Content on OTT, Roku’s “Private Channels,” and OTT’s Democratization of TV

This week a colleague sent me a news piece about Boxee adding a new content provider to their service; one that declares itself to be “the YouTube of adult films.” My colleague wondered when Roku would make a similar move and add adult content to its roster.

I wasn’t sure of the current status of Roku and adult video, so I did a bit of Googling. I was surprised to find that Roku does indeed have adult content available. However, it’s not in the Channel Store. Where is it? In Roku’s so-called “private channels.”


Roku features two kinds of channels. Those in the Channel Store are reviewed and approved by Roku. However, anyone can post a channel to Roku using a downloadable SDK to create it. Once the channel is posted, Roku will only remove it if the content is illegal or violates copyrights.


Roku has an informative blog post on private channels, including what they are, how to access them, and even a few selected favorites. While Roku doesn’t promote its private channels, it certainly isn’t hiding them either.


Not only adult content companies use Roku’s “private channel” option. In fact, the list of participants includes a wide range of other providers; some are in development, some are private educational or corporate networks, and others are content outlets for small providers from all over the cultural and political spectrum. Some are subscription-based, some are free.


How do you access a private channel? You need a channel code, which you get from the provider or from a third-party Roku private channel guide such as Here’s an example. One of the Roku blog poster’s favorites is (aka the Internet Archive – channel NMJS5). Go to the Roku web site and under “My Account” you’ll see “Add a Private Channel.” Enter the code, follow the instructions, and you’ve got it on your lineup.


Where’s the adult content, a few of you may ask? There is another web guide to the Roku adult private channels which you will have to find yourself (if you can’t find it you have to turn in your Google privileges).


I’ve got a few takeaways from my foray into the world of Roku Private Channels. First, displaying adult content is not the last refuge of a failing business plan (Akimbo notwithstanding). The proof point for that is MVPD’s long-standing practice of offering subscription adult linear channels and now Adult On Demand. Second, Roku’s allowing anyone to post a channel reflects the Internet’s capacity to offer the chance to publish to everyone. The Net has democratized media and changed world politics. It’s also allowed the creation of a lot of trash and junk (oh well).


Introducing the Net’s openness to TV via OTT is a good way to foster innovation and allow small content creators to grow. I am concerned that the current tendency of the consumer electronic makers to create their own walled gardens will stifle this. Although if the experience with the Net and mobile is any indication, operator walled gardens in digital media just don’t work.