Ask RokuGuide: Why Do I Need a Cable Subscription to Access These Roku Channels?

July 18, 2014 - 19:46 -- RokuGuide

Cable Channels on Roku The RokuGuide Q&A feature is back and we're answering questions about the popular cable networks like Lifetime, A&E, HISTORY, and WatchESPN that require a cable or satellite subscription for full access. The inability of cordcutters to access the full VOD libraries has spawned some of the most heated e-mails ever received here at RokuGuide. So here are the most-asked questions, and our answers.

"Dear RokuGuide: Lifetime (A&E, HISTORY, WatchESPN, etc.) asks me to log into a cable or satellite account to authenticate their channel on Roku. That's stupid! If you have the channel on cable, why would you need it on Roku?"

A lot of emails arrive stating how stupid it is to spend money developing a Roku channel that is useless to those who can use it. But the usefulness of these channels to those with a cable subscription is explained by this: VIDEO ON DEMAND. Cable viewers are limited to the live stream and maybe a limited amount of VOD. For subscribers, these channels are a big benefit, providing access to huge libraries of past episodes of popular shows at no added cost.

The second benefit of having access through Roku is being untethered from the cable box or satellite receiver. Many people don't pay the extra $10 or more per month per box for getting cable through additional TVs. Put a Roku on the basement TV and you can watch your shows without the monthly fees of an additional cable box. Take your Roku with you on vacation, and you can watch your VOD shows without packing your satellite dish in the back of the minivan.

"Can I buy a subscription to these channels without cable or satellite?"

Sorry, but the answer is no. Lifetime, ESPN, and the rest are not offering direct subscriptions to their Roku channels. The networks make big bucks through their deals with cable and satellite operators, and they aren't going to risk those agreements by offering direct-to-consumer access that bypasses the people who write the big checks. Not yet anyway - I'm optimistic about what the future will bring as cable companies continue to lose their monopoly on TV viewers.

"I tried to authenticate A&E (or HISTORY, Lifetime, etc.) but my cable provider isn't listed. What can I do?"

Again - sorry. There is nothing you can do other than to subscribe to one of the cable or satellite partners - if they're available in your area. As noted above, you cannot buy a direct subscription, so you're barred from accessing the full VOD libraries of these channels.


I know those aren't the answers you cordcutters are looking for, but that's what you're left with for the time being. Until the big networks loosen up their authentication requirements, though, there well over 1500 other Roku channels available. And a few of those aren't even religious channels!