Pitfalls to Avoid Before Distributing Video on the Roku Channel Store

In this article, Anna Hughes, Product Manager at Zype, shares 3 mistakes that video content owners typically make when publishing video apps on the Roku Channel Store, and how to avoid them.

In the sea of distribution options, one of the most popular destinations for an OTT app is the Roku Channel Store. In business since 2002, Roku Inc. manufactures Roku digital media players for streaming video content and provides one of the leading marketplaces for accessing video-content based apps; in the last two years alone, Roku has grown from 11 to 27 million monthly active accounts.*

In my last two years at Zype, working closely with customers and our product development team, I’ve seen some repeat snags when customers prepare to publish on the Roku Channel Store. In this post, I’ll explore what the most common blunders are when creating and publishing your Roku app, and how you can avoid them.

* We gathered this data here >

Pitfall #1 - Roku Has Some Weird Image Borders

If you don’t know what I’m talking about from the title of this section - you would have fallen into this trap! Roku’s SDK is configured to allow your graphics to render optimally according to their image settings. The issue is, your graphic designer might not know what those settings are, so your graphics might not be “Roku optimized”. We see this most often with video thumbnail images:

See how the borders of the thumbnail look great as a small video, but when enlarged, the borders change and the text is cut off?? Yikes.

There is nothing worse than having your app UI look messy (or unintentional); your user’s first experience in your app needs to be pleasant and entice them to stay longer and return often.

Anna’s Solution: Make sure you review Roku’s image “safe zones” before finalizing your image assets. Additionally, you may want to pay special attention to playlist and video thumbnail images that include text because it can easily get cut off.

Read these docs from Roku to get detailed specs:

Graphics info - note Safe Zones section >

Best practices on Roku UX design >

Pitfall#2 - If You Build It, They Will [Not] Come

We jest...but not really. Getting your app live isn’t enough to get viewers; you need to promote it as well. Not only that, but Roku requires you to allow them to promote it, too. Seems awesome right?? Well not so fast - they won’t exactly plug your content for free, but they do require you to build your app to support “deep linking,” a feature that allows direct access to your content from the Roku homepage or search page.

The somewhat annoying news: you’ll need to be sure your app properly supports deep linking

The totally good news: it’s actually pretty simple to configure deep linking to pass Roku’s requirements AND if you want...you can dig into Roku’s advertising options to have your content appear on their homepage.

Anna’s Solution: Do your research on deep linking *ehem, Zype’s Roku SDK supports this out of the box* and consider taking advantage of Roku’s advertising resources.

Check out Roku’s blog post about it >

“For developers” documentation (most recent) >

Check out advertising opportunities >

Pitfall #3 - Not Recognizing the Publishing, Testing, and Approval Timeline

Missing the intended launch date is a major snag for a lot of folks, and it isn’t entirely their fault. If you want to distribute on Roku, you’ll need a developer account and you’ll need to enroll in their billing program - both of which take some time to finalize. Additionally, Roku’s review window is lengthy, about 4-6x longer than other marketplace review times.

It might seem obvious but can’t hurt to say it - you need have all your content and your app build ready before you submit your app to the Roku Channel Store. This means all videos uploaded and organized, all branding and graphics uploaded to Roku’s specifications (see Pitfall#1) and the app built to Roku’s requirements (see Pitfall#2).

Don’t wait for the last minute to set up your Roku developer account and submit your app. You won’t be able to rely on expedited publishing here, and you don’t want to risk your launch.

Anna’s Solution: Use the calendar to your advantage! Assign actual, hard due dates for your team. Work backwards from your launch goal and consider holidays, weekends, and your resources. When in doubt, EMAIL ROKU about your billing status (billing@roku.com) or your submission status (partnersuccess@roku.com).

The below outline might help:

Launch Date [minus] 4 weeks for Roku review [equals] Date to submit your Roku app

App Submission Date [minus] 2 weeks for billing approval [equals] Date to create your developer account and enroll in Roku Billing

So in practice...let’s say our target Launch Date is March 1st. That translates to the following outline:

Weeks

Deliverable

Ex. Start Date

Ex. Due Date

Week 1

Create your developer account and enroll in Roku Billing

January 15

January 15

Week 1-2

Roku billing approval period

January 15

January 31

Week 3

Submit your Roku app

February 1

February 1

Week 3-6

Roku Review

February 1

March 1

Week 7

Roku app is Live

March 1

March 1

Are you shocked that to comfortably hit a March 1st launch you need to start moving January 15th? You're not alone. Plan ahead to hit your goals! (and good thing you read this post…)

If you found this helpful, keep an eye out for our future posts sharing tips on publishing your Apple TV app, Amazon Fire TV app, iOS or Android mobile apps, and more!

Questions? Comments? Compliments? We’d love them all. Email me directly at anna@zype.com