Everything you need to know before you start your Roku Direct Publisher channel

Roku Direct Publisher vs Roku custom build SDK

There are many informative articles that describe how to set up your Roku Direct Publisher channel, but not many explain the pros and cons of using Roku Direct Publisher, and if it's the right choice for you and your business. Many users start Roku Direct Publisher and spend a lot of time trying to figure out all the moving pieces, only to find out later that Roku Direct Publisher does not support what they need.

In this post I will focus on the things that Roku Direct Publisher supports, its limitations, drawbacks, and when to go custom Roku build SDK.

What is Roku Direct Publisher?

According to the Direct Publisher quick start guide on the Roku website, “Video content creators and publishers can quickly and easily publish original content to a Roku channel using Direct Publisher.”

Roku Direct Publisher checklist

This is correct only if you are comparing it to developing a custom Roku channel from scratch, in reality it's not that quick and easy. It requires a moderate level of understanding of how the VOD (video on demand) works, and it will take days to set up everything. Almost the same amount of time compared to any turn-key custom Roku build.

When to use Roku Direct Publisher?

I always recommend Roku Direct Publisher to my clients if they want to test the waters when it comes to having a Roku channel, or to individuals who have a lot of time and are willing to learn Roku Direct Publisher and the VOD process.

Roku developer account Roku Direct Publisher

When not to use Roku Direct Publisher?

There are many reasons why not to use Roku Direct Publisher. I will explain the main reasons and list most of the features that Roku Direct Publisher does & doesn’t support on the bottom of this post.

Roku developer account Roku developer SDK

The first thing to look at is your business model. If you are planning on having an SVOD (subscription video on demand), or TVOD (transactional video on demand), then Roku Direct Publisher is not for you, it only supports AVOD (advertising-based video on demand).

VOD business models SVOD, TVOD and AVOD

The next thing is authentication, if you want to authenticate your users then Roku Direct Publisher is not the right choice. It also has its limits when it comes to content, Roku Direct Publisher can have up to 25 categories and a maximum of 40 items in each category, according to Roku Direct Publisher documentation.

Roku Direct Publisher documentation content limits

In addition, Roku Direct Publisher comes with Roku analytics, which in most part is fine for individuals, but if you are a business and need more robust analytics, then you have to go custom build.

Roku Direct Publisher analytics

Biggest drawbacks of Roku Direct Publisher

The most common issue that every user will encounter when setting up their Roku Direct Publisher channel is the content update delay. You will have to wait hours after re-ingesting the content feed for it to update on your channel.

Roku Direct Publisher content feed re-ingestion

This is the most frustrating part of using Roku Direct Publisher for any business or individual, where quality control is a high priority. You have to wait hours to verify your latest content, and if you made a mistake and need to fix it, then it could take more than a day, that's why I always recommend using a third-party tool to avoid errors and wasting time.

Another drawback is getting support from the Roku team. They are very busy and fixing a bug could take days or even weeks.

Features support

Here is a list of the things that Roku Direct Publisher supports:

Features Roku Direct Publisher supports
AVOD (advertising-based video on demand)
SVOD (subscription video on demand)
TVOD (transactional video on demand)
DRM (digital rights managemen)
Basic analytics
Third-party analytics (e.g. google analytics)
MRSS or JSON content feed
Content through API
Unlimited content
Instant content update
Menu screen
Terms of use screen
Privacy policy screen
Custom layout

Bottom line

Roku Direct Publisher is a great free online platform for individuals and small businesses. It will allow you to jump start your Roku VOD channel if you are willing to spend the time to learn, test, and debug.

Need help

I have been working with Roku Direct Publisher and Roku platform for years. I founded and created OTTfeed.com platform, mainly to bridge the gap between content and Roku Direct Publisher. Also, I am an active user on the Roku forums, so if you have any questions or need help with your project you can DM on the Roku formu or book a session with me.

Published April 14, 2021