Roku adds Google Play channel

The Google video service becomes the latest addition to the Roku streaming box.

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John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
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Add Google Play to Roku's long list of video channels.

The Google movies and TV app is now available on current-generation Roku boxes and streaming sticks in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland. (Roku says the app is "coming soon" to Roku TVs; we had it up and running on our TCL Roku TV for a few minutes, but now it's gone again.) The service, also available on Android and iOS devices, is Google's answer to iTunes, Vudu and Amazon Prime video, offering a similarly wide selection of movies and TV shows.

The Roku app includes a "gifts from Google" option, which is currently offering a free copy of the original "X-Men" movie to new Play subscribers. It also offers Google Play's "info cards" feature, which is said to identify actors when you press pause.

Google Play joins Roku's stable along with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Watch ESPN and more than 1,600 other video and music apps (many of which are small niche services).

In my opinion, the addition of Google Play Movies and TV is not a huge feather in Roku's otherwise superb content cap, if only because its offerings are mostly duplicative of services you can already get on Roku (including Amazon, Vudu and M-Go, to name a few). But it's certainly nice for anyone who's already invested in the Play ecosystem. And -- more interestingly -- it seems like a disincentive to buy Google's own new $99 Nexus Player : Why buy that when you can get Google Play and far more content channels on the Roku platform?

Editors' note (11:50 a.m. PT): This story has been updated to clarify availability of the app on Roku TVs, and to add analysis at the end.