Private channels allow you to access “secret” Roku content, but are they even worth installing? We sifted through 2,000 private channels to bring you the cream of the crop. Here are 37 of the best private Roku channels we could find.
One note before we get started. This is not a review of ways to watch pirated content. We are looking at legitimate channels which, for a variety of perfectly good reasons, are not in the Roku Channel Store. They may be channels-in-development that you can use before anyone else or they may have such narrow audiences that the Roku Channel Store’s global reach doesn’t make sense.
What Are Private Channels?
Channels are basically apps for Roku. They expand the capabilities of your Roku much like apps expand the capabilities of your phone.
You can find official channels in the official Roku store, but you need to enter in a special code to get access to a private channel.
Developers create private channels for beta testing before submitting their channel for certification by Roku.
Some people have abused the private channel system by using it to distribute content illegally. Roku began cracking down on pirate private channels in the months leading up to its initial public offering this year.
Roku has accepted more legitimate channels into its store and has kicked out the illegitimate channels. As a result of the recent policy transformation, the number and variety of private channels has changed dramatically.
Free and Legal Movies
Many of the few remaining private movie channels rely on the growing library of public domain films that have fallen out of copyright and can be distributed without paying royalties.
Silent Movie Channel
- Access code: ROLLEM
This collection of films from the silent era includes horror classic Nosferatu and Fritz Lang’s science fiction masterpiece Metropolis. The fact that the films are silent ought to make the country of origin mostly irrelevant. In the case of films like 1908’s Sleeping Beauty, the inter-titles are in German which makes it hard for English-speaking viewers to follow.
- Access code: zb34ac
Watch the original 1955 version of The Fast and the Furious or George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. Laugh with Moe, Larry and Shemp in Malice in the Palace or follow the drama of Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
TV Streaming Channels
Although most legitimate TV-centric channels have made the transition from private tests to inclusion in the Roku Channel stores, you can still find some that haven’t crossed over yet.
- Access code: MADDYMATION
The MaddyG TV Network plans to make this ad-supported channel of licensed, independent animation a public Roku channel. The pioneering 2008 short Big Buck Bunny is among the G-rated content you’ll see. MaddyMation operates like a broadcast channel with a continuous stream of animations rather than on-demand options.
Vegas Life TV
- Access code: VLTV3
This independent TV station focuses on fashion and lifestyle in Las Vegas with its original programming. It’s Vegas with Lani looks at the way the rest of Vegas lives, attorney Vissia Calderon talks about Immigration Matters and Vegas Life carries content from Channel News Asia and NDTV.
Hmong TV Network
- Access code: HmongTVNetwork
After the Vietnam War, many of the Hmong ethnic minority fled the country and settled in Fresno, California, and the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The Hmong TV Network channel carries the live streams from Hmong TV stations in both markets as well as on-demand content in the Hmong language.
- Access code: H9DWC
Nowhere TV has a collection of live and on-demand TV as well as web content. News sources include the AP, NBC Nightly News, C-SPAN and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Science and technology content comes from NASA and PBS among others. Live feeds come mainly from news networks like France24 and Al-Jazeera.
- Access code: NHK
This channel provides the English-language stream from Japan’s NHK national news service. It doesn’t give you access to on-demand content or the Japanese-language broadcast.
- Access code: JHANJARTV
The Jhanjar TV Network serves South Asian audiences in Canada with a mix of entertainment, sports and news content for speakers of Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu.
Mango Mobile TV
- Access code: MangoMobileTV
Mango Mobile TV is another subscription service that streams content from India. It has movies and TV shows in the Hindi and Telugu languages. You can’t watch any of the content without an active subscription.
Gem City Sports Network
- Access code: GemCitySports
The Gem City Sports Network serves the community around Dayton, Ohio and covers local high school and college sports. None of the live streams work right now, but you can listen to on-demand audio from this month’s soccer, football and volleyball games.
Radio and Podcasts
These radio and podcasting channels could round out your sources for audio content on the Roku.
- Access code: RadioReference
Radio Reference streams police band, weather, aviation and amateur radio signals. The interface is structured by state which is great for Alabamans and Alaskans. Wyomingites not so much. Within each state, you can navigate by county.
Streaming Radio 7
- Access code: RD7UQE
Brought to you by the producers of The Conservative Channel, the Streaming Radio 7 includes conservative talk radio shows, Christian sermons and radio from the Golden Age
- Access code: Blacklisted
Talk show focused on Doug Owen’s “non-partisan and informal approach” to current events. You don’t have to listen for long to understand that his take on the Second Amendment, the deep state and more is firmly rooted in a red state outlook.
- Access code: ITPC
This channel doesn’t integrate with your iTunes account so none of your existing favorites or subscriptions will show up. You can search the full iTunes audio and video podcast catalog to set a new list of favorites, but browsing is limited to a limited number of “Top Podcasts”.
Web Video to Your Roku
These private channels stream user-generated and premium video content.
- Access code: GoatsLive
This channel has video from the Goats Live webcam. Watch goats run in the rain. Then watch goats get their shots. Or goats eating cookies. For some reason, the channel does not link to the live stream. I suppose live goats is what YouTube is for.
- Access code: Dailymotion
What began as France’s answer to YouTube, Dailymotion pivoted to a focus on premium, globally-sourced, ad-supported content. Watch a review of Blade Runner 2049, clips from the Drone Racing League and cat videos.
- Access code: nowherescope
This channel lets you watch live streams from Periscope users around the world. The minimal interface presents a row of recent streams. You can also search for content. There is no attempt at organizing by category or curating better content.
- Access code: NMJS5
This channel pulls from the Internet Archive’s treasure trove of public domain videos. It includes 1950 film noir classic D.O.A., Kennedy vs. Nixon campaign ads from 1960 and Grateful Dead concert recordings from the 1970s.
Games and Gaming
The game channels available from the Roku Channel Store provide more stable and polished content than you’ll find in the private channels. For the most part, these are experimental projects coders created and left for other enthusiasts to enjoy.
Lode Runner Remake
- Access code: LodeRunnerPreview
Marcelo Lv Cabral was teaching himself to code and ported Lode Runner platformer to the Roku. Since Lode Runner was available on multiple platforms, Cabral gives you the choice between graphics for the Apple II, Commodore 64, IBM PC CGA, Atari 8-bit, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and NES.
Prince of Persia Preview
- Access code: PoPPreview
Cabral also ported the original Prince of Persia to the Roku. Go to the settings first to understand how the Roku remote’s buttons map to the game’s controls. You can toggle the graphics between Mac and PC-DOS designs.
- Access code: JVQCJR
If your idea of excitement is watching someone else play console games, then this channel is for you. Watch people play every Mario-based game from beginning to end… for hours.
- Access code: NowhereMagnets
Another experiment in game design lets you arrange letters on the screen to spell out words. The standard Roku remote control will not work with this word game.
Utilities to Enhance Roku
These channels are utilities that extend the capabilities of your Roku in ways you won’t find in the Roku Channel Store.
- Access code: MyChannels
Once you install more than a dozen or so channels, the Roku interface becomes hard to manage. My Channels lets you organize channels into categories you name yourself.
- Access code: kgulu
Nowhere USB extends your Roku devices capabilities to read media on USB-attached storage. You can play music, video and run photo slideshows.
- Access code: SpeedTest
If bandwidth troubles are disrupting your Roku viewing, get the Speedtest utility. It presents you with a selection of nearby speedtest.net servers and checks your bandwidth.
- Access code: V8MRS
Once you enter your twitter name and password, the Nowhere Tweet screensaver will fill your HDTV with the latest tweets in your Twitter stream.
- Access code: nowherecoin
Yet another channel from the folks at Nowhere. This screensaver utility will pull the latest Bitcoin prices and display them on your TV in glorious 4K UltraHD.
Turn Roku Into a Media Client
These private channels let you integrate your Roku with specific media devices.
- Access code: synctrixbeta
This new app connects the content you’ve stored in the cloud to your Android phone, Chromecast or Roku. It works with Dropbox as well as Google Drive. Naturally, you need to connect all three components together through the Synctrix website.
- Access code: plexclassic
Controversy ensued after Plex released a new version of its Channel for Roku – so Plex made this private channel available to people who don’t like change. It gives them the original clunky interface that they missed so much.
- Access code: NowhereDVR
This is the last Nowhere channel on the list and it also has a narrow audience. If you have an EyeTV tuner, the Nowhere DVR will stream live TV and play all of your recorded programs from your computer onto your HDTV.
Restricted Access Channels
Here are a few examples of “under construction” channels that offer limited versions of experimental video services.
Redbox on Demand
- Access code: RBXDIGITAL
This is a beta channel that DVD rental service Redbox created to test their upcoming video streaming service. Anyone can install the channel and get film trailers. However, you have to be both a Redbox subscriber and an invited participant in the beta program to get access to Redbox’s catalog of on-demand movies and TV shows. Redbox on Demand is one of the most professionally produced private channels that you’ll see in this article, so be sure to check it out.
- Access code: philoedu
Philo is a streaming platform for university TV services. It takes the feed a university normally distributes through its cable system and turns it into a streaming service that students can watch on Roku. Philo requires students to log in and blocks access if the Roku is off campus.
- Access code: GXTRZM
PTCI is a cable and internet service provider serving the Oklahoma Panhandle. It uses a Roku private channel to deliver streaming content to its customers. The channel is restricted to PTCI customers who must log in with their subscription credentials.
- Access code: EthioTvLive
EthioTvLive is the streaming service from Ethiopian Broadcasting Channel. It requires a subscription, but a free trial stream gives you a taste of what TV is like in Ethiopia.
Learn Something on Roku
These private channels allow you to improve your study habits and help you do your homework.
- Access code: Q4DSY
LibriVox creates audio versions of public domain books like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A shoestring budget does not let LibriVox hire professional voice actors, so it gets help from the book-loving public. The quality of the tracks is uneven, but some of the narrators are competent.
- Access code: aisdtv
The Austin Independent School District produces a public access cable channel that is also available on Roku. The channel airs live coverage from events like school board meetings and broadcasts teacher development programming.
- Access code: NowhereKhan
Nowhere Khan pulls free videos from the Khan Academy’s YouTube channel. Watch educational videos in the sciences, economics and humanities. Get advice on preparing for standardized tests.
Where Did the Private Channels Go?
You have to wade through hundreds of channels that either don’t exist or have been abandoned for years before you’ll find a few decent private channels. The fact is, private channels that deliver good content with decent designs and pass Roku’s criteria for legality soon become part of the Roku Channel Store. At the same time, Roku is driving away channels that violate copyright or distribute offensive content.
With more than 4,500 certified channels in the Roku Channel Store, you’re more than likely to find several channels that meet your needs without having to deal with the hassles of finding a private channel worth the search.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see a future where the only people who care about private channels will be in the Roku developer community. Private channels may have contributed to Roku’s past success, but they will have little to do with Roku’s future growth.