Yesterday Roku announced a new vector for bringing content to its set-top box, the Roku Channel Store. Roku got its start offering a $99 device dedicated to bringing Netflix Streaming to your living room (this was well before the Xbox, PS3 and any number of tvs and Blu-ray players added this feature). Since then, the company has added support for Amazon Video-on-Demand and MLB.com, as well as expanding its product line to 3 Roku players ranging in cost from $80 (for a standard definition model) to $130 for an 802.11n that also includes a USB port "for future use." The original $100 model rounds out the trio.
The Roku Channel Store is a way for content producers to offer their content on the Roku by way of a free Roku SDK. From the press release (pdf):
The Roku Channel Store represents an opportunity for content owners and publishers to reach an already large and growing audience of Roku customers. By creating an open platform for delivery to the television over the Internet, Roku has leveled the playing field for content owners.“The Roku Channel Store turns the Roku player into the world’s first open platform designed specifically for the TV,” Anthony Wood, founder and CEO of Roku, Inc said. “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.”
The Roku Channel Store will roll out to users in the next two weeks. At launch ten channels will be available: Pandora, MotionBox, MediaFly, blip.tv, TWiT.tv, Facebook Photos, Revision3, framechannel, flickr & MobileTribe. More channels are promised "as they become available" and a Roku spokesperson told CrunchGear that it is possible for content providers to require payment for access (though this initial batch are all free to access).
These channels are a nice start but none of them seem like a reason to run out and buy a Roku. Add YouTube and/or Hulu and the service would be a lot more compelling. On the other hand, these new channels are a 'bonus' for now. The real reasons to buy a Roku remain Netflix, Amazon-on-Demand and MLB.com (I'm guessing in that order).
In order to access the channels, you'll set up an account on the Roku website, link your player, and then manage channels from the web. Once the service rolls out I'll do a hands on post to see how it all works.