The Best Free Roku Channels

The Best Free Roku Channels

Here at Cordcutting.com, we think pretty highly of the current generation of streaming boxes, including the Roku Ultra. Roku and its competitors are great ways to organize your paid content subscriptions and get them all in one place. But Roku is about more than just watching Netflix and Hulu – its channel selection also features a small army of free apps, which will let you watch content without that monthly subscription fee. The best free Roku channels are free to both download and to use, and won’t come after you for subscription fees or per-viewing costs.

There are a lot of free channels on Roku (including one for just about every church under the sun), but a few channels stand out from the rest. That’s why we’re counting down the best free Roku channels here. When we say free, we mean free: these channels are all free to download and free to use. A couple have paid tiers, but we evaluated only the free options when determining which channels made the list.

So dive in – and if we left out a favorite of yours, sound off in the comments!

The Best Free Roku Channels

Crackle

Crackle

Crackle’s ad-supported model is becoming more popular, with competitors like Tubi TV popping up here and there. Crackle has a small but solid little library of quality content, though the streaming quality is a drawback. Since the price is right, Crackle deserves a spot in your streaming rotation.

iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio

A couple of Roku’s music channels are free. iHeartRadio’s channel is unique in that it allows you to listen to traditional radio stations live. There are commercials, of course (it’s radio, after all), but you won’t have to pay anything to listen. Plus, you can create your own customized stations, very much like you can with Pandora.

Livestream

Livestream is best thought of as a platform rather than a unified service. A ton of different content developers use Livestream to reach their audience – and if you’re lucky, that list might include your local news station. Livestream’s content selection is still growing, but it’s already one of the best free Roku channels.

NewsON

NewsON

NewsON has its flaws, but it’s a solid channel and won’t cost you a dime. NewsON offers free streaming of news channels from around the country, and if your local news station is one of the participating networks, it’s a great way to get live local news.

Pandora

Pandora

Pandora’s free online radio service is a nice way to turn your Roku into a juke box for a while. There are plenty of other quality music streaming services available, but Pandora has arguably the best free version. Pandora’s paid version ditches the commercials, but their free version is robust enough to make this list on its own.

PBS

PBS

Lots of television networks have their own Roku channels, but almost all of them make you log in with your cable provider in order to stream the content. Not so with PBS! You’ll get access to great documentaries and programming without having to pay a dime.

Pluto TV

pluto-tv-roku-channel

Like a few other channels on this list, Pluto TV is a free ad-supported content streaming service. But Pluto is very different from Crackle or Tubi TV – instead of providing on-demand streaming (like Netflix does), Pluto offers live TV (like Sling TV does). Pluto’s channels are assembled by its staff, and use free streams and internet videos, so you won’t get familiar channels like FOX or CBS. Still, Pluto does offer some great channels. You’ll even get live news and shows that originally aired on cable.

Popcornflix

Popcornflix

Not to be confused with the more extensive (and far less legal) streaming service Popcorn Time, Popcornflix is a free ad-supported Crackle competitor. As always, you get what you pay for, so expect a smaller content library. Still, with enough free streaming services on your Roku, you’ll always be able to find something to watch for free.

The Roku Channel

The Best Free Roku Channels - The Roku Channel

Yes, that’s right: Roku has its very own Roku Channel for your Roku. It’s a Roku within a Roku! Roku-ception! Russian dolls of Roku! Whatever you want to call it, here’s what it means: free movies. Some of The Roku Channel’s content is borrowed from the other free services on this list, but other offerings are entirely unique. Roku’s own free channel is easily one of the best free channels on Roku, so check it out.

Roku Media Player

Roku Media Player

The Roku isn’t the ideal device for playing local content, but it manages the task fairly well. Just load some videos in the supported file formats (including .mp4 and .mkv) onto a USB stick and plug them into your Roku. Roku Media Player can also handle photos and music.

Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated

There are some great sports channels on Roku, but not that many of them are free. Sports Illustrated is probably the best of the free options. You can load up sports news videos on demand, and the channel will even play them all in a row for you, providing an acceptable substitute for your old cable sports news programs.

Tubi TV

Tubi TV

Like Crackle, Tubi TV is a free ad-supported streaming service. As you’d expect, the content library is nowhere near as large or as high-quality as Netflix’s, but there are still some gems hidden in there. Between Tubi TV, Crackle, and Popcorn Flix, there’s always something decent to watch for free.

Twitch

Twitch

Twitch is a must-have channel for e-sports fanatics. It offers free streaming of competitive and casual video games. Like YouTube, Twitch offers a premium tier, but if you can live with ads then you’ll never need to pay a subscription fee. For video game fans, this is the definitive streaming app and clearly ranks among the best free Roku channels.

YouTube

Youtube

The original free streaming service! YouTube has since introduced a paid ad-free service called YouTube Red (read our review here) and an OTT TV service called YouTube TV, but we’re including it on this list because there’s just so much great content outside of the paywall. In addition to the usual user-generated YouTube content, there are a surprising number of feature films and TV show episodes available on YouTube.

Weather Underground

Weather Underground

Weather Underground (or simply WU) made our list of the best weather channels for Roku. And since it’s totally free, it belongs on this list as well! You can set up this channel with your address so that you can get local weather and weather predictions at a glance.

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About the Author

Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely is a freelance writer and a longtime cord cutter with a passion for technology and entertainment. You can find his work on Cordcutting.com and his tweets at @stephenlovely.

65 Comments on "The Best Free Roku Channels"

  1. Pluto TV takes FOREVER to load, especially on a Roku. But that’s okay. I prefer the free apps with no advertising (yes, there are a few). I pay for two quality, ad-free streaming services, and for everything else there’s Kodi, which runs on my other streaming box.

    Amazon Prime not only gives you access to some great video content, but access to a huge ad-free music library, which I use far more than any of my stream video services.

    In my streaming world, most ad-supported apps get deleted from all devices. They may be free, but I’m willing to pay a little to avoid commercial messaging.

    • Roku needs a Ethernet connection to perform at its best. Pluto loads fast for me.

      • Andy, What type of Roku are you using? I just installed a Roku Ultra box using wireless and it works great. I read that the sticks are slow which is why I went with the box.

  2. Hi Stephen, please check out The Autism Channel – free on Roku. We’d love to see you cover us. 🙂

  3. Douglas D Hagerty | December 8, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Reply

    Roku is cool. I am looking to Star Trek: Discovery, May 2017, and much much more.

  4. Thank you for providing this list. I just got a Roku and was confused over which channels are free and which require a subscription. Some pay channels were listed as free when they offer the first month free. Misleading. I currently stream Netflix, Amazon, and Acorn. I got a Roku because I was having a problem with Acorn. Now I just have to figure how to log in to Netflix on Roku. The picture is better on Roku than on my antenna TV. Streaming is so much better than cable. I will find your Facebook page and follow you.

    • Amazingly, the Pluto channel also lets me access all the antenna channels. I do not have to switch from Roku/Pluto to antenna to watch local news.

  5. Please provide me with the list of free channels on Roku without buying a subscription.

  6. Shawn McGrath | January 9, 2017 at 8:55 am | Reply

    Dear Stephen, It’s great to have all the linked information. My version of Roku doesn’t have the channel store, so I have to put in codes to add the channels. Could you please post the site codes for you lists… Thank you kindly.

  7. That’s it! Chromecast is better.

  8. Mark Matthews | March 23, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Reply

    For movie lovers check out the free channel “Countless Classics” with around 1,500 movies from the 1930s-1960s available for instant streaming. A lot of free classic TV content there as well.

  9. CBS is $5/month but offers live television as well as current and classic shows. It is our most used app! CBS News is separate and free and on 24/7 like CNN. We watch it every day!

    • My question is, when you watch a local news station, are you watching yesterday’s news? I am new and very confused by this. I would like to get Roku, but I also want to see today’s news today. Thank you.

  10. Is there any car race channels? If I have to pay for them, I will.

  11. James Trader | May 18, 2017 at 11:29 pm | Reply

    I love motorcycle racing, what’s available in channels?

  12. James Trader | June 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Reply

    What is available in motorcycle racing?

  13. Hi! I’m a 60 yr. old gramma who’s not very tech-savvy anymore. Can anyone tell me if a “TCL-Roku” television set is the most up-to-date Roku device out there? My awesome son upgraded me from the Roku box to the set, and I love it.

    Is there an upgrade from here?

    • Hi Sherri, I also have a TCL Roku TV. The TV is programmed to check for updates and when an update exists it will update on its own. So your device should always have the current, most up to date version of Roku. You can also check for updates manually by going into the settings and selecting system -> system update -> check now.

      Hope that helps.

  14. Timothy Tucker | July 4, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Reply

    What channels do you get with just HDTV, no internet?

  15. Can I get MHz on Roku for free?

  16. Will Roku work on my new 32″ monitor?

  17. Michael Weldon | August 26, 2017 at 7:35 am | Reply

    Roku website says many free channels are not available in my area – odd, because they are on the internet and can be found with a PC.

    POINT – The Fire TV Stick allows selection via the stick, so going to a website is unnecessary – will Roku make their software as user friendly as Amazon?

  18. With Xtv gone, there’s not much to watch. Bring back Xtv, please.

  19. XTV was without a doubt the best channel Roku offered and they had to screw that up. So now we watch from the local antenna on the bedroom set.

  20. Why can’t I get the Hallmark and Inspirational channel?

  21. Why can’t I get the Hallmark Channel?

  22. Darlington Kapasu | November 21, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Reply

    Can someone help me please? I need a free channel where I can broadcast my materials. Please there is so much to look through and finding it is very difficult.

  23. Most of these free channels offer such B movies, the actual letter B is embarrassed to be associated with them.

  24. Can I get a list of the Roku channels that are free, if possible? Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

  25. What Roku is best right now? I just have Hulu on my phone and internet and Wi-Fi modem and a LG HDTV.

  26. Peter Matthysse | January 2, 2018 at 1:34 am | Reply

    Is “BNN” or Business News Network offered as a streamed option?

  27. PBS Channel is not free. You have to be a paid subscriber to your local PBS station in order to watch anything other than promos.

    • PBS is free, well in Chicago we get it for free. As it asks you to put in your zip code or state for it to broadcast your local PBS station.

  28. NewsON is great for watching local TV coverage of weather events, and big news stories in their area…

  29. I just recieved a Roku for Christmas, and I need help from every angle. I am 75, and my cable has gone up 40 dollars in the last 2 months. Do I need to stay connected to the internet to use my Roku?

    • Yes, Del, your best connecting with an Ethernet cable, you still need an internet service provider (ISP) and a router. Can the person who bought you the Roku help you set it up?

  30. Larry Patterson | January 21, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Reply

    I bought the Roku stick, tried to get it authorized and was told I had to pay them $100 just to turn it on. Sending it back.

  31. I have a Roku TV. I don’t know a lot about cutting my cable bill. $220 a month — I need to get rid of my cable. Can i get a list of free channels?

  32. I just got mine set up today… I’m very impressed.

  33. Being 70 years old, I want to watch oldies, like the Golden Girls, The Middle, etc. Can I see those on Roku?

    • Yes Zenya you can. You can watch The Middle for free on the ABC channel. And you can watch Golden Girls with a Hulu subscription. You’re also able to buy single episodes or whole seasons from apps like Fandango, Google Play, Vudu, etc.

  34. How do I get Hannity on Fox?

  35. Can I get soap opera for free if I sign up for CBS?

  36. My biggest issue is I want my kids able to watch PBS/Disney, and “DVR/cloud recording” capability. It seems like Roku and YouTube TV would be a good way to do it. The only channel that doesn’t seem to be covered would be Comedy Central, but we can watch The Daily Show on their website through Chromecast. Thoughts?

  37. Can you get local stations with Roku at no charge?

  38. Is Spotify available for free and can the Spotify signal be connected to my smartphone?

    • Spotify isn’t available at all on Roku, Gary. But the availability of channels on Roku changes. I think you can check for specific channels on Roku’s website.

  39. I have a Roku Express. I wanna know what channels are free… And is The Roku Channel free.

  40. Will I get SEC Network on this device? I can’t stand my Fire Stick anymore.

  41. We have used Roku for 4 years as expats in Ecuador. Last month they dropped USTVnow. We can no longer access the US channels. USTVnow says just use your computer. That’s why we bought the Roku so we wouldn’t tie up a computer. What help is there for expats that live out of the US to receive US channels?

  42. Joyce Spivak | April 20, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Reply

    We bought a smart TV. What do I need to set up Roku? Did I need extra equipment?

  43. I am only looking for two channels, CNBC and FNC. Can I get these on Roku and if so are they free or is there a subscription fee? Also how much would that be.

    • No, they are not free. You’ll need a cable subscription for those. They may have their own apps that you can download to your TV.

  44. Rebecca Farr | May 3, 2018 at 12:18 am | Reply

    How do I find out if my local channels are free in my zip code? Zip code 23831. Local channels are CBS, NBC, ABC.

  45. Anthony Oneill | May 11, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Reply

    Roku killed off iStreamItAll. Bastards.

  46. I have no problem getting my Roku channels to load. When I’ve a problem with an app, I send feedback and it’s quickly fixed. I also have the highest speed internet available in my area, which helps a great deal.

  47. Matthew Bradt | May 20, 2018 at 9:16 am | Reply

    CBS Sports HQ, kinda like ESPN News runs all day and is free…

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