What Happened To Roku’s Secret Channels?

If you’re researching how to install Roku’s secret channels, you’ve likely encountered several problems. If you enter your desired secret channel’s code on the Roku website, you may be surprised that it doesn’t work. This has led many people to wonder: has something happened to Roku’s secret channels?

Roku officially removed all secret channels from all its devices as of February 23rd, 2022. Since then, Roku has rolled out a feature attempting to replace secret channels called beta channels. However, beta channels are much more limited than secret channels.

After reading this, you likely still have questions. For example, why did Roku remove secret channels, and what are beta channels? So let’s get into the topic of secret channels in more detail to help you get the most out of your Roku.

What Was the Purpose of Secret Channels on Roku?

Roku Device

Before we get into the ultimate fate of Roku’s secret channels, it’s important to know what they were in the first place. When introduced to the topic of Roku’s secret channels, people first feel the first emotions are confusion and curiosity.

What follows is usually these two questions: what are secret channels, and why are they not on Roku’s channel store?

Secret channels on Roku (also sometimes referred to as private channels) are channels you used to be able to download onto your Roku device that was not available on the Roku Channel Store. These channels were not on the Roku store as they were not made or certified by Roku.

These secret channels gave you access to features that the Roku device did not come with. These extra features included many useful things like an app called The Space Opera Channel which featured a wide selection of sci-fi series and indie fan films

Other secret channels included El Cartel TV, an unofficial TwitchTV app, and iTunes Podcasts.

Essentially, secret channels let you access apps on your Roku that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. This made the feature extremely useful for many people using Roku.

Does Roku Still Have Secret Channels?

You may have noticed that the entire previous segment was in the past tense, which may have spoiled the fate of Roku’s secret channels. Unfortunately no, Roku does not have secret channels anymore.

In October 2021, Roku announced a series of new developer tools on their blog, including an independent developer kit and a new Beta Channel feature. The independent developer kit is a series of tools to help independent developers make apps for Roku.

The Beta Channel feature allows developers to share their in-development apps with a certain number of people (we’ll discuss this feature in more detail later).

Besides these new developer tools, Roku announced that they would remove the secret channels feature from all Roku devices in March of 2022. Typically in stories like this, the developers either end up doing exactly what they said they would do or push the date back.

However, Roku did the exact opposite of this pattern and removed the secret channels feature earlier than they said they would. As a result, Roku’s secret channels were removed from all Roku devices on February 23rd, 2022.

Why Did Roku Disable Their Secret Channels?

The official reason Roku has given for removing the Secret Channels feature was that they were rolling out a new Beta Channels feature to replace them. However, this does not cover why Roku thought the secret channels feature needed to be replaced in the first place.

Roku has never clearly stated why they thought the secret channels feature needed to be replaced. On the other hand, many users believe that the reason for this is obvious: some secret channels were used to stream content illegally.

Near the end of the secret channels’ lifespan, installing a secret channel would prompt a message from Roku to appear that said, “If Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku’s terms and conditions, then Roku may remove this channel without prior notice, and your account may be blocked from adding any other non-certified channels.

Given this message, it’s evident that Roku was becoming weary of the Secret Channels function.

Another piece of evidence supporting the theory that Roku axed secret channels because of piracy is the fact that Roku has gotten in trouble for piracy in the past.

In 2017, a Mexican court ordered that Roku could not sell its devices in Mexico due to the potential for the devices to be used for piracy. This is yet another thing that would likely cause Roku to want to remove the feature in favor of something safer.

What are Beta Channels, and How Do You Use Them?

Roku streaming

As we mentioned, Roku officially removed the secret channels feature in favor of a replacement. Beta channels are that replacement and are much more limited than secret channels.

Beta channels are highly similar to the original secret channels, except Roku has placed a couple of limitations on the feature. These limitations include that beta channels only allow 20 people to use the same channel simultaneously.

Additionally, beta channels are taken down after 120 days of being up, and developers are only allowed to create up to 10 beta channels.

The reason for these limitations is apparent. They limit the ability to use beta channels for illegal content. This attempts to make it so that beta channels only benefit their intended purpose: letting developers test their apps.

How to Install Roku Beta Channels

If you have a code for a beta channel and don’t know how to install it, worry not. This process is straightforward. However, you can’t do it using only your Roku device.

To install a Roku beta channel:

  1. Open your Roku account page (found here) on your computer and log into your account if you haven’t already.
  1. Next, under the section that says Manage Account, you should see an option that says Add Channel with a Code.
  1. Finally, enter the code for your beta channel, solve the captcha, and select Add channel.

This should have successfully added the channel to your Roku device. If you are familiar with installing secret channels, you may have noticed these steps are the same. Again, this is because beta channels are supposed to serve as the replacement for secret channels.