ABC News is set to launch a new free 24-hour news network, dubbed ABC News Live, on the Roku Channel next month. In addition, Roku is also going to add live linear channels from Cheddar, People TV and Newsy to the ad-supported channel. “It’s a lot like a CNN moment for OTT,” said Roku’s vice president of programming during a briefing with Variety.
The new channel, which will at launch only be available on Roku’s ad-supported Roku channel, will feature 24/7 programming, including breaking news and live event coverage. The channel will rely heavily on ABC News’ worldwide network of correspondents, and carry the same programming as ABC’s broadcast network during breaking news events.
Live feeds from by ABC News correspondents will be complemented by verified and curated live video feeds from social media, put in context by hosts that are supposed to act more like navigators than traditional news anchors. “That footage is entirely raw, entirely unfiltered,” said ABC News Digital vice president Colby Smith. “Our ambition here is not to recreate cable news for Roku.”
The focus will always be on-the-ground coverage, not news analysis, he added. “Viewers want to be shown, not told, what’s happening in the world.”
ABC News Live is going to be exclusively available via the Roku Channel at launch, but Smith said that the programming may also show up on the ABC News website during breaking news events. He declined to comment on other over-the-top opportunities for the new online news network.
Roku first launched its Roku channel as an ad-supported VOD service on its own streaming devices and Roku TVs in September. Since then, the channel has become the third-most-popular ad-supported channel on Roku’s platform, thanks to free movies and TV shows from studios like Lionsgate, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros.
ABC News Digital is the first live feed to launch on the Roku Channel, but it won’t remain the only one: The set-top box maker also struck partnerships with upstart news network Cheddar, People TV and Newsy to carry their live feeds on the channel. People TV and Newsy in particular will include a lot of pre-programmed content as a linear feed, something that could prove popular with viewers who want to watch internet TV in a more lean-back fashion. “There is value in that linear schedule,” agreed Holmes.
The on-demand catalog of the Roku channel has grown from around 500 movies and TV show episodes to over 1000 such videos since its launch a little over half a year ago. Holmes said that the company plans to add more content in the coming months, but that it still wanted to keep the channel curated. That’s why the company is also set to add a new collections feature to the Roku Channel, which is supposed to help consumers get to things like action flicks across a variety of genres and sources more easily.
The company plans to roll out these new collections, as well as live news programming, on the Roku Channel when it launches the next version of the Roku smart TV OS next month. Roku previously announced plans to also bring the Roku Channel to Samsung Smart TVs this summer.
Adding live news programming, as well as extending the reach of the Roku Channel, is one way Roku is growing the amount of ad-supported viewing on its platform. Although it is primarily known for its streaming devices, Roku’s business is squarely focused on monetizing its audience through advertising. The company is selling all of the ads for the Roku Channel, including those shown on ABC News Live, but Holmes said that the network retained full editorial control over the placement of its ad breaks.