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ESPN, Disney Channels Land on Roku Internet Set-Tops

WatchESPN, Watch Disney services available to Roku users who subscribe to affiliated pay TV providers

Roku reached a deal with Disney & ESPN Media Networks to stream live cable TV channels and on-demand programming to the device maker’s streaming-media player — but only for customers with service from a participating pay TV provider.

Starting Tuesday, Roku customers who receive ESPN’s linear networks as part of an affiliated video subscription will be able to access WatchESPN live sporting events and on-demand video. Later this month, Roku users will also be able to access Watch Disney Channel, Watch Disney Junior and Watch Disney XD, depending on their pay TV provider and subscription level.

“Today’s launch of WatchESPN on Roku delivers on our promise to serve fans with sports programming content on the devices they choose,” Matt Murphy, senior VP of digital distribution for Disney & ESPN Media Networks, said in a statement. “At the same time, we are adding value to the multichannel video subscription through this agreement.”

For Roku, the addition of the ESPN and Disney “TV Everywhere” services brings it to parity with Apple TV, which added WatchESPN in June followed by the Disney channels.

For now, DirecTV and Dish Network are the two biggest pay TV providers that don’t have deals to offer the ESPN/Disney Internet services. Dish is currently negotiating with Disney on a broad agreement for cable and broadcast networks.

WatchESPN provides live events including college football and basketball, Monday Night Football, MLB and NBA games, plus VOD content. The service is available to 55 million households nationwide through Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV, Midcontinent Communications, Cablevision, Cox, AT&T U-verse TV, Charter and Google Fiber.

Disney’s TV Everywhere kids programming provides original programming including “Austin & Ally,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “Jessie,” “Good Luck Charlie,” “Gravity Falls” and “A.N.T. Farm,” as well as Disney Junior programming. The Watch Disney services are available to approximately 43 million pay TV customers — the same group as WatchESPN, excluding Time Warner Cable and Bright House.

Roku, launched as the first device to stream Netflix to the TV in 2008, has sold more than 5 million streaming players in the U.S. The privately held company is backed by BSkyB, Hearst, 21st Century Fox and Fidelity Investments.

“We’re anticipating the biggest quarter ever for streaming to the TV and we are excited to add these great new channels just in time for the holidays,” said Steve Shannon, Roku’s GM of content and services.

Separately, this week Roku kicked off a $12 million advertising campaign ahead of the holiday shopping season. The TV spots feature a Ukrainian character named “Moxkat Grvida,” urging viewers to treat themselves to a Roku:

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