What Is a Roku, and Why Should You Use It?

For those of us looking to streamline our media game, Roku is here to help us out. Read here for a brief overview about how you can use Roku to enjoy both live TV channels and streaming services all in one place—and ditch cable TV box rental while you’re at it.

Table of Contents

  • What Can You Do With a Roku?
  • Why Should You Use a Roku?
  • Which Services Are Compatible With Roku?
  • How Do You Use a Roku?
  • Roku FAQ


A Roku device can turn your regular TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV without having to pay to upgrade your entire TV setup. You can also use Roku to eliminate cable TV streamer box rental fees while consolidating your live and streamed TV choices all in one place.

Roku Streaming devices

What Can You Do With a Roku?

A Roku streaming device is a piece of electronic equipment which can be set up with your TV (as long as your TV has an HDMI port) to essentially turn your TV into a smart TV. Roku acts like a platform through which you can access your favorite live TV channels and streaming services right on your TV instead of having to view them through smaller screens, such as on your phone or computer. Even better: if your TV supports it, Roku allows you to access your favorite media in 4K resolution.

Once you set up your Roku, you can pick and choose which services show up on your device by selecting and signing in to the services you already pay for. Some devices include Roku app compatibility as well, so you can control your Roku straight from your phone.

In some cases, you can also use the Roku to make your TV an extension of your mobile device screen. Certain Roku models can mirror your screen from your mobile device onto your TV. Although this is a feature for only some Windows or Android phones, those whose devices are compatible can cast videos and apps straight to the TV screen.

Why Should You Use a Roku?

Having a Roku device as a part of your media setup can save you money! You can use Roku to wirelessly turn your TV into a smarter device without having to purchase an upgraded TV model. In doing so, a Roku setup allows you to use just one Wi-Fi-powered device to view content from multiple sources.

Finally, you can use Roku to ditch the cable TV streamer box rental fees! That’s because some cable TV companies provide Roku-compatible apps to provide customers with more ways to enjoy their product. Since cable box rental fees can be as high as $10 per month, you could save up to $120 by using a 4K Roku instead of depending on a rented cable box.

How to Save Money With a 4K Roku Device
Traditional Cable Streaming BoxRoku 4K Device
Monthly Rental CostApprox. $10/mo.FREE with qualified purchase from National Broadband
Annual Rental CostApprox. $120/yr.$0/yr.

It should be noted that both Spectrum TV and DIRECTV STREAM are Roku-compatible. Each of these TV services offer FREE app access with purchase of their product, which means that customers can download an app to their phone, computer, or streaming devices (like Roku) to watch the same content where it is most convenient for them. This perk includes all of the live TV channels which already come with whichever package you’re already subscribed to.

Which Services Are Compatible With Roku?

In Roku’s “channel store,” you can individually select the apps for the services which you already subscribe to so you don’t have to sift through countless options just to get to the services you do watch.

Roku Apps Integration

Some of these options include:

  • Spectrum TV
  • Roku Channel
  • Paramount Plus
  • Max
  • Apple TV and Apple Music
  • Vudu
  • Disney Plus
  • Spotify
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Kidoodle.TV
  • Hulu
  • fuboTV
  • Vevo
  • YouTube TV
  • Philo
  • Kanopy
  • Peacock

You’ll find many more options Roku’s channel store! Other channel choices even include FREE content, so if you’re looking for ways to flesh out your household’s media package, Roku gives you an effortless way to add content to your TV and movie arsenal without paying anything extra. This includes options like the The Roku Channel, which is available to all Roku streaming device users (although there are opportunities for premium subscriptions within the channel).

If you’d prefer more paid TV subscriptions, check out our Resource Center for informational streaming services guides. These include information about streaming services for kids and the validity of cable TV, as well as reviews for Paramount+, Disney+, DIRECTV STREAM, HBO Max, Hulu, YouTube TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.

How Do You Use a Roku?

Roku devices are fairly straightforward to use. All you need to do is plug the Roku device into your TV’s HDMI port, use the on-screen prompts to connect your Roku to the internet, and then follow the rest of the instructions to finish setting up your device. This will involve using your computer to wrap up the setup process.

One of the most helpful features of the Roku device (and one of the biggest difference between this setup and a cable streaming box) is that the Roku is wireless because it relies on Wi-Fi. No more tangled or unsightly cables and no more precisely aiming your remote at your TV to control it.

As far as the day-to-day use of your Roku, many models include a Wi-Fi remote control which you can use to make selections from your chosen apps—without having to point your remote directly at your TV or at your Roku. Certain remotes also come with voice prompt capabilities, which allow you to tell your Roku to open or play certain channels or content without having to navigate screen options with remote buttons. If your chosen model has this capability, then you can also use the Roku mobile app to take advantage of the voice prompt technology through your phone.

Even if your specific device model does not include voice command compatibility, there are still plenty of ways to use the Roku mobile app to make the most of your device! One of those ways is to use the app to turn your phone into an additional remote control for your Roku! This feature can come in handy when, inevitably, your remote somehow ends up swallowed by the couch cushions—again.

Frequently asked questions

What is a Roku?

A Roku is a device which can be connected to a TV to turn that TV into a platform for streaming media. Depending on the streaming service, this may or may not include live channels.

What streaming services are compatible with Roku?

Although there are many services to choose from in Roku’s “channel store,” some of the most popular include Spectrum TV, DIRECTV STREAM, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and many others.

Is there free content on Roku?

Yes, there is free content to be found on Roku! The Roku Channel has some free TV and movies to enjoy, for example. You can find more free content by looking up “free movies and TV” in Roku’s channel store.

Can I watch Spectrum TV channels on Roku?

Yes! Once you’ve subscribed to any tier of Spectrum TV, you’ll gain access to the Spectrum TV app for free, which allows you to watch any channels in your selected Spectrum TV package on other devices such as the Roku.

Do I need to create a Roku account to use my Roku?

Yes, you’ll need an account to access the many features on your Roku device. This account will also require a payment method so that you can easily rent or buy content through your Roku without having to enter your card information every time you make a content purchase or subscription on your device.

Does it cost extra to watch cable or satellite TV on my Roku?

There are no extra costs associated with watching many cable or satellite channels through your Roku device. Some premium channels already require a subscription, though, such as HBO Max.

Written by Sarah Solomon

Edited by Henry St. Pierre

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