(Credit: Lance Whitney)

The Roku Channel offers a wide lineup of movies and TV shows for free. But right now it's only accessible through a Roku device or the Roku Channel website. And there's nothing beyond the free content. Now, Roku is aiming to move past both of those limitations.

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Coming soon, the Roku Channel will expand to the Roku mobile app for iOS and Android, the company said in a blog post. That means you'll be able to watch all the content from the channel on your phone or tablet without need for a Roku device. And if you do have a Roku player or Roku TV, you'll be able to bounce between your device and the mobile app to pick up where you left off.

Further, Roku is enhancing its channel with premium subscriptions to popular video services and networks. Starting late January, the Roku Channel will add paid access to such services as Showtime, Starz, EPIX, Baeble Music, The Great Courses Signature Collection, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Tastemade and Viewster Anime. You'll be able to subscribe to and view the content from these services directly from the channel.

Roku has been a popular niche player in the streaming video arena. But it's lacking compared with services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and YouTube TV, all which are available on a wide range of devices and offer access to premium video networks. The new expansion will expose Roku to a wider audience that might otherwise just stick with one of the other services.

Of course, you'll have to pay to access the premium subscriptions. But Roku is trying to ease the pain. You'll be able to browse all the available content before signing up. Free trials will be available for all premium subscriptions. Free, live and premium content will also be accessible from a single channel. And you'll be able to pay for and manage your subscription via a single monthly bill.

The premium subscriptions and search capabilities on the Roku Channel will start rolling out to select Roku devices in late January and are expected to hit all supported devices sometime in early 2019.

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  1. The Roku Channel is expanding its reach to mobile devices via the Roku app for iOS and Android.
  2. Roku is also adding premium subscription options to such networks as Showtime and Starz.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."