Roku launches ad-funded streaming channel in 'stay-at-home' Britain

LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - Streaming-device maker Roku Inc launched its Roku Channel in Britain on Tuesday, offering free access to more than 10,000 movies, TV episodes and documentaries at a time when the coronavirus is driving demand for stay-at-home entertainment.

The Roku Channel, which is available using a Roku streaming player, Roku TV or pay-TV company Sky's NOW TV device or Sky Q box, will show British series including "Homes Under the Hammer", "Ultimate Force" and "Skins" and Hollywood hits like "Get Carter", the company said.

It will also feature children's content curated from both linear TV and digital platforms like YouTube.

Rob Holmes, vice president of programming, said there was an opportunity to supplement subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix and Disney+ with a free offer.

"Ad-supported viewing is one of the fastest-growing categories on our platform and we are excited to meet the consumer demand for free TV," he said.

The Roku Channel is launching amid economic turmoil caused by the global coronavirus epidemic, with UK television already seeing a sharp decline in advertising.

Holmes said, however, that California-based Roku was taking the long view.

"The long-term trajectory of connected TV is very strong," he said in an interview.

"If anything, all of this time at home streaming is only going to accelerate that trend, and to be a place where advertisers can reach those audiences that are leaving linear television and becoming streaming only, or streaming dominant, is a great opportunity long term." (Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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