How to Watch Television Shows with the Roku Player for Free

by Michael Cox

    The Roku line of streaming media players converges the Internet and television to expand the capabilities of your TV with hundreds of content channels. For "cord-cutters," the variety of available TV programming available on the Roku may be a great alternative, but much of this programming comes at a cost. However, if you want to avoid subscription fees altogether, there are a variety of programs and channels that offer TV programming at no charge.

    Free Broadcast TV

    Some channels offer completely free programming. Crackle, for example, has offered episodes of classic network series such as Seinfeld, News Radio and Rescue Me, and Showtime Preview offers select original shows. News networks such as CNN, NBC News and Fox News offer free breaking news and on-demand shows. As of 2012, no major U.S. networks offer programming in Roku's channel store, but the lineup is always being revised. The Retrovision.TV channel is a good resource for locating older TV programming offered free on other channels.

    Free Web TV

    While you won't see many of these shows on network TV, there's a wealth of original TV-style programming available from channels such as and FirstRunTV. In addition, original TV-style shows appear on YouTube, Vimeo and other user-programmed sites. Roku's Channel Store features an "Internet TV" category from which you can sample original Web-only programming on dozens of channels.

    Free Niche TV

    Roku includes a variety of channels with programming in specific genres. The SyFy cable network offers a Roku channel with documentaries and other programming. The Smithsonian Channel features documentaries on a broad range of subjects. Comedy.TV runs standup programming from both familiar and new comics. Finding your niche may be a matter of trial and error, with no genre search option available, but a few niches have their own categories in the Channel Store.

    Free With Restrictions

    Many paid channels offer free episodes or trials. Although the list changes as channels make or rescind offers, it may pay off to check the service that interests you. Other channels may offer different freebies; for example, Acorn TV allows registered users to stream the first episode of each series for free. If you have a subscription to HBO, its Roku channel carries no extra charge. Amazon's Prime free-shipping program offers over 10,000 on-demand Instant Video titles, including TV shows, free to members. If you subscribe to a service elsewhere, check its Roku channel to see if it includes free programming.

    Private Channels

    A well-known Roku secret is the number of channels not listed in the Channel Store. User-added private channels include a number of live streaming news sites, as well as TV programming from around the world. To add a private channel, you must add it using its code, which you can find on a third-party site such as StreamFree.TV. While Roku allows private channels, it reserves the right to remove a channel without warning.

    About the Author

    Michael Cox writes about lifestyle issues, popular culture, sports and technology. In a career spanning more than 10 years, he has contributed to dozens of magazines, books and websites, including and "Adobe Magazine." Cox holds a professional certificate in technical communications from the University of Washington.

    Photo Credits

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