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ku-sux
Level 9

FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

After 2 months of trying to view FREE programming on this Roku Ultra, I've determined that the problem is 100% with Roku. I think it's about resource allocation. In an effort to gain market share before the big guys start really competing, Roku mgmt probably thinks they need to put everything into marketing. Meanwhile, the rapidly increasing number of users mean the servers are overwhelmed regularly, especially during US prime time hours. Solution is to prioritize PAID content over FREE content with possibly another tier for TRIAL content. This theory is based on my experience. Yesterday was revealing.

John at Roku called me in the morning about one of my MANY ongoing issues with Roku. He helped me get my Apple TV+ trial subscription squared away. Then, I asked him about the problem I've had viewing ANY FREE content. While he was on the line, I tried to view 2 or 3 channels that I have been unable to view in the past. They all seemed to work. I was amazed, but I was puzzled as to why all of a sudden they worked. The difference could be that I've always tried to view them during prime time hours in the past, and this was the morning.

Last night, I wanted to see FREE content that had loaded properly in the morning test. First, I tried the Roku Channel. Clicking on Play, Roku Channel reported "retrieving at the bottom of the screen. After 15 seconds or so, it went back to the page I was on. Clicking on the Play button again produces the same result. This goes on forever. The program never plays. It's a loop. I've seen it too many times. But I did not give up. I tried to play several different programs. The result is always the same. Very frustrating. This is why I've never seen ANY FREE content on the Roku Channel. But I did not give up.

I decided to try PBS where I had finally been able to see a couple shows one afternoon for the first time earlier in the week. Some Roku CSR had tried to tell me PBS was a paid channel in a long waste of time chat before. I was sick of trying unsuccessfully to watch a Nova show. Goes to show how knowledgeable they aren't. Click on Play - "Your program will begin after this message. Loading..." at bottom of screen. Then, "ERROR - Sorry, this video is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later." Same thing happens with every so-called FREE program on PBS.

Well, Peacock has some decent free content so I went there. Click on Play - spinning yellow circle in the middle of the screen on solid black background. Goes on forever or until you back out. Happens on every so-called FREE program.

How about the CW for a little Penn & Teller magic? Click on Play - "Video Error - malformed data. Press * to dismiss." That's all you can do for every so-called FREE show there.

Xumo had loaded properly when on the phone that morning. I decided to try to play "Alien Mind Control" because maybe that's what's going on here. Click Play - "Your program will start after these messages. (Uh-oh, sounds familiar) Then, "Error - The content you selected is currently not available. Please try again later." Oddly enough, it turns out none of the so-called FREE content is available.

This is taking a long time. I had actually been able to see something on Tubi once but it was not in prime time. Since I was tired of this nonsense (I've been thru this a number of times before), I figured I would see what Tubi has for free right now. "Weird or What" sounds good - Click Play - "Your program will begin after these messages." Say it ain't so! But no error message this time. Instead I'm transported back to the tubi logo as if I never even tried to view a show. Very funny - "Weird or What, eh? Only thing is it's the same on all tubi content, which is supposedly 100% FREE.

On to Filmrise for a good free movie: "Memento." Click Play - "Your program will begin shortly. Loading - 99%." Then it goes blank for a few seconds. Then, "Your program will begin shortly.  Loading - 99%." Endless loop. Happens on every so-called FREE movie on Filmrise.

How about PLEX? They have some free content. I'll try just about anything now. Click Play - Yellow spinning circle in middle of black screen. "99%" in the middle of the circle. Sometimes it slows down like it's really going to start or give me an error. But it doesn't. It just keeps going. Get a snack. Go to the bathroom. Check email. 20 minutes later - Still going like the Energizer bunny. No program ever appears. Same for every FREE content item on PLEX.

I know, VUDU loaded properly when on the phone with Roku in the morning. "The Contract" sounds kinda interesting. Click Play - "Ad 1 of 3 00:19" appears at the bottom of the blank screen. It's locked up. Happens on every so-called FREE program on VUDU.

You know, there seems to be a pattern here I could try some others that supposedly offer FREE content but I've been at this longer than any movie I might want to watch and all I've done is get more and more frustrated and steamed at Roku. Well, the only FREE TRIAL I have going right now is Apple TV+. I might as well see how that goes. Click Play - Bingo! Works perfectly.

Thus, it is determined that TRIAL is prioritized above FREE. It may be the same priority as PAID. The theory is laid out for Roku to disprove or confirm. Please test for yourself as well. My connection is good to strong at all times so please don't try to blame it on that. This is Roku.

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9 REPLIES 9
Kaoru
Level 7

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

Hi! 

Please restart your Roku device. That will fix your problem. In the menu, go to either “system” or “power,” whichever your device has in the list, (My Express + says “system” but I know the latest 2021 Ultra says “power” in their menu.) and click on it, and then scroll to find “restart.” Click on that and then click “restart device.” 

That is what you do when an app won’t open or isn’t working right. Roku doesn’t own or control the free channels except their own apps. They CAN ban an app, but this is NOT what happened here. You will be able to use all the free channels once you do a restart of your device. 

I have had the same problem you described and that is what I do every time an app decides to do that. 

Restart is your best friend! 🙂 

Also, if the screen ever freezes, turn the TV off, and then unplug both cables on the device and wait a few minutes before re-attaching them. Then, turn the tv back on, and it will restart and things will work again.

Sometimes the wifi Internet connection is the problem, and restarting your router will fix the problem. 

I hope this helps, even though it is a year later! It’s shocking that NOBODY helped you with this issue. It’s a simple solution that someone should have helped you with by now. 

Good luck! 

 

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EdMatthews
Level 7

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

I'm having problems playing PBS content, and get an error message that says "... video is temporarily unavailable... Error 0003". The same video plays fine on Amazon firestick. This problem has persisted for several weeks despite restarting the ROKU device .

 

Does anyone has any ideas ?????

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atc98092
Community Streaming Expert

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

The primary free content I watch is YouTube, which plays fine on all my Roku devices. I'm in the middle of a movie right now, but I'll check The Roku Channel when it's over. 

Unfortunately, you can't compare an app on one device with the "same" app on a different platform, as they are written in different programming languages. Just because it works on a Fire TV means nothing on a Roku. If the programmers have issues with their app, it would only be seen on a Roku. 

Dan

Roku Community Streaming Expert

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atc98092
Community Streaming Expert

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

OK, I picked a couple of random titles on The Roku Channel, one TV series and one movie. Both played just fine on my Ultra 4800. I second the recommendation that you reboot your Roku to ensure everything's "clean". 

Dan

Roku Community Streaming Expert

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EdMatthews
Level 7

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

I understand that the apps are specific to the platform, however I wanted to verify that the content was actually available from PBS, thus indicating that it is probably an app issue on ROKU rather than a problem with PBS streaming this video.

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EdMatthews
Level 7

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

Thanks, but I've rebooted the ROKU many times over the past few weeks, including tonight. It doesn't make any difference.

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atc98092
Community Streaming Expert

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

Is the PBS content you are referring to within The Roku Channel, or some other one? I didn't see PBS within TRC, but I didn't scroll through everything. 

Dan

Roku Community Streaming Expert

Help others find this answer and click "Accept as Solution."
If you appreciate my answer, maybe give me a Kudo.

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EdMatthews
Level 7

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

Hi,

The problems I'm experiencing are using the PBS app on the ROKU. Specifically, I'm unable to play episodes of "All Creatures Great and Small", and get an error that the video is temporarily unavailable (Error 003).

 

This used to work, and does work on the PBS app on a Firestick so I don't think there is a problem with the video content itself.

 

Thank you,

 

Ed

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atc98092
Community Streaming Expert

Re: FREE programs do not play on Roku Ultra

OK, you're having an issue with the PBS channel. First, Roku doesn't provide the channels, so they can't do anything about it. Issues with a channel need to be addressed by the channel provider. In this case, that is PBS themselves.

The first thing to do when a channel doesn't work correctly is to restart the Roku. This can be done in the Settings menu, but different devices have it in a different place, so I can't say exactly where it is on yours. Another way to reboot is to pull the power for 30 seconds, then plug it back in.

If a restart doesn't resolve the problem, the next step is to remove the channel, reboot the Roku (critical step, don't skip), then add the channel back in. 

Dan

Roku Community Streaming Expert

Help others find this answer and click "Accept as Solution."
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