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Roku Launches Premium Video Subscriptions to Showtime, Starz, Epix and More

Taking a page out of Amazon’s playbook, Roku is launching premium subscriptions on the Roku Channel starting Monday — promising to be another valuable revenue stream for the streaming-video platform company.

As part of a launch promo, Roku users who sign up for Showtime, Starz or Epix before March 31, 2019, will be eligible to receive a 30-day free trial of those services on the Roku Channel. HBO is conspicuously absent from the list, although Roku says it’s continuing to talk to additional partners.

Variety was first to report last summer that Roku was planning to resell video-subscription services through its platform. The offer is similar to Amazon’s existing Amazon Channels marketplace, which generated an estimated $1.7 billion in 2018. Terms of Roku’s distribution arrangement with the premium channels aren’t being disclosed, but the company is likely receiving some share of subscription fees and/or a bounty for new subscriber signups.

Initially, about 25 premium services will be available to access on Roku players in the U.S.; Roku TV models are slated to be upgraded to support the subscription services “in the coming weeks.” Customers can view premium subscriptions on the Roku Channel via the Web (at therokuchannel.com). In addition, viewing of the Roku Channel directly from within the Roku’s mobile app for Apple’s iOS devices is available starting Monday (Jan. 28), with an update for Roku’s Android apps slated to begin rolling in mid-February.

Users can access around 25 premium services including Starz, Showtime, and Epix, as well as more niche-oriented ones Baeble Music; CollegeHumor’s Dropout; CuriosityStream; Fandor Spotlight; FitFusion; The Great Courses Signature Collection; Grokker; Hi-Yah!; Hopster; Lifetime Movie Club; DOX, LOLFlicks, Monsters and Nightmares, Magnolia Selects, and Warriors & Gangsters presented by Magnolia Pictures; MHz Choice; Noggin; Shout! Factory TV, Smithsonian Channel Plus; Stingray Karaoke; Tastemade; Viewster Anime; and ZooMoo.

Roku first launched the Roku Channel as a free, ad-supported streaming service on its devices in September 2017 and currently provides users access to more than 10,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes. The company continued to add new content, including live news and sports, over the past few months and also launched it on the web and on Samsung’s smart TVs (however, premium subscriptions are not available via Samsung TVs).

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