Roku will change up how it lets developers test apps and remove private channels in March 2022, effectively closing a loophole that allowed adult content providers, such as Montreal-based Pornhub, to offer content on the platform.
As reported by Protocol and The Verge, Roku announced a new ‘Independent Developer Kit’ and a new beta channel feature to replace existing tools like private channels. The former is a way for developers and hobbyists to experiment with apps and services without needing to use Roku’s software development kit (SDK), while the latter will allow developers to test channels with up to 20 users at a time.
The beta channel feature will replace private channels — or “uncertified channels,” as Roku likes to call them. The private channels system allowed developers to create channels without listing them in Roku’s Channel Store. However, they required a code to activate (or a direct link via Roku’s website).
Although private channels were intended for testing purposes, some developers used them to provide content that Roku doesn’t allow in its Channel Store — for example, porn.
Protocol reports that private channels from Pornhub and other adult content platforms such as Adult Empire, AEBN, Wicked, Adult Time and Naughty America are expected to disappear on March 1st.
Before this change, Roku effectively turned a blind eye to private channels, although it ran into issues for ignoring them. For example, a Mexican cable TV operator took Roku to court because people were able to access pirated content through private channels.
That led to Roku displaying a warning message when users attempted to access a private channel. The warning message said that Roku may remove private channels containing illegal content without notice and that Roku could ban repeat infringers from accessing other private channels.
Protocol notes that although there was also criticism of adult content on adult channels, it likely wasn’t the catalyst behind this change. Instead, Protocol suggests Roku’s move was to further lock down its Channel Store so that developers couldn’t bypass the rules, much like how Apple cracked down on its enterprise program to stop developers using it to bypass the App Store rules.