5 THINGS: Building a Roku Channel (ep. 217) Using Direct Publisher and NO CODING!
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5 THINGS: Building a Roku Channel (ep. 217) Using Direct Publisher and NO CODING!

August 8, 2019


Hello and welcome to another episode of 5
THINGS – a web series dedicated to answering the 5 burning tech questions you have about
technologies and workflows in the media creation space Plus, tech stuff I dig, and how it’s used. I’m your host Michael Kammes. Before we get started on building a Roku channel,
a big thanks to all who came out to the Avid and Key Code Media #AskAvid event. We had 5 top people from Avid demoing new
tech and having the guts to take Q&A from a live audience and from social media. Plus, everyone who came out last week to the
Seattle Production Live! Expo, where I did a live 5 THINGS episode
on live streaming. Lastly, a huge shoutout to everyone who stopped
by and chatted at the NAB East coast convention in NY last week. Geeks, tech, and fun! Thanks to all of you. I love this stuff! And now, without further ado, let’s get
started with building a Roku channel. When I cut the cord a few years ago, I still
needed to find a way to enjoy video media without simply relying on Netflix and YouTube. And buying many of the other subscription
based apps, like HBO GO, would simply jack up my monthly charge…which is why I cancelled
cable in the first place! I looked at all of the OTT options out there, including AppleTV, FireTV, and various gaming consoles. Roku caught my eye as an inexpensive way to
find and consume content, as it had thousands of public and private channels – many more
than most others, and already a wide viewership. In fact, as of June this year, nearly 40 million
Americans used their Roku at least once a month. It’s the #1 OTT platform out there. Roku has also just gone public, which means
the company is going to accelerate even more quickly. While I was thrilled with the amount of content
I had easy access to with Roku, it wasn’t long before I wanted to get on the bandwagon
and create my own channel for 5 THINGS. The Roku channel paradigm is pretty simple. A channel is much like an EDL – it simply
points to where the media is externally, and streams it when told to play, so channels
are traditionally lightweight, as they only contain a few images and code, to link to your
media elsewhere. This seemed simple enough. However, when I started to create my own channel,
there were only 2 ways to do it yourself. First, was to use the site like instanttvchannel.com,
which is a Cloud-Based Roku Channel Production system. Through a series of drop downs ands prompts,
you could create your very own Roku channel. The problem I had was you had to pay per month
as long as the channel was active, anywhere from $5 to $50 per month, and your account
may have an InstantTV splash screen on launch, amongst other gotchas. AH-HAAAAAAAA! The second way was to develop against the
Roku software development kit, or SDK. Programming for a Roku is channel is based
around the BrightScript coding language, which is a bit like Javascript mixed with visual
basic. It took about 100 hours of work, and the purchase
of an old SD Roku model for testing on legacy gear to get my first channel up and running. And then there was the updates. Several hours per month, after each new episode of 5 THINGS, creating and testing versions for SD and HD Roku models. But YOU fine folks are in luck. Last year, Roku introduced a 3rd way, known
as “Direct Publisher”, which gave novice creators the ability to create a channel without
writing a single line of code, and have it work across most any modern Roku player. Hallelujah! And thus, how to create a channel with Direct
Publisher is what I’ll show you today. Since Direct Publisher is from Roku, you need
to start off by creating an account with Roku. If you already have a Roku unit, then you
probably already have an account. Sign in. Navigate to the developer homepage, and under
“My Channels”, you’ll want to click “Manage My Channels”, and then click “Add
Channel”. As you can see, we have the aforementioned
Developer SDK and Direct Publisher methods. You’ll want to select Direct Publisher,
and give it a descriptive name, and click “Continue”. Next, you’ll be prompted for a few various
options. Where in the world your channel will be available,
what language the channel is in, if your channel is intended for children or adults, and a
channel vanity code. The vanity code you can pass to potential
subscribers so they don’t need to search the store for your channel. Give them the vanity code, and they can enter
it into their account to immediately get to your channel. Next, you’re presented with your Feed URL. This is where you may want to pause and watch
the rest of this episode, because we’ll need to determine your Feed URL via other
methods. Jump to “How do I update my channel” for
how to determine this, and them come back. I’m going to cut
and paste my Feed URL, and now tell Roku what format my videos are in. I’ll explore the various media types later
in this episode. However, I’m going to select “Specified
in feed” so I can dynamically change the media type at any point in time. Next, we’re at the branding page, and this
is where you’ll upload custom graphics for your channel. It’s important to adhere to the graphic
specs, or the page layout won’t look right. Roku will automagically make all of your graphics
work on SD, HD, and UHD models of Roku, so don’t worry about creating various versions
and resolutions. You also can choose your branding colors to
complement your individual style. One thing to remember is that while Direct
Publisher makes things easy to get started, it does somewhat limit the layout of your
channel. That’s the tradeoff. If you want total control over your layout,
then you’ll need to build your channel from the Roku SDK. Next, we need to define categories. Since we’re going to define the categories
in our feed, we’ll select “from feed”. Now, we need to enter in our all-important
metadata. Channel name, It’s Description and Web Description,
your channels’ category, and the uber important keywords. Plus you’ll add a channel poster image. On the next screen, are ya making money off
of this thing? Most likely when you’re starting out, the
answer is no, so select as such. Next, upload a screenshot. Roku can autogenerate this if your feed URL
is ready, if not, upload a 1920×1080 JPG or PNG file. We’re now at Support Information, where
you need to enter how Roku can get in touch with you, but also where do you want to drive
viewers to get in contact with you, or see more about your channel and your projects. Click Continue, and you’ll see a summary
of your channel so far. There are icons next to each section you’ve
filled out, so you can see where you may have goofed. Often you’ll see problems next to Feed Status. Not all errors are show stoppers, and many
of the errors you may encounter are easily found the in the Direct Publisher Roku Forum. Once things are good, click the link towards
the top of the page so the channel gets published to YOUR account. This is NOT public just yet, it’s just pushed
to your Roku account so you can beta test. Click “Add the channel”. Now, move to your Roku unit, and you’ll
want to navigate to Settings – System – System Update. This will have Roku not only look for updates
to your software online, but also add any channels. Once the Roku unit is updated, you can open
the channel and start testing. BOOM, you now have the framework for your
first Roku Channel. Now, we need to add some content. If you’re going to promote yourself on Roku,
ya need content right? One immediate issue that many novice developers
encounter is that any Roku channel you create cannot link to YouTube videos, which, of course,
is a popular place to house your media. Doing so violates the Roku and YouTube terms
of service, and Roku has been cracking down on channels doing these sorts of things..…plus,
YouTube doesn’t offer direct links publically to their media anyway. You can, however, use a Vimeo Pro Account,
as they offer up direct MP4 links to your media. That being said, using a single, self-contained
MP4, M4V or MOV for that matter, can be problematic. It’s very difficult to create a single file
that works well for streaming to every device, given bandwidth and resolution restrictions. Now, more advanced streaming formats that
include segmented files at various quality levels, otherwise known as adaptive streaming,
are preferred over standalone files. The end player can decide what version will
play smoothly, given the available bandwidth at any point in time, so you get the highest
quality file possible with no buffering errors. Microsoft Smooth Streaming, MPEG-DASH, and
Apple HLS all follow this basic methodology. Of these 3 options that Roku supports, I chose
Apple HLS. Mainly due to the fact a majority of my audience
uses Apple devices, and HLS is fully supported on iOS systems. You need to host this on a cloud provider
or on your website. I choose to use my existing Amazon S3 bucket,
but as you’ll see later, you may want to host it on your own website. What the fuck is the Internet? The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another. As a side note, be sure to compare the cost
of CDN hosting on Amazon vs how much traffic you can have on your website. Some webhosts may bill you for traffic overages,
and hosting all of your media on your website may push you over the edge. This is exactly why I use Amazon S3. If you hadn’t noticed, I caption all of
my episodes. Roku accepts SRT caption files, as well as
media with embedded captions. I’m also a big fan of BIF files or Base
Index Frame files. These are graphic thumbnails that user sees
while rewinding and fast forwarding through each episode. It’s a visual indicator of where the user
is, not just a time stamp. I use BIF Video File Creator, now free, and for Windows, to create the BIF files from my final video edit. I also upload these to my Amazon S3 account. Lastly, I create a thumbnail of my episode,
much like you would do for YouTube. In fact, I now use the exact same thumbnail
I create for YouTube, as Direct Publisher will automatically size it for older SD players
– something that the old SDK method couldn’t do. A key to the success of your channel is updating
it with content. Otherwise, why will people install your channel? Roku’s Direct Publisher takes updates in
2 ways: via an MRSS feed, or via JSON. Now, you’re probably saying, “Michael! You said there was no coding!” There isn’t! Many online apps or website templates can
generate MRSS feeds of a blog post. However, JSON offers a deeper level of integration…and
there are apps and website plugins that communicate to the Roku mothership via JSON. [Single notes correspond to light flashes, and are mimicked by the alien craft] Now, if you use wordpress as your website
CDN, then you’re aware of all of the plugins to give your site additional functionality. Recently, a plugin became available called
WP Smart TV by Rovid-X Media. This plugin can use your WordPress site to
house all of your media for your Roku channel and can push all of the updates to your Roku
channel via JSON. No coding! For me, this was an instant workflow savior. It saved me hours of time per month in coding,
testing, and manually creating artwork. Plus, it centralized my data and media. Let me show you how it works: Log into your WordPress Installation, and
click on plug-ins, and “add new”. In the Keyword search box, type “WP Smart
TV”. Once the plugin shows up, click “Install
Now”. Once installed, click “Activate”. You may also want to install the Jetpack plugin,
which is a plugin that speeds up image loading. It also can fix the error message on the Roku
developer portal where Roku cannot load thumbnails. Some WordPress hosts block loading images
to Roku, and this gets around it. On the left hand side of your screen, you’ll
now see a heading for “WP Smart TV”. Click it. You now will see the options for your Roku
JSON feed. Under General settings, you can select your
type of posts you’re making, that best coincide with your content. Click Save. Under “Roku Settings”, You have options
to limit the amount of posts that show up on the channel per category, as well as settings
for any advertisements you may have. I highly recommend reading the documentation
on Recipes, so you can have more granular control over the order in which your categories
show up on the channel. Note the URL at the top of this section. THIS IS IMPORTANT. This is the Feed URL that you will cut and
paste into the Feed URL prompt we covered earlier in the episode. This is how WordPress, WP Smart TV and your
Roku channel talk to one another. Click Save. WP Smart TV also supports other OTT devices
like FireTV, for Roku we can skip over this. We can also skip over the VideoJS settings
as we are not monetizing this channel in this demo. Lastly is the HELP documents tab, which I
highly recommend reading. In order for WP Smart TV to add content to
your feed, you’ll need to create a Video post. On the left side of the screen is a heading
called “My Videos”. Click it. From here, you’ll want to add a new video. Immediately, you’ll see the options for
your Roku Media. You’ll need a new video post for every video
file you want on your feed. I know, if you have a large catalog of videos,
this may be tedious but it’s much better than coding. Put in our duration, your video format, your
video quality, and the location of the media. As we talked about I the “How do I create
Media for Roku” section, add in the media URL here. Add Closed captions if you have them, and
their language and type. Currently, VTT is accepted, so I convert my
master SRT files to VTT with any number of free web based tools. This is the only tab and field that is optional. Trick play is used for the BIF files, which
we covered earlier. Now, click Genres to further categorize your
media. Be sure to upload a Featured Image for your
post, as this is the thumbnail for the video post. I usually use my YouTube thumbnail. Also, enter a description at the top so viewers
know what the episode is about. Click Publish. Congratulations, you now have your first video
for your Roku channel. Every time you make a change to your Roku
channel, you’ll need to go back to your Roku Developer page and refresh the feed. This is only temporary. Once your channel is published and is made
public, the updating will occur automatically. First, ya need to buy a Roku player. You gotta know how the thing actually works,
so you know how to design your channel. You also need to test your channel. As of now, there isn’t a way to 100% test
your channel via SDK, via a 3rd party website, or by Direct Publisher without one. So check out the current models, and see which
one works for you. Also, this ain’t field of dreams If you build it he will come. OK….ya must have heard that! Just because you build it, doesn’t mean
people will flock to it. So, you need to promote it. This includes Roku themed channel sites, as
well as on Roku user forums, plus on your other sites, like YouTube, Vimeo, and other
social media channels. Now, as mentioned earlier, Direct Publisher
does have a framework for ads so you can conceivably make money
off of your channel. But if you’re not making much on YouTube,
do you really expect to make more on Roku? Roku is big, but not YouTube big. Cool, that’s what it’s got going for it. You don’t want to ruin it with ads, because ads aren’t cool. Exactly. To be clear, I don’t recommend Roku as your
sole point of distribution. But in the huge marketplace reality where
there is competition for eyeballs everywhere, branching out into a realm that has less than,
let’s say, YouTube, means you have another audience to engage with. And 40 million eyeballs per month ain’t
bad. Have more Roku concerns other than just these
5 questions? Ask me in the Comments section. Also, please subscribe and share this tech
goodness with the rest of your techie friends. Acronyms like “OTT” should surely excite them. Be sure to check out more episodes of 5 THINGS
and the all of the other great learning content at Moviola.com. Until the next episode: learn more, do more
– thanks for watching.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Three (3) Questions: Using a link (public) from Google Drive versus Vimeo for wordpress plugin (Will it work)? 2: Getting a message from 'FEED URL Status' –Unable to Download from feedURL..(I created Vimeo acct. and upload a video and got URL and placed in Plugin)..Still the same issue. 3: Can not add 'ONE' Category … Missing the Boat no matter how many tickets I buy ๐Ÿ™‚ (help)?

  2. Hi! Thanks for the video. I'm interested in creating a channel to link some free live streams from my country and noticed Roku made some changes to its Developer Program page. Do I need to enroll in order to start creating a Roku Channel via this third method? Has anything else changed about the process since this video was created? Thanks.

  3. Michael: So how do you create an SVOD (i.e. like Netflix) for your Roku Channel? I thought one could do this

  4. Hi do I have to have a WordPress hosting website in order to install the plugin you mention? I know you mention Amazon hosting as well but to install the plugin do I need to have WordPress? Because itโ€™s a $300 cost to have them host a website and install that plugin.

  5. Hello!
    First of all I loved this how to video!
    Now I was Wondering is it possible to take your movies or music cds that you burned on your computer, and upload them on your Roku channel that you just created?

  6. Our church currently does high quality livestream to a mobile app and our web site. What is the best way to livestream to TV (Roku, Apple TV, Firestick, etc)?

  7. Thank you for the video! is there an update to this process or is there a way to know how to get the links from webmin? We have everything uploaded but not sure where to get the URL.

  8. could someone make a roku channel for https://www.firstonetv.net/Live/United-States-(USA) , i do not how to do, it is a free live tv .

  9. Why do I need to create a business account on wordpress to do this? Is there any other method to do the feed URL without any coding? Or is this the only way? If this is the only way, then why do I have to pay $25 dollars per month for doing a business account on wordpress?

  10. HEY WHERE DID YOU GO? I took a peek at your videos but they are far and few and between. You are FANTASTIC! Very PRIME TIME ready!

  11. Thanks for the video. How would one create a channel that feeds 24/7 content. For example some channels have the button that says watch live where they are steaming continual pre-recorded videos. How can can this be done ?

  12. Michael this was done in 2017 does it still apply or do you have a updated step by step version ? This was really good I love you just get to what you know we came for…AWESOME!!!!

  13. Great work learned alot. Any idea how to create a bif file using a mac?

    All of my video are mp4s

    Thanks ๐Ÿ˜Š

  14. Hey I have one last question. My thumbnail is not showing up on Roku channel folders. The My Instant Channel is showing up on the folder name. But under the Roku Developer page my thumbnail us showing up. How do I get own thumbnail to show up on my folders?

  15. On my Roku Channel can I put my own paid advertising commercials within each video?' Do you suggest purchasing the TV Boss software, it seems so simple? Which is easier Roku's Direct Publisher or TV Boss? You mentioned hosting videos on your own website – do you mean instead of Vimeo? I have Wix and WordPress – so which do I choose to host – my website, vimeo, wordpress or wix? Thanks for your help.

  16. Hi Mke great video. I do not have a WP. My website was created in Squarespace. Do I need to sign up for a WP account?

  17. I do respond to comments! This channel recently became a 'brand' and thus my responses to comments were deleted. It's a known limitation of the migration. Thanks, YouTube!

  18. https://www.ebay.com/itm/PROFITABLE-ROKU-ACCOUNT-FOR-SALE_15-APPROVED-CHANNELS_OVER-100K-VIRAL-VIEWERS/163795993079?pageci=7eacad77-b4c5-4845-b5f5-13f1775835fe

    Check out this ebay listing 15 channels for sale 500$

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