With more and more live sports events going to streaming platforms, and more and more streaming platforms getting into the sports business, one often-heard complaint is that people don’t know where to find a game. Now Roku, which makes both smart TVs and TV-connecting devices, is offering a customizable sports-specific hub that may help address that. And they have some notable partners on board at launch, as can be seen in the preview graphic above. Here’s more from their announcement Thursday:
Roku has officially launched an all-new Sports experience that integrates live and upcoming sports across the Roku platform and introduces a centralized location for sports content, making it easier than ever for sports fans to stream. No more clicking through multiple apps or channels — with this visual, immersive destination on the Home Screen Menu, Roku is putting its customers’ favorite games, matches, and more right at their fingertips.
…“We know that keeping track of where sports are being streamed has only become more fragmented over the past few years,” said Alex Hill, Director of Live & Sports, Roku. “Watching your favorite teams should be simple, so we’ve made it a priority to build out a more seamless and streamlined way to discover and watch sports on our platform. Sports are a vital part of the streaming experience, and we will continue to make enhancements to that experience, like adding more supported providers and finding new ways for our users to follow their favorite teams.”
…The Sports experience is currently supported by Apple TV, DIRECTV, FOX Sports, FuboTV, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video, Sling, The Roku Channel, TNT, TBS, and truTV, with more viewing options in the coming months. Additionally, GNC has exclusively sponsored the College Football Sports Zone in November.
Thus, Roku has linear channels and their associated authentication-required streaming apps (Fox Sports, the Warner Bros. Discovery channels of TNT, TBS, and truTV), direct-to-consumer streaming services (Apple TV, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video), and multichannel video providers (DirecTV, FuboTV, Sling) on board at launch, in addition to their own free, ad-supported Roku Channel (which has sports content including The Rich Eisen Show and Emeril Tailgates). That’s an impressive array of partners across widely different companies. There are some notable omissions, including ESPN and ESPN+, regional sports networks, and CBS/NBC (if obtained other than through Paramount+ and Peacock), but content on some of those channels may be available in this experience through the MVPDs. And some or all of those channels may join this in the coming months.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this is not a subscription service, or a means to gain access to sports events viewers don’t already have access to. It’s a way to incorporate the MVPDs and/or streaming services viewers already subscribe to into a single sports-specific hub. When viewers navigate to a game tile within the Roku sports experience, they’ll be presented with watch options for that game from those partner MVPDs and streaming services. Here’s an example of how that might look for a Michigan State-Michigan football matchup. (This particular matchup is not actually coming up; this year’s edition of that game happened weeks ago, and many are still arguing about its surrounding events.)
Users will able to access this Sports experience through the Roku home screen or through searching “sports” or a team or league name through Roku Voice. Here’s how it will look on the main screen.
Users will also be able to select zones specific to individual sports or leagues. One big immediate one there will be the college football zone, which GNC has struck a deal with Roku to sponsor for November. Another, especially given those deals with Warner Bros. Discovery channels (and TNT in particular), may be the NBA. Here’s what this might look like with a listing of both CFB and NBA games. (This preview graphic is from the future, as the particular games shown here will take place on Nov. 19 for college football and Nov. 20 for the NBA.)
Roku isn’t the only company to put sports in a specific hub, of course. Several MVPDs (both virtual and traditional cable or satellite) have done that as well, with some integrating streaming services also. But this is an interesting approach from the smart TV/connected TV side, and one with a lot of different notable partners on board already.
The issue of finding games a viewer already has access to isn’t specific to streaming, of course. That’s has happened with linear channel lineups over the years, too: see “truTV Awareness Month,” the NHL on Golf Channel, and college football on Fox Business for a few of the many examples But it is an issue many are finding with streaming, and this looks like a possible way to address that for Roku users. Another issue is that overlapping games streaming in different apps makes it harder to switch what you’re watching at commercial breaks; that may also get simpler with this centralized cross-service hub. But the proof will be in the pudding; we’ll see how this new Sports experience goes for Roku, and if it’s embraced by viewers.