes will be reflected when you log in to another Roku device with the same account. It’s a time-saving feature for those who enjoy streaming content on various screens throughout their home.
Does Roku have free sports apps?
There are several free Roku Channels that cater to sports fans, but you will get mostly highlights and analysis. Here’s a list of some popular ones:
- Stadium: This is a multi-platform sports network that brings various sporting events, including college football and basketball, along with 24/7 sports news.
- Pluto TV: Pluto TV offers several sports channels, including Pluto TV Sports, FOX Sports, and more. They show a mix of live highlights, updates and sports documentaries.
- CBS Sports: This Roku channel provides sports news, highlights, and analysis. Occasionally, they may also stream live sporting events for free.
- Red Bull TV: For fans of extreme sports and adventurous outdoor events, Red Bull TV offers a unique mix of sports programming. You can watch live events, documentaries, and other sports-related content.
- fubo Sports Network: Even without the fuboTV subscription, the fubo Sports Network offers live sports and original programming. It’s an over-the-top (OTT) network without the need for cable.
- NHL: While you’ll need a subscription to watch most games, the NHL Roku channel does offer some free content, including highlights and recaps.
- The Roku Channel: Roku’s own channel often features a variety of free content, which can include sports-related movies, documentaries, and occasional live broadcasts.
- Tubi: Besides its vast library of movies and TV shows, Tubi sometimes has sports documentaries and movies available for free.
Does Roku have local OTA channels?
Roku doesn’t provide local Over-the-Air (OTA) channels by default, but you can access local OTA channels if you have an OTA antenna and a compatible OTA tuner. Roku devices can integrate with OTA tuners, like Tablo or HDHomeRun, which allow you to watch local channels through your Roku. This setup offers a great way to access local news, sports, and network programming alongside your streaming content, creating a comprehensive entertainment experience.
With these additional Roku channels, your streaming experience becomes more diverse and entertaining. Whether you’re looking for educational content, local news, or cinematic delights, Roku has a channel to match your interests. Make the most of your Roku device and explore these free options.