Aiming to expand beyond movies and baseball, set-top box maker Roku is adding 10 new content channels ranging from social networking to music and podcasts.
Roku, which makes a small, wireless device that can stream content from the Web direct to any TV screen, is expanding from 3 channels to 13, as expected. Channels for Blip.tv, Facebook Photos, Flickr, FrameChannel, Mediafly, MobileTribe, Motionbox, Pandora, Revision3, and TWiT will join the current lineup of Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, and, more recently, MLB.TV. All of them will be available in the newly christened Roku Channel Store.
Roku HD XR Player
Similar to the app stores currently popular among mobile platform providers, Roku users can choose what apps they want on their home screen of their Roku via the Channel Store. Content is sortable by "new," "most popular," and "top-rated." But unlike most app stores, these are all free. Access to the Channel Store and the new content will be rolled out automatically to existing Roku box owners over the next two weeks. New customers will need to sign up for a free Roku account to be able to download and manage their chosen channels.
Roku representatives say that 13 channels in the store is just a start and that there will be a steady stream of new channels showing up between now and the Consumer Electronics Show in January. While this is a good start to compete with the growing wave of Web-connected home gadgetry (HDTVs, Xbox, PS3, Blu-ray players, TiVo, and more), the sweet spot for Roku would be a Hulu channel or even dedicated content channels from cable and broadcast networks. Until then, the main selling point of Roku over those other devices is its price: of the three models, the lowest starts at $80, significantly cheaper than a new TV or Xbox, and all but the most baseline model Blu-ray players.
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