Roku promoted pirate broadcast app on Twitter

(Graphic by The Desk)

A Roku social media expert promoted a pirate service through the company’s official social media channels less than a month before the service closed down, according to a review of the company’s social media posts by The Desk.

On May 22, a social media editor for Roku provided users with a link to the Free2View TV app available within their Channel Store as a way for streaming viewers to access Me TV in areas where the network is otherwise unavailable.

The conversation started when a Chicago CW affiliate WCIU-TV (Channel 26) posted a promotion for Svengoolie, a science fiction and comedy program. WCIU is owned by Weigel Broadcasting, and the show is distributed nationally on the company’s digital over-the-air network Me TV.

After a Twitter user in New Jersey complained they were unable to receive the program, a second user suggested they download the Free2View TV app, which was “all legal and free.” At the time, Free2View said it offered access to Me TV and other Weigel-owned channels through an “exclusive” arrangement that also included Story Television and Decades.

A Roku social media editor jumped into the conversation, affirming the app was available to download in the official Channel Store and offering a link to it “for anyone that needs it.”

Earlier this month, a developer for the Free2View TV app said it was removing Me TV and the other Weigel-owned networks from the service after receiving a legal notification that refuted claims by Free2View that it had an “exclusive” arrangement to offer them.

In an interview with The Desk last week, Free2View project lead Georges Brunet admitted his service had no exclusive arrangement with Weigel or anyone else to transmit the channels. Instead, he said he took streams available from another project, LocalBTV, and offered them up through his service so people who could not access Me TV and other networks could do so without limitation.

After The Desk pressed Brunet about other channels on his service, the developer decided to end the Free2View project entirely. He has since offered to refund donors around $1,500 he says he received in connection with the project.

The channel appears to have violated Roku’s terms of service, which states that developers must hold copyright for the content that is distributed through their apps.  A Roku spokesperson has not yet returned a request seeking comment about the Free2View channel, and it was not clear why the channel was promoted on the official Roku Twitter account in May.