How to Build a Roku Channel

How to Build a Roku Channel

Create a Roku Channel and Share it with Family and Friends

With over 10 million Roku players already sold, creating and publishing your own Roku channel can give you a much larger audience for your content.

A Roku channel can be used for many things, like sharing your home movies with friends and relatives around the world,  share your videos to a wider audience or promote your brand or business.

Our mkvXstream private Roku channel we built several years ago has been installed over 22,000 times. When we built it there was no easy to use guide like this to go by and and it took us several days and a few thousand brain cells to figure out how to create a new private Roku channel from scratch.

Build Your Own Vs Instant Roku Channel

Instant TV Roku Channel is a great service. They make it easy to build a channel. 

Our guide will show you how to do it the good old fashioned do it yourself way by teaching you how to build a Roku channel using your own website and using a channel we already built for you called MyChannel

Once you learn the basics of modifying a few files you can then easily customize this channel and make it your own private or public Roku channel. This is a little faster and easier compared to other guides we found.

The method we will show you here is very different than using an app to build your channel. The manual, build it from scratch method gives you full control of your channel and you won't need to forever depend on 3rd party software to build and maintain your channel.

Since you will be in full control of your web host, you can always move your channel files to another web host at any time. You won't need to worry about a 3rd party that one day out of the blue may start charging for the use of their software. Or who may one day suddenly call it quits, taking your future channel updates down with them.

If you plan on building a smaller private or public channel that will only contain several videos on it along with photo icons and channel files, a shared web hosting service like Bluehost will work fine. Your channel can also link to many video podcasts and files hosted elsewhere on the Internet.

For larger channels with many large videos, you will want to go with a dedicated video hosting provider. This can end up costing several hundred dollars a month or more depending on how popular your channel is and how much bandwidth it uses.

This kind of channel will most likely need to run ads or be subscription based to earn enough money for the dedicated hosting fees alone, or it can quickly put you in the poor house. For another alternative to dedicated video hosting for larger channels, check out Vimeo Pro. It costs $200 a year. Be sure to read the FAQ as it does have some limitations compared to more expensive video hosting sites.

A shared hosting site is still required for a web address and to store your images, and other files your channel needs.

Shared hosting from a company like Bluehost offers their Plus plan which offers unlimited storage for only $5.95 a month. Click here to learn more. We have used shared hosting exclusively for our small Roku channel for several years and have had really good luck so far.

In addition to holding the files needed for your Roku channel,  your web server can also be used to host a website or blog, share photos or backup non-sensitive data all at the same time.

For backing up sensitive data and especially your videos and channel files, we recommend using a home based NAS with more than one hard drive.

Don't Miss: Synology VS. QNAP Best NAS for 2016

Before We Begin...

While this article is a little long and may seem a bit intimidating.  Don't be, building a Roku channel from scratch is really not that hard. We included many helpful tips to make it even easier. At the end of part four is a link where you can get help if you get stuck along the way. Once you go through it the first time and install your first working Roku channel, you will find it's really quite easy to do.  Hopefully, you will have fun while your at it too! 

Let's get started creating your own Roku channel. Here is what you will need to build your channel:
  • A Roku Player, preferably a current model Roku 2 or 3, or 4 for best performance.
  • FTP Client Application to upload files to your web server for your PC or Mac computer.
  • Text Editor.
  • Roku SDK File for reference.
  • Download a couple .zip files from Google Drive.
  • Graphics Editor App like Paint for PC or Preview for Mac.
  • File Compression Utility to make .zip files.
  • Web Host Provider.

STEP 1. Sign up to be a Roku Developer

Create your Roku Account if you have not yet done so. You can create your account by visiting:

Once you have your account you will want to Sign Up as a  Roku Developer. Unlike Apple and Google, there is no charge to become a Roku developer and the software is free to download. The Roku developer SDK Documentation is here.

Now download the Roku SDK software and save it on your computer where you can find it for future reference. It has some good examples you can follow especially when creating multiple categories and sub-categories for your channel. These can be found in the RokuSDK\source\videoplayer\xml folder. In part four we will show you where you can download some more.

STEP 2. Turn On Developer Mode on Your Roku

This is a special mode that must be turned on before you will be able to upload your channel to Roku.

Use your remote and press the button in the following order:

Home 3x, Up 2x, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right 

This may take several tries to get in, once in you will come to a screen on your TV asking you to confirm, then agree to a long list of legal mumbo jumbo by accepting their terms. If you have a newer Roku, it may also ask you to enter a four digit password. Be sure to write it down because you will need it to log in and upload your channel to your Roku player. It will also show your Roku IP address link and a your login name: rokudev, be sure to write all this info down. You will need it later when upload your channel to your Roku for testing your channel.

Once you have created your password, you can click ok and your Roku will then reboot. When it comes back up, developer mode will be active in the background and you will be at your normal Roku home screen.

Watch the video below to see how it's done.

STEP 3. Download MyChannel and videoplayer zip files

TIP: We already created these two folders for you and placed them on Google Drive.
This will make it super easy to get your Roku channel up and built in no time. Later you can  modify it to make it your own. 

Add My Channel Demo
Want to see a demo of the channel you will get?

Channel Code: X6QXJR
Click Here to Add it To Your Roku

Download the following two zip files from Google Drive and extract them onto your desktop.

Click Here to Download:
Click Here to Download:

STEP 4. Content For Your Channel

Hopefully you already have some great video content that you own. Otherwise finding content can be tricky. Roku will even shut your channel down if you don't have rights to the videos you share if they receive a complaint.

Many channels contain content found on the Internet that is open source. Our MyChannel demo contains an open source HD mp4 video trailer of a short animated video named Big Buck Bunny. We also added two very short promo videos about mkvXstream. We would really appreciate if you could leave one on your channel to help share this site.

There is also one additional file we added to the videos folder that is named web.config that is there for mapping mime types for your web server. Some web hosts don't require this and some do depending on who you use. You can try removing it and if the videos won't play than add it back into the MyChannel\videos folder on your web server. It won't hurt anything either way.

Some Channels like Nowhere TV link to video podcasts and mrss files. These can often be freely found on the Internet. When building your channel the video does not need to be on your web server, as long as the link to the location of the file is correct in the myvideos.xml file the video will play on your channel.

One way to find video files is to use PASTEBIN

Video File Formats

The Roku software is limited on the type of video files it will play. Two formats that almost always work are mp4 and m4v. Files that are encoded in mkv will sometimes work although they can be iffy. Files encoded in flash or avi will not work with Roku. The videoplayer example channel also works with a few other formats like mrss and xml files.

If you have content in formats other than what's compatible on Roku you will need to re-encode it using software like Handbrake. Visit ROKODING to see their excellent Handbrake guide to find the best settings to encode your videos for the Roku platform.

Recommended Image File Sizes

Each Channel, Category and Video File Needs Two Images. One for SD and One for HD.
Some Roku developers just use the same SD image for both.

Look inside the MyChannel folder we downloaded and saved to the desktop earlier. Inside you will find another folder named images that contain 6 images.

HD images need to 290 X 218 pixels. 
SD images need to be 214 X 144 pixels.

They need to be saved as jpg or png image files.

Here is an example of two Big Buck Bunny video images from our MyChannel folder.

This is an HD 290 X 218 sized jpg image

This is an SD 214 X 144 sized jpg image

TIP: If you will be using a lot of images for your channel. Save yourself some time, just duplicate images you already have and overwrite them and change the names as needed. This will ensure they are already in the correct size and format. You can use simple image editing tools to modify and create your images. If you don't have access to more expensive image editing apps like Photoshop, this free online app can help add some cool special effects to your images.

Let's review what we learned in this section so far:

1. We downloaded the RokuSDK files and saved it for future reference
2. We downloaded two folders and extracted them onto the desktop MyChannel and videoplayer.
3. Signed up for Roku developer account and Accessed Developer Mode on our Roku.
4. Covered Legal Content and places where to get content for your channel.

Now let's take a short break before we go on to Part Two. When your ready click the link below to continue.

Create a Roku Channel - Part Two

1 2 3 4 Next Page »