roku-credit-card

While Roku remains our go-to streaming player, gifting still leaves something to be desired. And, as the company eclipses 10 million units and pressures streaming partners, Roku continues to solicit credit card information for the small number of apps that require it and to take a cut of every M-Go video rental or purchase. Of course, this isn’t unusual given Apple and Amazon streaming devices that also have credit cards on file. But, for whatever reason, it seems out of place on Roku and not everyone is comfortable or capable of complying. Whereas the company once suggested folks that object create fake PayPal accounts, they now direct customers to a non-publicized link. Instead of registering new Roku boxes via the standard workflow, by going through the link below, customers are provided a convenient “Skip” button to bypass the payment form.

https://my.roku.com/signup/nocc

TiVo Tests Free Hardware (Again)

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2014

tivo-roamio-free

TiVo is once again testing the market with free DVR hardware. And, this time around, it’s the 4-tuner TiVo Roamio that handles cable and over-the-air (but not at the same time). Instead of charging $150-200 at $15/month, TiVo is giving away the Roamio … for those willing to commit to two years of service at $20/month. You can bet their motivation is to reduce the barriers to entry, as they’re similarly experimenting with via the new $50 Roamio OTA model. Yet, given retail distribution via the likes of Best Buy and Walmart, this particular offering may remain an online exclusive. Civilians can check out the promotional pricing here, while our military counterparts have additional options to consider here.

tablo-update

Ever since the original release of Tablo TV, Nuvyyo has been addressing launch bugs by providing incremental updates. Back in July, they added additional features such as manual recordings, Closed Captioning support, and Plex support. Yesterday, Tablo TV released their 2.1.16 update with some new features that makes this little box one of the best OTA DVRs out there:

  • Smart Scheduling – This prevents your Tablo from recording duplicate shows. Previously, if you set Tablo TV to record all shows, it would do just that, even if the show had already been recorded. This is a great feature if you are trying to capture all those Big Bang Theory shows :-)
  • Auto Extend Live Recordings – Recordings that are marked as “live” (think sports and specials) will automatically be extended.  Tablo will add 50% of the total scheduled time, up to 2 hours. No more missing the rest of the Bears game!
  • Auto Delete – Oldest recordings will be automatically deleted, unless they are marked as protected.
  • Resume Playback for RecordingsThis is a big one for cross device usage. Tablo TV will now remember where you stopped watching a show, and then resume on a different device. For example, you start watching a show on your Roku in the Living Room.   You decide to head upstairs for the night and grab your iPad/Android tablet. The show will then resume playing where you stopped on your Roku.  Tablo states that that this works on all platforms that they support!
  • Watched Indicator – You now have the ability to mark shows as watched. Unwatched episodes will be designated by a blue dot, partially watched episodes by a partial blue dot and watched episodes will have no indicator.  Watched indicator will be available on iOS, web and Roku only.

Overall, a very impressive update for a box that has only been on the market less than six months! Tablo has also announced expanded distribution with BestBuy.com and FutureShop.ca.

Accessing Roku’s Secret Menu

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2014

roku-secret-screen

While I’d been vaguely familiar with a prior version of Roku’s service menu, I hadn’t yet stumbled upon the one associated with their newer user interface… Until a co-worker mentioned he’d had some issues resulting in Roku support directing him here. While there’s not a whole lot of interest for most of us on any sort of regular basis, I do believe it’s my digital media civic duty to document its existence. So, to bring up the Roku Secret Screen:

  • Click the Home button 5 times
  • Click the Fast Forward button three times
  • Click the Rewind button twice

It’s not Konami Code difficult, but remember to use the transport controls versus the directional arrows. And I should probably warn you that selecting the wrong option in this menu could possibly brick your device… although I doubt that’s likely.

(Thanks Keith!)

With Vudu and Amazon Instant soon set to join the likes of Netflix and YouTube, as TiVo begins redefining themselves as a “Streaming Player,” we have a few usability enhancements to suggest. Because, as it stands, getting into TiVo’s over-the-top apps requires quite a few clicks compared to a Roku. So my first suggestion is simply repurposing the TiVo button on the remote – a double click would bring power users straight to the existing (or better) app menu. Next, as to the menu itself, instead of a vertical listing of services featuring logos of varying widths, I’d like to see a grid of standardized app buttons for quicker access and recognition, along with improved provider parity. Lastly, TiVo’s mobile app should be updated for direct app “dialing” as available to Roku owners since 2010.

The A&E Streaming Infographic

Dave Zatz —  September 22, 2014

aande-infographic

In conjunction with the A&E, History, and Lifetime Channel apps launching on Fire TV, A+E Networks hit us with an interesting infographic. And, while it’s far too large to run in its entirely, we’ve chopped up a portion above. Beyond the numbers, and without knowing how exactly they measure an Apple TV “download,” A+E elaborates:

On average, XBOX 360 users watch 292% more videos per user than Apple TV and 21% more than Roku. Roku users watch 224% more than Apple TV users.

Further, reinforcing data previously provided in regards to the Verizon FiOS Xbox app, A+E Networks report viewing peaks each evening about 10-11PM. And 88% of connections by those running “mobile” apps occur over WiFi versus cellular.

The Curious TiVo Roamio OTA

Dave Zatz —  September 21, 2014

roamio-v-roamio-ota

The new TiVo Roamio OTA is a curious beast, In fact, we’ve fielded more questions on it than any other product the DVR pioneer has released in recent years.

Unlike TiVo’s prior attempt at targeting cord cutters, instead of lowering services fees on existing hardware, this time around they’re dropping box cost. The prior base 4-tuner cable/OTA Roamio runs $200 (MSRP), whereas the Roamio OTA clocks in at a mere $50. And, according to The Verge, the only physical differences may be limited to an empty CableCARD compartment… now that we’ve confirmed the Roamio OTA will indeed stream to TiVo Mini extenders and WiFi is present. And, with that in mind, the hardware likely costs TiVo more than $50 to market, manufacturer, and support – hence the requisite $15 monthly fee… which, depending on length of ownership, flips to TiVo’s benefit at some point (as there’s no way “guide data” runs double Netflix’s content licensing). Related, TiVo has made the business decision to exclude the Roamio OTA for Lifetime Service.

Assuming you’re OK with the monthly fee, TiVo remains the best retail DVR — not that they have many competitors. And, the ability to add extenders at $150/pop with the potential of other end points, moves it well ahead of the Channel Master DVR+. Plus, as the box advertises, the Best Buy exclusive Roamio OTA is indeed a “Streaming Player” for a handful of over-the-top services including Netflix and Pandora… with Amazon and Vudu arriving later this fall. However, for cord cutters on a budget, a used Lifetimed 2-tuner TiVo Premiere remains the best deal in town … given a massive, recent software update bringing Roamio parity.