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Roku Channel to Stream Live News With ABC, Cheddar, People, Newsy

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The Roku Channel will soon learn a new trick, streaming free commercial-supported live news streams to anyone using a Roku OS device. ABC News, Cheddar, PeopleTV, and Newsy are the initial partners. 

Roku launched the Roku Channel in September 2017 as a way to capture some of the demand for addressable connected TV advertising. At the time, it offered 500 movies and TV shows. It's now the third most popular ad-supported channel on the platform and ranks in the top 15 channels for total streaming hours.

While there are plenty of news channels on the Roku platform, Roku vice president of programming Rob Holmes points out they mostly offer on-demand news clips. The idea behind the Roku Channel's news streams is to offer a lean-back experience. The four founding news partners were selected for their mainstream appeal, but future additions to the lineup could include news streams with a more politicized viewpoint.

For ABC News, which doesn't have a cable news network, this is part of a new venture creating live news for online viewers. Its channel will focus on the most relevant story happening at any time, and will stream across various ABC properties. While the ABC News stream will occasionally use a split-screen view to show multiple stories at once, viewers won't have the option to click on one and select it. Instead, ABC News will experiment with smaller windows showing streams that don't require audio, such as a weather map.

Roku isn't discussing the advertising relationship between it and its partners, but all the news streams will show ads, and Roku and its partners will split the proceeds. 

The entertainment section of the Roku Channel will also see improvements. Viewers will have to option to continue watching movies and shows they've started but not completed, and content will be grouped into collections. Also, the Roku OS's private listening feature, where people can listen to audio streams through headphones, is gaining multicast support and will accommodate four users with iOS or Android devices. 

The news channels and the other upgrades will begin rolling out with Roku's OS 8.1 upgrade in May. Roku is currently on a twice-yearly upgrade cycle, but Holmes says it plans to offers more frequent, smaller upgrades in the future. 


The Roku Channel news interface

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