The Roku Channel

Amazon is huge. So big, actually, that very few of us can fully appreciate the scale of the company. Between its retail sales and its AWS (which is massive in a whole different sort of way) and Amazon Video, it's — well, it's big.

Roku isn't anywhere near as big. Let's put it this way — Roku is estimating that it'll make a little more than a billion dollars in revenue for the year, which is a lot of money for the company. Amazon, meanwhile, brought in some $6.1 billion in the first six months of 2019.

So, yeah. There's a bit of a difference here.

But I'm becoming more convinced that Roku is making a play for eyeballs in the same way that Amazon Prime Video does.

And it all comes down to The Roku Channel.

The Roku Channel is free, but also gets you to the premium goods.

For me, for the most part, The Roku Channel isn't anything I actually pay attention to. It's at the tail end of my Roku channels. I only ever open it when I have to write about it. I pay for all kinds of other content, and damn it, I'm going to watch what I'm paying for.

But think about what The Roku Channel has very quickly become.

It's got a slew of movies and shows that you can watch for free. (OK, they're funded by ads, but you don't have to pay anything to watch the shows themselves.) That's a good bit like Amazon Prime Video, no?

There's a plethora of big-name premium networks available like HBO and Showtime and Stingray Qello and Baeble Music and EPIX and Acorn TV and Tastemade and a bunch of others. Subscribe from within Roku, and pay for them right from within Roku.

And that sounds a lot like Amazon Prime Video Channels.

Amazon Prime Video

The big deal here is that Roku, while not quite as ubiquitous as Amazon Prime, is a huge player in the streaming video space, with nearly a third of all connected TV devices coming from the company — and more than 1 in 3 smart TVs running the Roku operating system.

And unlike Amazon Prime Video on any device that doesn't have "Fire TV" in the name somewhere, you don't have to install The Roku Channel yourself. It's just there. That removes the biggest barrier to entry for any service — installation. (Amazon, of course, has done the exact same thing on every Fire TV device. Prime Video, provided that you're a subscriber, already is just there. All you have to do is add in whatever other services you want.

That doesn't mean Roku doesn't have work to do. It's very obviously pushing The Roku Channel, and for good reason. And this is something you can learn from, say, Apple:

Once you've sold everyone the hardware, it's time to sell 'em the services. And that service, in this case, comes through The Roku Channel.

Easy does it

Roku Premiere

4K video with ease

Roku Premiere is one of the easiest (and least expensive ways) to get into the 4K video game, with a box that won't break the bank and has access to The Roku Channel — and so much more.

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