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Roku Adds Discovery Plus to The Roku Channel

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
3 min read
A Roku 4K and its remote

Roku's streaming devices are among the most popular in the US. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What's happening

Roku and Warner Bros. Discovery agree to add Discovery Plus to The Roku Channel.

Why it matters

An explosion in streaming-service options has complicated how consumers find something to watch and decide what's worth paying for.

What's next

The Roku Channel aims to simplify things for streaming viewers by offering a unified app for multiple streaming libraries and a single bill to manage them. Now, Discovery Plus will be part of that unified experience.

Roku is adding streaming service Discovery Plus to The Roku Channel, which is the device maker's app that brings together its own content -- both original programming and free stuff to watch that it licenses -- along with the libraries of other streaming services. The app also serves as a single place to sign up for multiple paid subscriptions. 

Video streaming options have exploded in the last two and half years, with new services like Disney PlusHBO MaxPeacock and Apple TV Plus taking on stalwarts like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in the hopes of shaping TV's streaming future. But all those new choices mean viewers like you face more complications figuring out what services you need -- and, often, must pay for -- to watch your favorite shows and movies online. 

The Roku Channel pitches itself as one way you can simplify some of those complexities. It gives you a single monthly bill to manage your subscriptions. It also serves as a single app to browse multiple libraries and has a unified "continuing watching" row to pick up where you left off across multiple services. 

The addition of Discovery Plus "really demonstrates our ability to bring large-scale [streaming services] and their massive libraries into The Roku Channel," Randy Ahn, The Roku Channel's head of on-demand subscription video services, said in an interview Monday. 

The Roku Channel is one of Roku's most important businesses. Roku gets a cut of the subscriptions made through The Roku Channel, and advertising on The Roku Channel generates revenue too. But because joining The Roku Channel means sharing data and revenue with Roku, the biggest streaming services -- like Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max -- haven't participated. However, The Roku Channel does offer more than 50 services, including Starz, Showtime, Epix, AMC Plus and Cinemax. 

Despite the new partnership, the future of Discovery Plus is hazy right now. Discovery Plus is owned by newly merged company Warner Bros. Discovery, and company leaders have said they intend to eventually combine Discovery Plus with HBO Max. Roku couldn't comment about what would happen to Discovery Plus subscriptions made through Roku should HBO Max and Discovery Plus merge.

Roku is one of the most popular devices for streaming video to TV screens, and The Roku Channel is one of the most-watched apps on its platform: The Roku Channel reached households with 80 million people in the last three months of last year, the company said in February. For context, Discovery had 24 million streaming subscribers worldwide at the end of March, although one subscription can reach multiple people.

The Roku Channel will allow US viewers to sign up for Discovery Plus at both an ad-supported subscription at $5 a month and an ad-free account at $7 a month. Previously, Roku users could sign up for either level of the service directly in the Discovery Plus app on Roku's platform itself. 

Discovery Plus, as a service, has about 70,000 episodes across networks including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Magnolia Network, plus Discovery Plus original titles. The service also includes programming from A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime, as well as nature programming such as the largest collection of natural history from the BBC. 

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