Roku Locks Out Third Party International Channels


One of the most compelling features of Roku, and why they’ve been relatively successful as a scrappy startup, has been their open platform — enabling just about any person or group to produce a video streaming app. Well, fun time’s over. And, apparently, DISH offered Roku enough cash to lock out third party International and foreign language channels… public, private, free, or paid.

From Roku’s email to developers:

Going forward, DISHWorld will be our exclusive partner for the distribution of international content in North America. We believe that this relationship with Dish will result in a greater variety of content as well as higher quality content for our users as well as better results for owners of international content. However, as a result of the exclusive arrangement, many existing international or foreign language channels will be migrated off of the Roku platform in the coming days and weeks.

From Roku’s forum comments:

Due to the exclusivity and to help make sure there is no confusion for new channels, we have updated the developer agreement to require all international or foreign language channels to require written permission before proceeding on Roku (this includes private channels). Typically, we’re going to ask that you speak to DISHWorld first. There may be (and are) cases where they will waive the exclusivity for certain channels or content, but you’re going to have to speak to them to discuss.

Meanwhile, the $99 Vizio Co-Star is up for pre-order today. And, presumably, Google is above such shenanigans should their platform and app marketplace take off…

(Thanks, Chad!)

13 thoughts on “Roku Locks Out Third Party International Channels”

  1. It sets a really bad precedent… and probably screws a number of developers and Roku customers.

    Given this tie up and the fact that DISH is handing out Roku devices to disgruntled satellite subscribers who miss AMC, I wonder how large their investment has been. Wonder if they’d just outright acquire the platform as they did with Sling. Hm.

  2. Oh no. This is a bad precedent. Is this the beginning of the end of Roku? And I just started ramping up my love of the platform.

    I guess Roku has to survive somehow, but at the expense of the channel partners that have helped build up their platform? Smells funny.

  3. end of Roku? unless I’m wildly underestimating the number of people who bought the box for something other than to watch Netflix, I don’t think most people are going to care about this. It’s probably why they didn’t care when it was originally announced.

  4. I have a co-worker from India who subscribes to the Mela channel to get Hindi content on his Roku. He has also tried the DISHWorld channel. According to him, the DISHWorld channel has a terrible selection of content (for his language-specific needs), and the streams that are available are extremely pixelated and just generally substandard in every way. Not only that, but the price is significantly higher than any other international/foreign language channel available on Roku. Worse quality for a higher price. Sounds like a great deal…

  5. This was originally posted in the dev forums a little while ago and there were a number of devs that were upset.

    While I’m sure there was some incentives exchanged between Roku and Dish, there are other reasons this make sense for Roku. It is probably very difficult for a small company like Roku to validate the rights for all of the non-US content that was on their box. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran into some legal issues with that at some of the content.

  6. scyber, that IS a good point. Not that it diminishes Roku’s drastic shift in approach…

    Richard, if they work a deal with Pandora does that mean all other music streaming apps will be banned? Perhaps that’s an extreme example that would never come to pass — but if I were a developer, I’d be wary at this point.

  7. I can just see asking Dish for permission and the delay getting a response.

    How are they even going to police the channels? Dish is going to have review the current channels available? Roku is not going to know what is licensed or not by Dish.

  8. Oh and I missed this tidbit in the first go around… DISHWorld is not available to older Roku hardware. Meaning if you don’t have a Roku 2, not only do you lose all International and foreign language channels, you won’t get DISHworld… yet?

  9. Roku did mention in the dev forum thread that we should look for Dishworld to be coming to older Roku boxes. Not ETA was given, but Roku never usually gives dates on software updates.

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