Roku’s Live TV Zone is a new home for live and linear TV


This little streaming box is all you need to log in to live TV. Photo: Alex Cranz / Gizmodo

Roku today launched a Live TV Zone as a launch pad for all your live and ongoing streaming content. If you use Roku’s Live TV Channel Guide or subscribe to streaming apps like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, or Sling TV, you can access live options directly from the Live TV Zone.

Turn on your Roku TV or streaming device to enter the Live TV Zone. In the navigation menu on the left, scroll down to the Live TV option. You can also search for the Live TV Zone. Once you’re there, you’ll see a linear timeline, like the TV Guide of yore, that allows you to mindlessly scroll through the hundreds of options and still feel a little overwhelmed by everything.

In a message to announce the new feature, Roku says it added the new Live TV Guide, in part because people are still using their TVs this way. Roku cites a recent streaming survey (PDF link) which found that 61% of users without traditional cable TV still watch live broadcasts several times a week.

Roku’s new Live TV Zone lets you scroll through everything currently live and streaming. Image: Roku

This harking back to the TV experience of yesteryear — OK, from just a few years ago — has seen a resurgence on other streaming platforms. For example, Google TV has a Live tab that consolidates the channel listings from any app that supports it. At my Chromecast with Google TV, I scroll through my YouTube TV lists and then at the end of the carousel I’m dumped into Pluto TV’s offerings. It makes it much easier for me to see what’s on the agenda, although I’m still clueless as to what to watch by the time I get to the end of the list.

Amazon Fire TV also provides linear live TV listings depending on your installed apps. Apple TV users don’t have this option yet.

The Live TV Zone can be accessed from the left side of the main Roku interface. Gif: Roku

Roku’s Live TV Zone may seem like a minor update in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a move aimed at keeping the platform as seamless as possible. For consumers, the interface is similar to the traditional pay-TV experience, which will ease the transition for new users cutting the cord. It will also help retain those new users as Roku tries to maintain its streaming dominance.

Roku makes its money from its platform, not from selling the device or the TV. Revenues rose at its most recent registrations, but there is still a lot of competition in this space, from ISPs like Comcast to smaller, craft-friendly services like plex, which, like Roku, offers a range of free “live” content. We also saw how quickly things could run in the industry when a player, say Google, decides to increase the stakes on its service offering (I’m talking about YouTube TV, of course).

But this new feature just makes it easier to use Roku, and that’s a good thing for users to say the least.


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