Q. I was thinking of buying a Roku player and a friend told me that they had more than 2,500 channels, including some cool channels that are called private channels. What are these private channels? Can anyone get them? — Carl, Reno, Nevada.

Carl, Roku, which offers its Net TV service in several devices, including a streaming stick, now offers than 2,500 channels, including such popular subscription services as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu.

The company also offers a number of free channels, which is nice considering that Roku does not require a monthly subscription (except for the subscription services such as Netflix.)

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The list of free channels includes YouTube, Pandora, CBS News,  Crackle, Pluto, WeatherNation, and many, many others. Here’s a link to Roku’s channel page. And then there are the mysterious Roku ‘private channels.’

Roku describes the channels as programming services that it does not approve or review, but are available over the Internet. The programmers will make the channel available to Roku’s subscribers, the company says, for a few reasons, including:

1. The channel is not ready for prime time, meaning the programmer doesn’t want a large number of people to watch it yet. Instead, it prefers that a small number of Internet users, including Roku subs, watch it and give the programmer feedback about how to make it better before publicizing it to a larger audience.

2. The channel may be adult-oriented, which Roku does not officially sanction.

3. The channel may be truly “private,” meaning it’s intended for a private event such as an employee meeting or corporate presentation. However, the company will make the channel available to Roku as a private channel to allow people to easily access it on their Roku devices.

To watch a private channel on Roku you must enter the channel’s code and add the channel to your list of available channels. You can do this by going to your Roku account page, click ‘Add Private Channel’ and then fill out the form. The channel will then be added to your personal list.

You would obtain the channel code from the programmer’s web site, the programmer directly, or from a web site that specializes in publishing lists of Roku private channels, such as this one.

What are some private channels?

The current list includes NASATV, which offers an International Space Station feed; Al Jazeera news feed (which may be blocked in U.S., but StreamFree.TV reports it’s working in Canada; HDCarolina, which offers high-def footage of cool tourist locations in North Carolina; the RAM Sports Network, a Christian-oriented sports programming channel; and The Silent Movie Channel, which as you can guess, offers silent films.

As you can see, the list of Roku private channels can be quirky, but if you scout around long enough, you might find a hidden nugget in the pile.

Check out the Roku 3, now under $100.

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