Roku plans to remove a loophole used by adult content platforms to offer users content without going through the Channel Store, bringing sweeping changes that may drive some users to alternative platforms. The company held its 2021 Developer Summit in late October, detailing a number of upcoming changes to its products, as well as anticipated industry trends and more.
Roku features a Channel Store through which the majority of its users download apps used to stream content. However, the company has also offered a feature known as private channels that allow developers to launch their own channel without submitting it for inclusion in the Channel Store.
The idea behind this feature was that developers and others could create a channel and share it with users via a direct link or code so they could download it to their devices. This could be used to, for example, allow some users to beta test a channel before it arrives in the Channel Store, giving the dev an opportunity to deal with any bugs or other issues.
However, this same feature has been used by some developers to offer a streaming channel without going through the Channel Store — most notably, by some porn companies and other adult video providers. Protocol pointed out in a recent report that during its developer conference, Roku announced plans to do away with its current private channel option and replace it with a beta channel feature.
Of note, the beta channel feature, which is set to go live on March 1, 2022, will limit developers to up to 20 viewers. This retains the ability to test apps ahead of submitting them to the Channel Store, but prevents developers from side-stepping Roku’s content policies to essentially offer video content without going through the Channel Store.
With the change, it is safe to assume that private channels from companies like Adult Empire and Pornhub will no longer be available to Roku users starting on March 1. Though this change isn’t likely to impact the majority of Roku users who exclusively get their content through the Channel Store, others who enjoyed some of the uncertified channels may find themselves switching to an Android-based streaming platform with sideloading support.