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Roku’s free ad-supported streaming service is coming to the UK

Roku is bringing its free ad-supported Roku channel to the UK. The service, available today, provides access to over 10,000 on-demand movies, TV episodes and documentaries, including Fifth gear, Skins, Buy Carter, and The Wicker Man. You can access the Roku channel on Roku devices, Now TV sticks and Sky Q set-top boxes, and streaming quality goes up to 1080p depending on the content and the exact hardware you use.

All of this content is available for free, but ads alternate throughout everything you watch. Roku says it will try to show viewers a similar number of ads as what they would see on other platforms, and in the case of TV shows it will try to place ads during the show’s original ad breaks. You don’t need to watch an ad before you start watching something, and Roku tells me that the same ad can’t be played more than once every half hour.

The Roku channel was originally launched in the US in 2017 and since then it has expanded with the launch of an online web player, live news and a dedicated section for children and family. Perhaps most importantly, in 2019, Roku added the ability to subscribe to paid TV content providers from the Roku channel such as Showtime, Starz, and HBO.

While there’s no sign of the U.S. live channels, web interface or premium TV plans, the kids and family section has made the pass. This will provide a special section for family-friendly content, and Roku also says that this content will show fewer ads. However, there are no separate user profiles available within the Roku channel, so you can’t give kids a special profile knowing they don’t run into anything they shouldn’t.

While Roku is best known for its streaming hardware, CEO Anthony Wood said in 2018 that he sees the company more as an advertising company than a hardware company. Now with the launch of the Roku channel in the UK, this focus on ad-supported content is getting a big boost outside the US.