The Roku Channel expands to Google, Android TV

The Roku Channel is expanding its reach, announcing Wednesday that Roku’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service is now available on Google TV and other Android TV OS devices.

The Roku Channel is already available to an estimated 100 million people in the U.S., and Google’s TV platforms join Amazon Fire TV and Samsung TVs as distributors of the FAST.

Roku Channel touts over 350 free live linear TV channels across news, sports, entertainment and Spanish-language programming with more than 80,000 free movies and programs including Roku Originals.

Google meanwhile has a large, deployed device base with its Google/Android TV OS, and in recent months turned greater attention on the free TV experience. In April, Google TV rolled out a revamped FAST experience that pulled in 800 channels including content from other FASTs such as Fox’s Tubi and Plex, along with a selection of built-in free channels powered by Xumo. The new live TV experience also expanded to Android TV devices.

In terms of growing The Roku Channel’s reach, data from Circana’s Device Ownership Trends & Profile Report estimates that as of May 2023, Google/Android TV OS had a household base of around 9.1 million homes (including any household that owns an Android TV or a Chromecast with Google TV purchased within the past 2 years and still installed).

Roku also competes against Google in the TVOS wars with its own branded smart TVs, but pursuing wider distribution for apps on other platforms is par for the course, with competitors needing to play nice to succeed, according to Circana’s John Buffone. He told StreamTV Insider that for streaming services to grow (be it FAST or other) “ubiquitous device ability is now table stakes,” adding that it’s no surprise Roku’s been expanding device reach for The Roku Channel.

“Launching on Android/Google TV in the U.S. provides reach to over nine million households and as such increases awareness, potential viewer engagement and resulting ad impressions,” said Buffone, VP and Industry Advisor of Media Entertainment & Connected Intelligence at Circana, about The Roku Channel, while also noting benefits for Google.  “As with other platforms, Google is looking to maximize viewer engagement as well as ad revenues. A top tier FAST service such as The Roku Channel aides in that mission. Success now resides in mutually beneficial partnerships between what had previously been seen as competing platforms.”

Roku in May hit another milestone in terms of popularity of The Roku Channel when the FAST surpassed the 1% threshold of TV viewing time in the U.S. that month, breaking out of the “other” streaming category to land on Nielsen’s The Gauge report. At the time, Nielsen pegged the breakout performance as highlighting the growing footprint of FAST services. Before The Roku Channel, Paramount’s Pluto TV and Fox’s Tubi each hit the 1% mark – comparable to usage seen on major SVODs Peacock and Max - and together the three accounted for more TV usage than Amazon Prime Video, which captured 3.1% share in May.

The rise of FAST services comes as separate research from Hub Entertainment Research shows many viewers have just about hit their own peak when it comes to the number of video services they want to use or subscribe to.  The study found 43% said they already have the maximum number of video sources they want, averaging seven. That number that was also pegged as optimal among the one-third of viewers who hadn’t reached their TV source limit yet. Low price was by far the most important factor for consumers in determining the value of a TV service (followed by price guarantee and a large content library).

Compared to paid subscriptions, FAST services offer free content and an easy in-and-out viewing experience that typically doesn’t require a subscription, sign up, or log in.