RIP: Roku Non-Certified Channels (aka Private Channels) Set to Go Dark Feb. 23

Roku’s non-certified channels, formerly known as private channels, have certainly attracted fans over the years. And for those fans, just a quick reminder: Roku is set to remove the feature from its platform on Feb. 23, 2022.

In a nutshell, non-certified apps were programs that ran on Roku’s platform, but weren’t officially available on the company’s channel store. Developers could use the feature to test out apps before they were released to the public, and included the ability to share access to the app if you had the right code.

Some have taken advantage of the feature to install unofficial apps on their Roku hardware — a process sometimes referred to as sideloading. That combo of under-the-radar visibility and a means to share access with others also made the feature popular for a wide range of uses, including offering pirated and/or adult-oriented content. And while Roku has taken steps in the past to combat illegal content, but come Feb. 23, non-certified channels as a whole will be on the way out.

The move was first announced back in October of 2021, alongside the announcement of new developer tools, including an Independent Developer Kit and a Beta Channel feature. That latter addition gives app makers a test environment similar to other software platforms and seems to serve a purpose very similar to the non-certified channels’ intended function.

At the time, Roku said non-certified channels would be removed by March of 2022, but subsequent developer blog posts narrowed the timeframe down to Feb. 23, 2022, as the official date.

And when that day rolls around, Roku says users will no longer be able to install or launch non-certified channels. What’s more, the company will remove all non-certified channels from its Developer Dashboard.

If you’re a dev working on a non-certified app, Roku’s laid out two main choices for you. On one hand, you can enter the beta channels feature to continue testing your apps. The new feature includes a time limit of 120 days. And while developers can run up to 10 beta channels at a time, you can only have 20 users per channel at once.

Those restrictions on time and overall user size will likely make beta channels less attractive to those looking to widely distribute illegal content, but time will tell if workarounds and loopholes are uncovered.

As for the other option, developers can move their non-certified channel to the public channel. That option allows for widespread user access, but those channels need to pass certification requirements before they’re approved.

Naturally, we’ll continue to keep an eye on Roku as it implements these new guidelines and closes the door on its non-certified channels program. In the meantime, feel free to check out our recent video exploring the changes above.