Roku launches 'Kids & Family' section on Roku Channel

Roku is also adding parental controls to the Roku Channel. (Pixabay)

Roku is serving up another screen-time option for busy parents: a free-with-ads “Kids & Family” section of its Roku Channel featuring human-curated TV shows and movies.

The Los Gatos, Calif., company’s announcement said this new landing page will offer 7,000 movies and TV episodes including such franchises as Care Bears, The Cat in the Hat, My Little Pony, Super Mario Brothers, and Thomas & Friends.

(FierceVideo apologizes for putting the Thomas & Friends theme song in the heads of any readers with younger viewers at home.) 

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Kids & Family will also provide live streams via Xumo’s customization service and bring five exclusive episodes of pocket.watch’s Ryan’s World specials. 

“We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options,” Roku vice president of programming and engagement Rob Holmes said in the company’s press release. “Parents looking to find great programming for their children will enjoy the ease of going to The Roku Channel as their one place for kids and family entertainment.”

The unstated competitor Holmes seems to be trash-talking via omission in that release: Google’s YouTube. **(After publication, Roku PR sent a note saying the release wasn’t referring to YouTube: “There are lots of places users could find content on the platform and instead of hunting through individual apps, Roku is aggregating them into a single, easy to access place.”)

Google’s struggles to keep offensive, bigoted or otherwise disgusting content off its streaming service in general have upset enough viewers and advertisers that the company is now reportedly considering moving all kids’ content into its YouTube Kids app.

And yet content aimed at children continues to draw massive viewership on YouTube. A July report by the Pew Research Center analyzed viewing patterns over the first week of 2019 and reported that, “Videos that appeared to be intended for children averaged 153,227 views (median of 17,540), compared with an average of 99,713 views (14,187 median) for other videos.”

With this change, Roku is adding parental controls to the Roku Channel. The firm also says it’s limiting Kids & Family to about 40% of the ad load of legacy, linear TV channels and has signed on Lego as the first advertising sponsor of this new section. 

This new section did not appear on a Roku 3 player as of noon Eastern Monday. Roku spokeswoman Abbygail Reyes said in email that it will roll out to U.S.-based devices and to Roku’s Web app over the day.

Kids & Family should not lack for a potential audience. Roku announced August 7 as part of its second-quarter results that it now had 30.5 million active accounts, a 39% increase year-over-year over the 22 million Roku reported in that quarter.

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