The Best Free Channels on Roku [January 2021]
The 2010s were the age streaming TV went from a niche project worked on by true techies to a full billion dollar industry, and as we enter a brand-new decade, streaming only seems to be getting more and more popular. Whether you’re trying to stream something from Netflix and Hulu, or you’re taking your chances from new services like Disney+ or Quibi, you’ll need a way to watch your favorite movies and television shows on the big screen.
By far, the best way to watch media on your television is by using Roku, either as an additional device connected to your television through an HDMI cable, or by using Roku software build into the TV itself. Roku has established itself as the go-to source for entertainment lovers all over the world, becoming one of the most successful media box companies still working today.
2020 was a rough year for Roku, as some major streaming services failed to launch on the platform day and date with other streaming gadgets. Thankfully, most of Roku’s missing apps—called “channels” by the streaming service—have finally arrived in the back half of 2020, and as we kick off a new year, it’s easier than ever to find some fantastic free channels for your device. Let’s take a look at our favorite free Roku channels for October 2020, and make sure to let us know in the comments your favorite Roku channels for streaming all things entertainment.
The CW is where you go to catch some of the latest shows on TV. Known for some of the best shows around, The CW specializes in superhero series such as Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and more. Other shows like The Originals and iZombie also feature highly.
PBS is a staple for many people, especially those who like BBC period drama or cooking shows. There is a huge range of free content on PBS as well as the channel’s own original productions which is rapidly gaining in quality and popularity. As a free channel on Roku, PBS is a decent offering if you’re looking for some quiet entertainment on a Saturday night.
PBS Kids is separate from PBS and is exclusively for children. All content on the channel is child safe and age appropriate. The channel contains over 1,000 videos and shows, with some very popular ones including Curious George, The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Sesame Street and lots of others. There is also learning content as well as entertainment so not all time spent on PBS Kids is wasted time.
Lynda.com is a tutorial channel for Roku that expands on the books and online resources. The range of skills and tips covered is wide ranging, from computers to business, software, hardware and more. The free channel covers a wide range of subjects while a premium channel covers even more. If you’re looking for a way to expand your knowledge, this might be it.
Crackle offers access to free movies and TV shows and the range is getting better all the time. Ad-supported, the channel features a wide range of TV shows and movies and has even begun creating its own. The library is not as varied as some of the other free channels but it is growing all the time. Thanks to its Sony ownership, you’ll also find some pretty big films on this service.
iHeartRadio offers traditional radio channels through your Roku. The range is wide with traditional music, talk shows and domestic content as well as imported and world music options. Popular stations include Power 105.1 FM in NYC, 104.3 myFM in Los Angeles, Wild 94.9, ESPN, Fox Sports and Kentucky Sports Radio. If you like background noise while doing other things, this is the channel to provide it.
Vevo is another music oriented channel for Roku that provides free content. This time it is music video content. There are apparently over 75,000 videos from over 20,000 artists on the channel. Whether you watch or just listen, the content is pretty good and includes local and international acts. You’ve probably seen Vevo content on YouTube, but browsing through the Vevo app is much, much easier.
Popcornflix takes us back to movies in style with a huge range of popular full-length movies from just about every genre going. Unlike the similarly-named Popcorn Time, Popcornflix is legal as it is ad-supported. The range of movies available is pretty good and while it may not contain the latest blockbusters, the channel does contain a wide ranging repertoire of movies.
You’re probably familiar with Twitch, considering it’s one of the most popular video players on the web today, and certainly the most popular way to livestream. While Twitch used to have a fully-functional app available for Roku device, it’s no longer there. Whether that’s due to competition from Twitch’s owner Amazon, or just the lack of interest from the Roku community, the only way to access Twitch on Roku is with a third-party app. Just head over to the account page for your Roku on a browser, then select Add Channel with a Code. Enter “Twoku” to gain access to the unofficial replacement for the old Twitch app.
Pluto TV apparently has over a hundred free channels that include general interest, news, sports, series, movies and more. It is a well-established free channel for Roku that features on many top lists and for very good reason. It has national and international news, sports and more and a wide variety of movies too. Pluto’s been blowing up in popularity lately, so if you’re curious about the service, now’s as good a time as any.
Tubi TV has a similar model to Crackle in that it offers free, legit movies and TV supported by ads. The range is slightly more limited than Netflix or Hulu but it is free so is bound to be. Otherwise, Tubi TV is a great companion app for Roku with a decent range of TV series and older movies. Just remember you’ll be hitting a lot of ads when watching movies.
No list of free channels on Roku would be complete without mentioning YouTube. The channel has all of the content of the website plus the ability to find something on a device and sling it to your TV. Otherwise there is the same massive range of content from the world’s largest media platform. If you don’t already have a large library of subscriptions built up yet, you’ll want to do that in no time.
Most games developed for Roku devices are made by smaller, independent teams, so leave it to Bandai Namco to provide Roku with one of their biggest franchises ever developed. Pac-Man Championship Edition is a port of the first official sequel to Pac-Man, offering gamers on Roku the option to finally get some classic arcade action on their TVs. While a joystick is preferred for controlling the game, your remote will get it done in no time.
Some of our commenters have said this app isn’t actually free, but on our end, it does show up as a free download!
Much like HBO Max, NBC Universal’s new streaming service launched this summer, with a focus on brand-new original programming and a place for NBC classics like Parks and Recreation and The Office to live in peace and harmony together. However, while Peacock originally followed in HBO’s footsteps, choosing to opt out of Roku devices altogether, the company quickly relented, and you can now find Peacock TV on your Roku device without any sideloading. Not only does the service have critically-acclaimed originals like AP Bio, but some of NBC’s classic have made the move as well. That includes The Office, which Peacock has been pushing harder than ever in 2021.
It took the better part of a year, but in December 2020, HBO Max finally landed on Roku devices everywhere. Just in time too, as HBO plans on launching every single Warner Bros. movie in 2021 day and date with a theatrical release on their streaming service, with no additional charges. HBO Max may be a silly name, but it’s one of the best streaming services around today. In addition to the entire back catalog of HBO originals, you also gain access to a ton of movies, TV shows like Friends, and Max originals like The Flight Attendant. With its release finally on Roku, HBO Max is a must-have addition to your channel lineup—though you’ll have to check the site’s requirements to see if you get it for free.