Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Last modified: January 10, 2019
When Netflix first debuted its streaming service way back in 2007, it was a revolutionary idea. It was so revolutionary, in fact, that there weren’t a lot of convenient ways to actually use Netflix’s streaming service to watch movies and TV shows on one’s actual TV set! Users had to connect their computers directly to their TVs to watch Netflix until later that same year, when Roku came along with its first Netflix player.
The idea behind Roku was simple: a Roku device would act as a tiny computer that could be left plugged into a TV. It would run Netflix (and, later, other streaming services), making it easy to watch the content from those services on a TV screen instead of a computer screen.
More than a decade later, Roku remains by some measures the most popular TV-focused streaming platform on the market. You’ll find the same familiar Roku platform, with its easy-to-use menus and extensive support for all kinds of streaming apps (Roku calls them “channels”), on multiple Roku streaming devices and on multiple Roku-branded smart TVs. The Roku platform is one of the most important things in the cord cutting world right now, so let’s spend some time talk about it and how it works.
Roku is a streaming platform. It is also the brand name of the devices that run that streaming platform. This means that Roku is something that helps you access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — Roku is not, generally speaking, responsible for providing TV shows and movies itself.
So what services can you use you watch TV shows and movies on Roku? A whole lot. Roku’s massive app library is one of the main reasons for its enduring appeal. And Roku is a relatively “agnostic” platform: it doesn’t push users toward specific apps in the same way that, for instance, Amazon’s Fire TV platform pushes users toward Amazon apps and services.
Roku’s apps — which Roku calls “Roku Channels,” by the way — include all of the major video streaming services and just about all of the minor ones, plus apps for streaming music, viewing photos, and more. The only sorts of apps that Roku is arguably a little short on are games.
The Best Free Roku Channels
Again, these are “Roku Channels” or apps, not channels in the sense that cable and skinny bundle services have channels. So when we say “ESPN” we mean the ESPN app, which you can use to watch clips and use your ESPN+ subscription if you have one — it’s not a live feed of ESPN’s cable channel or anything like that.
The Roku platform is accessible through Roku’s selection of streaming hardware. The lineup includes streaming boxes, streaming sticks, and smart TVs that come with Roku already on board — no meddling with HDMI inputs required.
Here’s a look at Roku’s current streaming device lineup.
Roku’s TV lineup includes a few different models from a few different manufacturers, including Philips, Sharp, and TCL. Available Roku TV models include 4K Ultra-HD options.
As of this writing, Roku is also still selling its Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere+ models, which are older than — and overlap price- and specs-wise — the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+.
Roku is an incredibly useful and powerful platform. So what does it cost?
The Roku platform itself is free, happily enough. Once you own a Roku device, you can keep enjoying the Roku platform for as long as you’d like. Roku even updates its platform from time to time free of charge.
Of course, in order to access the Roku platform, you’ll need a Roku device — and those are not usually free! Here’s a rundown of current Roku models and their MSRPs. Keep in mind that you may be able to find them for a bit less on sale (more on that in the next section).
Roku TVs vary in size, specs, and even manufacturer, so they vary by price quite a bit as well. As of this writing, you can get a Roku TV for less than $200 or more than $1,000, depending on which one you’re looking at.
When you first set up your new Roku device, you’ll create a Roku account. This will enable you to sync things like app downloads across multiple Roku devices. You’ll also be asked to enter billing information. This isn’t to charge you for Roku — again, the platform is free — but it will allow you to make purchases through the Roku platform later on. For instance, you might decide to rent a movie on your Roku. Or maybe you’ll want to sign up for a streaming service through your Roku: many streaming services can be billed through your Roku account, which may be more convenient for you than signing up for those services directly and having to re-enter all of your payment information.
So you want to save on Roku, eh? We can help you there. We’re always on the hunt for deals here at Cordcutting.com, and we’ve clued readers into more than than our fair share of cost-saving Roku discounts.
As of this writing, Roku deals include discounts on Roku TVs and Roku-related offers from Showtime and Sling TV.
Discounts come and go, of course! The best way to make sure that you’re up to date is to keep an eye on our home page, our Facebook page, and our Twitter page. We’ll let you know when there are low-priced Roku devices to be had.
Roku itself is free, so you’re not on the hook for any contracts or commitments. But it’s easy to add subscriptions to your Roku, in which case they will be billed through your Roku account. To cancel those subscriptions, you’ll have to go into your account on your Roku or on Roku’s website.
You don’t have to bill services through Roku, of course. If you already have Netflix and buy a Roku, you can just log into your Netflix account on your Roku device and use it there. Netflix will keep billing you directly, as usual. Again, it’s just good to keep track of how you’re subscribed to each service, so you know whether to head to the streaming service’s website or Roku’s when it’s time to cancel.
You Roku account is free, but you can sign up for things that bill you through Roku. Here’s how to cancel a subscription on Roku’s platform and on its website.
First up, cancelling a service on Roku’s platform. Fire up your Roku device and make sure that you’re logged in with the correct account. Then, find the channel in question and hit the star button on your remote (it labeled with a star that looks like an asterisk). Select Manage subscription from the resulting pop-up options menu. You can then select Cancel subscription to part ways with your service.
You can also reach the Manage subscription menu for an app on your Roku device by heading to the channel store, finding the channel in question, and hitting the OK button to enter that channel’s page, which will have the Manage subscription option.
Alternatively, you can cancel a subscription that you have through your Roku account on Roku’s website. Here’s how to do that. First, go to the site and log in. Click on Manage your subscriptions, and you’ll get a list of everything you’re signed up for through Roku, complete with easy-to-use Unsubscribe buttons next to each one.
What about your Roku account itself? It doesn’t cost you anything, but can you get rid of it all the same? Yes, actually: you just need to factory reset the Roku devices associated with your account, unsubscribe from any subscriptions you have through it, and then select Deactivate account while logged in on Roku’s website. But beware: you can’t get an account back if you deactivate it, and that includes stuff you may have purchased on the account. But, again, there’s not much reason to deactivate the account, anyway: it’s free! You can cancel paid subscriptions and reset individual Roku devices (taking your account off of them) without deactivating your account.
How to Reset a Roku to Factory Settings
Why choose Roku?
Roku's streaming stick makes TV portable. Bring it with you and plug into any TV with an HDMI port.
So there you have it, folks: just about everything we could say about Roku that would fit on one page. Of course, we still have plenty left to talk about. Over our years here at Cordcutting.com, we’ve covered all of the latest Roku news, reviewed Roku’s latest models of streaming devices and smart TVs, scoped out Roku’s competition, and more. So be sure to check out everything we’ve written about Roku and the rest of the essential streaming platforms, devices, and services! Type “Roku” into our search bar, browse our reviews, bookmark our homepage, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. When you do, you’ll always have the latest information about Roku, streaming, and cord cutting in general.