Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Roku's home screen is going to get an overhaul (and you can already take a peek)

Say goodbye to the grid. Eventually, a programming-first design similar to the Roku Channel will take over.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku's fundamental home screen design, marked by a grid of interchangeable channel tiles, has persisted since 2013. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The future look of Roku's home screen is being built before your eyes.

Roku, the most popular streaming-TV player in the US, has stuck with its distinctive grid of channel tiles since 2013, back when Roku had sold about 5 million of its players. But streaming video has exploded in the last five years. The number of households with a streaming player has quadrupled, and Roku now has nearly 24 million active accounts streaming video to TVs with its devices. 

That means the tile-grid layout is the only design that most Roku users have ever known. But Roku is planning to replace its home screen with a different interface, one you can already find if you know where to look. 

"It's the Roku Channel," CEO Anthony Wood said in an interview last week. 

Watch this: Roku's new streamers start at $40 for 4K HDR

The Roku Channel is the company's sandbox for building the programming-first user experience it will eventually move over to its home screen, Wood said.

Like competitors, Roku will need to evolve its design to something that puts shows and movies -- rather than apps or channels -- at center stage. Rather than having you open individual apps or channels to get to the show or movie you want, Roku's future home screen will aggregate and recommend specific titles that are available across the apps on its platform. 

"There's 5,000 apps on Roku. Most people don't install 5,000 apps," Wood said. He didn't specify when Roku will change the home screen design. The company is just about to start tests to compare performance between different designs, he said. 

The Roku Channel, which launched a year ago, has grown to be one of the top five apps by reach on the platform. It started with selections of movies and TV shows you could watch free with advertising, and it's widened to include other free programming like news and sports. Though the Roku Channel may seem secondary to the company, most of Roku's profit comes from advertising. The Roku Channel is one of the ways that the company has been selling ads. 

"It might not always be called the Roku Channel," Wood said. "It might be called the home screen."

Corrected Nov. 23 at 11:45 a.m. PT: Clarifies Roku's profit from advertising.

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

Apple: See what's up with the tech giant as it readies new iPhones and more.