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Roku Adds Premium Subscriptions, Unified Billing to Roku Channel

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A new year brings new options from Roku, which announces that the Roku Channel will begin offering subscriptions to over 25 premium video and audio services by the end of January. Service aggregation will be a hot area in 2019, as consumers dislike juggling multiple bills for their streaming services, and Roku is staking a claim as an early entrant (behind Amazon Prime Video Channels, which launched in 2015).

The Roku Channel started by offering ad-supported live news streams, then broadened with ad-supported entertainment options. The company says "select Roku devices" will get access to Premium Subscriptions in late January, but everyone else will need to wait for a phased rollout sometime in early 2019.

The announced services taking part in Roku Premium Subscriptions at launch will be Showtime, Starz, Epix, Baeble Music, CollegeHumor's Dropout, CuriosityStream, FitFusion, The Great Courses Signature Collection, Hopster, Magnolia Selects, MHz Choice, Noggin, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Tastemade, and Viewster Anime. Several more must be coming, as Roku is promising over 25 providers. Roku will need to sign on more of the major players if this service is going to have much appeal.

All Premium Channels will offer at least a seven-day free trial, and Roku will send a reminder when trials are about to end and billing begin. Subscriptions will be managed on a single bill through my.roku.com.

Roku is aiming to keep all viewing within the Roku Channel, as that's the only way subscriptions will be viewable. So presumably if someone signs up for Showtime through Roku, they won't be able to access their account through the Showtime app or website.

Roku is improving search tools for the Roku Channel, so viewers can better find content or services that will appeal to them. Improved search will start appearing in late January. Additionally, the Roku iOS and Android apps will get an update in late January that lets them view Roku Channel content without a Roku device. Viewers will be able to start content on a Roku box, for example, and pick up in the same location on their app.

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