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Roku gets a news section, courtesy of AOL — but is that a good thing?

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Don’t know which of Roku’s 1,000 or so channels to watch for breaking news? Well, now you don’t have to chose anymore: Roku is putting curated video news from AOL’s (S AOL) AOL On video platform right on your home screen. Roku devices will get a “News” home screen menu item through a software update that will roll out to most Roku devices within the next few weeks.

The news offering will offer videos from more than 1,000 AOL On publishers, including the Wall Street Journal, (S NWS) Reuters and the Associated Press, as well as a number of AOL online properties, including HuffPost Live and Engadget.

AOL On for Roku 1

This isn’t the first time that Roku has struck an exclusive partnership for some of its home screen real estate. In September, Roku unveiled new categories for movies and TV shows that are exclusively powered by M-Go, the video-on-demand service cofounded by Dreamworks and Technicolor.

In a way, it makes sense for Roku to add these kinds of content shortcuts to its home screen, as it helps users to quickly get access to content without having to select individual channels, or even navigate through the device’s ever-expanding channel store.

However, Roku’s decision to tie these categories to exclusive content partnerships won’t make everyone happy. M-Go for example is directly competing with some of the other services on Roku, including Amazon, (s AMZN) Vudu (S WMT) and Redbox Instant. And Roku’s decision to turn AOL On into its default news source marginalizes other news channels, and forces publishers to go through AOL as opposed to their own app if they want to reach an audience on Roku.

Roku already upset a number of its smaller channel publishers when it teamed up with Dish (s DISH) in 2012, giving the company’s DishWorld internet TV service exclusive distribution for foreign content on Roku and in turn forcing many smaller channels that carried foreign movies and TV channels off the platform.

That decision evidently didn’t impact Roku’s growth — the company sold an estimated two million devices in 2012 alone — but there’s a danger that Roku could take these exclusive partnerships too far, transforming from a fairly open platform into one that favors and highlights content from a few select publishers with deep pockets. The result may be a product that’s easier to use, but with programming that’s a lot less compelling to watch.

4 Responses to “Roku gets a news section, courtesy of AOL — but is that a good thing?”

  1. I agree. I hid both MGo and AOL On News. As to the former, since users have to pay to get each episode, show or movie, this seems like a good way to get kids to nag parents to buy or rent, reducing the cost savings. If Roku is not careful, they’ll open the door to a competitor who is really focused on cord cutters as it moves in another direction.

  2. Marq Sears

    My view point as a Digital TV network owner on Roku and active user, I think most of Roku’s strategic moves are warranted…the OTT business a fine balance between UI/UX & Monetization. There is still a lot of discovery and unknowns in the space, but if you don’t make strategic moves to monetize the platform (a la Dish Network & AOL deals) survival will become that much more difficult. It’s not like Roku users/owners are paying access fees to Roku like they do Comcast or TimeWarner to offset the cost to keep the platform running. This is the early days of a new industry and it’s not easy to navigate. Overall Roku is doing an amazing job at staying competitive and bringing balance to the platform.

  3. As a long-time Roku user, I’m much more interested in Roku integrating its apps and content into your live TV feed, more or less as an overlay. Then, you wouldn’t need an exclusive news provider. Let’s face it, the time for switching inputs has passed.