Archives For Roku

Amid new Roku apps and the launch of the Roku Streaming Stick, company CEO Anthony Wood also let slip this week that Roku “has been in talks” with companies about introducing new lower-cost, broadband-only TV services. Wood said at a recent industry event that he expects a new virtual MSO to pop up in the next 12 months. Such a company would offer a limited channel line-up delivered entirely over the Internet, and would target consumers unwilling to shell out major cash for cable TV.

We’ve heard people forecast the rise of virtual MSOs before, but the timing was never right. Today, however, consumers are well accustomed to watching TV online, and both content and service providers have had time to experiment with different models of Internet delivery. We’re also already seeing companies like Aereo and Skitter test out hybrid television models, suggesting that there’s a market for cheaper TV service.

It’s important to note, though, that Wood doesn’t expect some new start-up to jumpstart the virtual MSO market. Says Wood: “A lot of this is about getting access to the content, and that requires a lot of money and experience to structure it well.” That means we’re looking at an industry incumbent to be the source of a new online TV service. And it also means that any future venture is only going to move forward in a mode of extreme caution. Incumbents want to protect their existing revenue sources. Any new service will operate with that premise at its core.

roku-beam-images

Roku has updated their free Android and iPhone apps with “Play on Roku” — a new feature to beam local photos and music to your television screen via Roku media streamers ($50 and up). I took the photo sharing feature a quick spin under iOS 6 and it works as advertised. In fact, I’d say it’s nicely polished for a v1, including the ability to launch album slideshows using various transitions and speed options. Although I did experience one crash and the app seems to continuously communicate, even when returning to the typical remote control functionality. Exclusive to the Android app (for now?), users can “change the channel” via voice. While there are indications that Roku intends to continue expanding their second screen initiative, no word yet on Apple AirPlay-esque video streaming or screen sharing.

EchoStar’s Sling Media is out with a survey today testing the waters for console-based placeshifting. While the SlingCatcher is dead and buried, SlingPlayer for Connected Devices has been slowly bringing Slingbox feeds to various set-top devices including Google TV, WDTV Live, and Boxee. Next up, your Xbox, Wii, or PS3? From the emailed survey (pictured below):

In this section, we’re trying to gauge your interest in using SlingPlayer on your game console. Imagine if you could watch your Slingbox in full HD on your big screen TV using your game console. Essentially, you could enjoy everything on your main TV but you would use your gaming device. In other words, you could:

  • Watch all your live TV, DVR recordings & On-demand content
  • Control everything using your game console controller
  • With a picture quality comparable to your normal TV experience

A big advantage is that you would NOT PAY for another cable or satellite set top box.  A couple of situations where you can enjoy this are:

  1. A vacation home
  2. A 2nd bedroom, recreation room, or basement
  3. College student’s apt or dorm
  4. Replace any set top box

While the proposition is appealing, I’m not sure a game console is the most efficient platform for delivery… for Sling or for us. Assuming our Slingboxes will never stream content to Apple TV, Roku is an ideal platform if Sling can work out the technical challenges — it’s small and cheap, with an open SDK and much greater penetration than say the WDTV Live Sling currently supports. How much would an app like that be worth to you? Continue Reading…

dishworld-roku

One of the most compelling features of Roku, and why they’ve been relatively successful as a scrappy startup, has been their open platform — enabling just about any person or group to produce a video streaming app. Well, fun time’s over. And, apparently, DISH offered Roku enough cash to lock out third party International and foreign language channels… public, private, free, or paid.

From Roku’s email to developers:

Going forward, DISHWorld will be our exclusive partner for the distribution of international content in North America. We believe that this relationship with Dish will result in a greater variety of content as well as higher quality content for our users as well as better results for owners of international content. However, as a result of the exclusive arrangement, many existing international or foreign language channels will be migrated off of the Roku platform in the coming days and weeks.

From Roku’s forum comments:

Due to the exclusivity and to help make sure there is no confusion for new channels, we have updated the developer agreement to require all international or foreign language channels to require written permission before proceeding on Roku (this includes private channels). Typically, we’re going to ask that you speak to DISHWorld first. There may be (and are) cases where they will waive the exclusivity for certain channels or content, but you’re going to have to speak to them to discuss.

Meanwhile, the $99 Vizio Co-Star is up for pre-order today. And, presumably, Google is above such shenanigans should their platform and app marketplace take off…

(Thanks, Chad!)

vudu-roku

If Walmart’s June 10th circular is any indication, not only will the new Roku HD see a $10 price drop but it’ll also receive access to Vudu. Of course, Vudu is one of the more compelling video-on-demand services known for stellar high def streaming and cloud access to purchased (Ultraviolet) content – including disc-to-digital. Oh yeah, Vudu also happens to be owned by Walmart.

Assuming a Roku Vudu channel app comes to pass, the Roku HD tops out at 720p and I’m not certain even the 1080p-capable Roku 2 XS or XD can handle Vudu’s HDX bitrates. So while Amazon Instant will see some competition, this may not provide the best of breed HD that has set Vudu apart. One other note… While the Roku HD looks similar to the Roku 2, it’s slightly bigger to accomodate standard RCA composite (SD) outputs.

Update: Roku has informed me that the Vudu logo next to that Roku HD is a Walmart misprint. But, given Roku doesn’t comment on future initiatives, perhaps there’s still hope… someone has to bring Ultraviolet to the Roku platform, after all. Unless it’s Roku themselves.

Microsoft’s offering a free weekend of Xbox Live Gold service to entice new subscribers. While an Xbox 360 ($200 and up) nets you a solid gaming platform, to enable the most compelling online features, such as collaborative gameplay and Netflix streaming, one must subscribe to “Gold” — which retails for $60/year. As regular reader James (jcm) says, the Xbox 360 currently offers arguably the most complete video streaming experience in terms of quantity/quality of apps, polished interface, and integrated search. Yet, the annual subscription irks me and I’ve allowed my service to lapse. Heck, for the same money, one could buy a fee-free Roku LT streamer ($50).

But I went ahead and dug my Xbox 360 out of the closet to partake in the Free Gold Weekend (6/1 – 6/3) to check out the new Amazon Instant video streaming app. As an Amazon Prime member ($80/year), I’m entitled to all sorts of “free” content. Although, I have to say my primary motivation was to check out Amazon’s new Watchlist – overcoming their most significant technical shortcoming compared to say Netflix or Hulu Plus, as recently pointed out by Engadget HD’s Richard Lawler: No queue is a bizarre way to live. Continue Reading…

Slacker on Roku 1

As of today, the streaming music service Slacker is an official channel in the Roku Channel Store. If you have a Roku box and a Slacker account (you can get a basic one for free), all you have to do is add the channel from the Roku channel menu, log in with Slacker, and you’re ready to go. The service works in both the U.S. and Canada.

When the press release crossed my inbox this afternoon, I went straight to my own Roku XR, added the Slacker channel, and signed in with my account. Other than a couple of attempts at trying to remember my password, it was an easy set-up. The interface is basic, but it does the job, and I had immediate access to my custom pre-sets and playlists in addition to Slacker’s genre-based stations.

To some extent, the Roku is a silly platform for Slacker given the lack of visual elements. Continue Reading…