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Roku Channel launches Kids and Family zone with free shows and movies

The catch? They have ads.

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Roku

Add The Roku Channel to the long list of places to find kid-friendly screen time. A new tile in the channel, called Kids & Family, leads to a curated collection of TV shows and movies, all free and available to stream immediately, no sign-in required.

Like other free content on The Roku Channel, the kids' shows have ads. Roku says the ad load will be light -- just 40% of traditional TV -- and that the ads will be vetted so they're appropriate for kids. Roku named Lego as an initial launch partner for advertising.

Roku is one of the most-popular streaming platforms in the country, and The Roku Channel serves as a home for free, ad-supported content from a variety of other sources. Roku says the channel is among the top 5 on its platform, and has been expanding it to include live news, premium subscriptions and more. The Roku Channel could even provide a blueprint for an overhaul of Roku's venerable main menu system. 

Kids & Family isn't a separate app, like other popular kids apps such Disney Now, Nick Jr. and PBS Kids. Instead, kids (or parents) will have to click on The Roku Channel app and then choose the Kids & Family section. 

Once there, they'll see more than 7,000 movies and episodes from 30-plus launch partners including All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media and Happy Kids TV, with shows and characters like Bob the Builder, Care Bears, Leapfrog, Little Baby Bum, My Little Pony and Thomas & Friends. The channel won't include any PBS shows, however. Content is broken down by character, age group and category.

In addition to ad-supported content, users who subscribe to select premium providers via The Roku Channel will see those providers' shows in the Kids & Family section. They include HBO (home of Sesame Street), Nickelodeon's Noggin (Paw Patrol) and more. 

The Roku Channel is also adding parental controls to limit what kids can watch within the channel. Parents can require a PIN to view videos on The Roku Channel based on content rating (although there's no timer-based system). 

The Kids & Family update to The Roku Channel is available starting today on Roku streamers and Roku TVs as well as some Samsung TVs, and will also be accessible via web browser. For now, the new Kids & Family section won't be available on the Roku app, so you can't access it on phones or tablets.