The Roku Channel Store went officially live tonight, bringing with it a whole host of original web series into the living room. Last month we speculated that this might be Web TV’s back door onto the big screens that still dominate home entertainment.
Before this, the $99 set-top box came with a sparse three options for content—Netfilx, Amazon Video on Demand, and MLB.tv. But now thousands of original web series and other videos from Blip.tv, Revision3, Mediafly, Motionbox and others are viewable for free on any Roku as part of the first 10 channels added to the store. Also added are radio podcasts from Pandora and access to photos through Flickr and Facebook Photos.
“The Roku Channel Store turns the Roku player into the world’s first open platform designed specifically for the TV,” said Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood. “Now content producers and distributors – from single person shops to billion dollar corporations – can deliver their content directly to consumers without having to go exclusively through cable operators, satellite networks or TV affiliates.”
Technically, Roku says the platform is an open one, with developers able to craft their own applications for the store via a free SDK. That said, there aren’t any yet that allow for streaming access to network TV shows—like Hulu.com or Sling players.
For now, access to the channels remains free, and there don’t appear to be plans to head for a pay wall. “As for a subscription on top of that from Roku to use the Roku player, we don’t see that happening at this time,” Roku’s Brian Jaquet told us last month. So unlike DVR maker TiVo’s monthly sub fee, Roku owners only have the one-time cost of the set-top boxes, of which there are now three options—SD, HD, XD-SR—which range from $79 -$129.
Leo Laporte, host of the popular tech series, This Week in Tech (TWiT), said he was happy to be one of the first channels. “For years we only had audio podcasts,” Laporte said. “But once I found out that the Roku was supporting the format, I had to be on it. Roku was the impetus that made us want to do TWiT video.”
Revision3’s TekZilla, which is now watchable on Roku, has an early demo look at the the interface: