Roku OS 8.1 adds free live news and private listening for multiple people

Roku, one of the biggest players in the home streaming market, is getting a significant upgrade this May with its Roku OS 8.1 update. The new software was announced on April 24, and while everything looks the same, there are two big things you'll want to keep an eye out for.

First up, live news streams (opens in new tab) are being added to the Roku Channel. The Roku Channel launched in September 2017 as a way for users to quickly find free, curated content, and Roku OS 8.1 will add 24/7 access to Cheddar News, People TV, and act as the exclusive platform for ABC News Live. In addition to live streams, you'll also be able to view on-demand/linear news content.

Along with news, Roku Channel is also getting Continue Watching and Collections pages to help you more easily find exactly what you're looking for.

Also included with Roku OS 8.1 is an upgrade for private listening. Roku's allowed folks to pump audio from their Roku player to a pair of headphones for a few years at this point as to not disturb those around you, but the 8.1 update will allow you to send your Roku's audio to multiple headphones/earbuds.

Private listening for more than one person will be handled via the Roku mobile app, and it'll allow up to four people to privately listen to a show at once.

Last but not least, May will also see the Roku Streaming Stick+ (opens in new tab) makes its way to Canada. The Streaming Stick+ supports 4K and HDR streams thanks to its quad-core processor, allows you to control your TV's audio using the remote's volume buttons, and has an "advanced wireless receiver" for improved Wi-Fi performance.

The Streaming Stick+ will be available for CAD 89.99 at Walmart and other retailers across the country.

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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • I've had a Roku Premiere+ for a year or so and am generally quite happy with it. My big issue is: no Amazon Prime Video channel in Canada! Roku says ask Amazon, Amazon doesn't respond. Frustrating 😠
  • It's an Amazon thing. For years, they refused to launch Prime Video for Android, presumably to force people to buy a Fire tablet. If you can get the Android app up there, check to see if it has the ability to cast. If so, try it to see if your Roku shows up as a device that can receive the video. That might work. I know that YouTube on Android and iOS can cast to both Chromecast and Roku.
  • I'm surprised that Roku have still not overhauled the main menu or given more personalization options.
  • One of the biggest players? They are the number one player! (so far anyways)
  • Good functional updates. Glad I got Roku. Cheap and good. Not had any issues with it so far
  • Hopefully, they have fixed the Roku Ultra issue with the HDCP errors. I have to reboot my TV and Roku Ultra at least twice a week or else I get the dreaded purple screen of HDCP hell. :-(