While many U.S. cable networks were stuck stateside, Al-Jazeera English provided some of the best coverage of last week’s civilian unrest in Egypt, giving viewers an unparalleled view of what was happening on the ground. The vast majority of TV viewers weren’t able to watch the channel, however, because the network has gained little traction being picked up by the usual cable distributors. But Al-Jazeera has finally found one way to deliver its live video streams to viewers’ TV sets — through Roku broadband set-top boxes.
On the Roku forums Tuesday, Roku Sr. Marketing Manager Douglas Kennedy outlined a few ways that users can view Al-Jazeera’s live and on-demand streams on their Roku players. One method comprised of adding Al-Jazeera English’s LiveStation stream through the CDNTwo application. Another way to view the cable news network’s stream is by selecting its feed through Roku’s Newscaster app.
While Al-Jazeera doesn’t have a dedicated channel on Roku, availability on the online video device shows how cable networks that don’t have traditional distribution can still leverage alternative outlets to find an audience. Al-Jazeera isn’t the only media company to find its way onto Roku devices; last month independent cable network WealthTV announced that it would make live and on-demand streams of its content available to Roku users for a monthly subscription of $2.99 a month.
WealthTV is attempting to broaden its audience beyond a somewhat limited cable distribution and perhaps gaining some additional revenues along the way. While its programming targets a niche audience, it hopes that at least some Roku users will sign up for the service. Roku has sold more than 1 million units to date, so the potential market isn’t huge, but it’s still sizeable considering that Wealth TV only reaches about 11 million cable subscribers through distribution with Charter Cable, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS.
While Al-Jazeera is available through secondary apps, there’s the chance that someday the network could roll out its own dedicated Roku channel. By doing so, it could either try to monetize the channel by offering a paid-for app, the way that WealthTV has, or it could try to run advertising over a free app available through the Roku store.
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