If you’re a Riverside resident with cable TV, you’re able to watch meetings of the Riverside Village Board, Riverside Township Board, the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Riverside School District 96 Board of Education live. And if you have internet access, you can watch meetings streaming live via YouTube.

In the next few months, however, there will be another way to check in on what elected officials are considering in real time when the village unveils its Roku channel, allowing those who have cut the cable TV cord to watch meetings on their TV anywhere they wish.

“Currently if you want to watch the station live as it broadcasts, you have to either have AT&T U-verse and live in Illinois or you have to have Comcast and live in the village,” said Colin Hughes, chairman of the Riverside TV Commission. “We’re seeing cable subscriptions drop and, as someone who never had cable, I never was able to watch it. YouTube has certainly helped that, but this is sort of like that last leg, to let it be accessible to pretty much everyone.”

The Roku channel will allow residents to select not only Riverside TV content. The initiative is a collaboration between members of the West Central Cable Agency, which also includes LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Western Springs and Indian Head Park. 

Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances is the chair of the WCCA and brought Hughes to one of the agency’s meetings early in 2022 to pitch the Roku channel idea.

In addition, Riverside-Brookfield High School has already agreed to offer content (like football games) for the channel, and Lyons Township High School is also expected to be part of the channel.

As a result, each of those municipalities and schools will provide content that can be accessed by anyone, giving viewers insights into businesses, events, recruitment efforts and municipal government.

“Those living in Riverside visit LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Spring, so there is interest in knowing what’s going on in those communities, what stores and restaurants you may have,” said Frances. “So, making sure we’re featuring our businesses on the Roku channel, that then creates interest among the other communities that may not be aware of new stores coming to town.”

The WCCA, which collects franchise fees from cable TV customers, is funding the capital cost as well as the personnel costs for creating the Roku app, which is being spearheaded by Riverside TV staff.

“I have to give a shoutout to our [Riverside TV] crew that’s actually doing all this work – Joe Doria, Lorenzo Cordova and Zach Cameron, especially,” Hughes said. 

Once it’s rolled out, those who own Roku boxes will be able to download the Village Stream app for free and watch Riverside TV’s live feed as well as other selected programming in high definition. The app will also be available on the Riverside TV page on the village’s website, so even if you don’t have Roku, you can watch the Riverside TV livestream via the internet.

“One other cool thing our new HD playback system will let us do in real time on our live channel is show tweets from the village,” Hughes said. “So if, say, there’s inclement weather and the village tweets about it, it will instantly show up on the live channel. And that’s true across village stream, Comcast, and AT&T, and that’s all thanks to [Riverside TV production assistant] Zach Cameron.”

While it might have been possible to also create apps for other platforms such as Firestick or Apple TV, Hughes said that the Roku platform was the easiest one to create an app for and also provided the widest coverage.

“Roku has one that’s really user-friendly to use – you don’t need much code experience – and they also have the biggest market share as far as streaming platforms go,” Hughes said. “So, we can do this and hit the most amount of people for the least amount of work. Any of the other platforms, we would’ve needed to hire somebody.”

Hughes said there was not yet a release date confirmed for the Roku channel, but that it will happen before the end of 2022.