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Roku channel creation: How to launch, manage, & monetize

May 27, 2022

By Mudit Gupta, Senior Program Manager, Project Onboarding, Amagi

Content producers who want to create Roku channels are primarily concerned with two things:

  1. Learning how to navigate the Roku channel development process, particularly with regard to technical compliance.
  2. Getting their content on as many platforms as possible, in addition to Roku, so they can maximize reach and revenue streams.

As a Roku preferred partner, we’ve delivered hundreds of channels to Roku devices. We understand the key considerations you'll need to address before diving in — like picking the best Roku channel creation method for your needs, meeting Roku's specific content standards and requirements (for things like content formatting, delivery, and ad load), and how to properly execute the best monetization strategy for your situation.

This guide will give you everything you need to know to create a Roku channel so you can grow your audience and generate more revenue, including:

  • An overview of the two primary methods for Roku channel creation (so you can pick the best for your needs)
  • How to create a Roku channel using Roku Direct Publisher
  • How to build your own Roku app
  • How to manage your Roku channel efficiently

Along the way, we'll discuss some of Roku's specific requirements that most other articles on the subject don't mention. We'll also show you how Amagi makes creating your own Roku channel easier and more effective by handling all the technical aspects (so you don't have to worry about them), optimizing your monetization strategy, and providing a unified location to manage your entire OTT distribution strategy.

Amagi helps content producers create compliant Roku channels and manage all aspects of channel delivery/playout. To learn how Amagi can help you create a successful Roku channel, contact our team.

The two main ways to launch your Roku channel

Let's start with a quick overview of the best options for creating your Roku channel. Use these overviews to make a quick determination about which method may be the best fit for you. Then skip to that section where we'll explain everything you need to know.

Or, if you want to read a full breakdown of each method, feel free to skip this overview and dive right in.

1) Use Roku Direct Publisher

Roku Direct Publisher (RDP) is Roku's tool for creating a Roku channel. If you want to launch your own channel easily and quickly, RDP is your best bet — which is why it's recommended for smaller companies with fewer resources to devote to Roku channel creation.

While RDP is free, you'll need to set up a content delivery network (like Amazon Web Services’ CDN), create a content feed, and set up a web-hosting service - all of which will cost money. Alternatively, you can use Amagi to handle these tasks in one place.

2) Build your own app

Building your own Roku app is the most costly and labor-intensive way to create a Roku channel. Therefore, this method is only recommended for companies with ample resources (money and people) and a large audience.

But, the extra investment comes with more benefits:

  • You get more options for monetizing your content, including subscriptions, in-app purchases, etc., as well as more control over ads.
  • You can make use of your app on platforms besides Roku such as iOS devices, Android devices, and Apple TV.
  • You can design custom Roku channels with a better user experience that's consistent across all platforms.

While Amagi can't be used to build your Roku app, we can still help by providing playout to your app and handling Roku’s technical requirements.

Read more: What’s most important in video streaming app development

How to create your Roku channel using Roku Direct Publisher

Roku created Roku Direct Publisher specifically to make Roku TV channel creation quick and easy. You can launch a new channel in six easy steps:

Step 1: Set up your Roku accounts

You’ll need to…

Step 2: Convert your video content into a Roku-supported file format

Roku is very strict about its formatting requirements and tech specs. Doing so helps them deliver a consistent experience to all viewers across all apps, platforms, and devices.

Your content will have to be in one of the Roku-supported file formats, which includes DASH, HLS, SMOOTH, or M4V, MOV, and MP4.

Amagi automatically converts your content into the appropriate format for Roku (or any other streaming platform we partner with).

Step 3: Ingest your content into a video hosting solution

You'll need to host your content somewhere. Options include a website, a content delivery network, online video platform (OVP) software, or Vimeo RSS feed.

With Amagi, you can ingest your content onto our platform (Amagi CLOUDPORT) once and use it to deliver to Roku and any other OTT platform.

Step 4: Create your content feed

A content feed provides the metadata Roku uses to find and play your content on Roku platforms. You must use one of two feed formats:

  • JSON - if your content catalog contains different types of content, like short videos, movies, series, linear tv content.
  • MRSS - if your catalog contains only short videos of 15 minutes or less.

Learn more about content feeds here.

The metadata your feed shares includes basic info about each piece of content, like title, description, category, etc.

Roku places a high priority on its specific metadata requirements. For example, the content description must be 110 characters or less.

As a preferred partner, Amagi is intimately familiar with the details of Roku's metadata requirements. We can automatically generate a JSON or MRSS feed for you. And we can work with you to ensure your metadata meets their requirements, then deliver it to their platform.

Roku, like most OTT platforms, periodically changes its spec requirements. When that happens, Amagi will automatically update your content to meet them.

Step 5: Add images to brand your channel

There are several different images you'll need to add so Roku can brand your channel on their platform:

  • Channel Logo: Displayed inside your channel.
  • Splash Screen: Displayed while your channel is loading.
  • Small Logo: Displayed as a button in Roku search that users can click on to play your content.
  • Screenshots (optional): Displayed in the Roku Channel Store to maximize the appeal of your channel.

Step 6: Create your channel in the Roku Developer Dashboard

There are a few additional steps you’ll need to take to launch your Roku channel, such as providing customer support information and choosing a channel layout. Since RDP includes a wizard that walks you through each of them, we don't need to go over them here.

The only other step worth discussing is channel monetization, which we'll discuss later in this post.

Costs involved in Roku Direct Publishing

While Roku Direct Publisher is free, you’ll incur costs from video hosting and creating your content feed.

  • Video Hosting: You'll have to pay for a video hosting solution. Prices range from $20 - $1000+ per month, depending on how much content you have.
  • Content Feed: Working with a developer who can create MRSS or JSON feed can cost between $60 - $100 per hour (and that's for all your content).

If your video host doesn't offer web hosting, you'll also need to pay for a web hosting service.

Not only do these costs add up, managing and coordinating these different vendors can require a great deal of time and human resources.

Alternatively, Amagi can host your content and automatically create your content feed. We can deliver your content to your Roku channel as well as any other OTT platforms you want to partner with. Rather than paying and managing multiple vendors, you can operate your entire OTT distribution strategy from one unified location.

How to build your own Roku app

While building a Roku app requires much more time and effort than RDP, you may choose to do so for the benefits that come with it:

1) Wider distribution

With RDP, your content is just on The Roku Channel.

But if you build an app, you can distribute it on Roku, iOS, Android, Apple TV, and other smart TVs, enabling you to reach a wider audience and generate more revenue.

2) Better, more consistent UX

Depending upon the device they use, the way viewers navigate and consume the content of your Roku channel may differ.

Creating an app gives you full control over UX (how viewers browse your content, how content is displayed, etc.) and makes that experience consistent across devices.

3) More monetization options

With RDP, you can only monetize through ads. With an app, you can also monetize through Roku Pay.

Roku Pay is basically a payment platform where users can make purchases within their Roku streaming device. With Roku Pay, you can:

  • Sell your content through an in-channel store.
  • Offer free trials, subscriptions to specific content, or in-app purchases for specific content.
  • Sell products in the store (if approved).

Developing your Roku app

The best way to build your app is to hire a Roku app development service (one that knows the Roku scripting language Brightscript and the Roku Scenegraph framework) to create one for you in Roku's SDK or IDK Developer.

We recommend seeking developer recommendations from Roku. They can recommend app developers who have successfully built on Roku OS before.

While Amagi does not do app development, we can still:

  • Ingest all your content so that you can handle playout for your channels from one place.
  • Generate an HLS feed or media stream for your app that is compatible with Roku devices.
  • Monetize your app with ads that meet Roku's requirements.
  • Provide guidance on how to integrate Roku's requirements for your app, content, ads, etc.

Roku TV app development can take three to six months (or more, depending upon complexity) to complete. You'll also need to work with your developer periodically to perform app maintenance and support.

Roku app development costs

You can expect to spend $10,000 - $20,000 for Roku app development alone.

Additional costs can include:

  • App maintenance & support: You'll have to pay your developer every time you need to fix glitches or when you want to change or improve your app.
  • App hosting: You'll need to pay monthly or yearly fees for app hosting, and prices vary depending upon your hosting provider and the size of your content.

Easily create and manage your Roku channel with Amagi

If you want to create a successful Roku channel, grow your audience, and generate more revenue from your content, then Amagi can help you do so while easing or eliminating the technical burden and optimizing your Roku distribution strategy.

Amagi helps you comply with all Roku channel requirements, like:

  • Setting up a content delivery network and web-hosting service.
  • Providing video hosting and an appropriately formatted content feed.
  • Automatically converting your content to the right file format.
  • Masking in-feed ads and creating a sub-feed that complies with ad load requirements.

Amagi can also be used to:

  • Manage playout scheduling for all your linear channels with our drag-and-drop playlist scheduler.
  • Host and play out your video on demand (VOD) content.
  • Automatically tailor the content specs for all your content on all the platforms you deliver to.
  • Automate the quality control process - like normalizing frozen frames, detecting black frames in a playout, correcting loudness & audio losses, and ensuring synchrony between video and its subtitles.

Best of all, Amagi can handle delivery, tech compliance, and ad monetization for other OTT platforms so you can manage your entire OTT distribution from one unified location.

Amagi helps content producers create compliant Roku channels and manage all aspects of channel delivery/playout. To learn how Amagi can help you create a successful Roku channel, contact our team.

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