Archives For Roku

As Roku typically does, they’ll introduce a variety of hardware updates later this fall. And, as ZNF typically does, we’ll break that news to you first.

A trusted source indicates several 2017 models will be bundled with a revised Roku remote that expands television control — including that new handy dandy power button, as shown above, and bringing the volume rocker to more models. However, instead of going with IR, as Sideclick does, I suspect this will be an expansion of the HDMI-CEC capabilities Roku introduced last year.

Beyond that bit of practical news, I can now confirm that a 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+ will join the lineup mid-range, with the universal remote, while maintaining an elongated stick presentation — versus taking on a more chunky dongle form like Google has and Amazon will, with an incoming Fire TV. On the lower-end, the 2017 Roku Express will see a significant performance bump … and may finally make my list of recommended streamers. At 1/4th the cost of Apple TV, why not?

As to other Roku rumblings, looks like the company has taken a renewed interested in audio as they march towards an IPO.

As disseminated by Cord Cutters News, the new Roku 7.6 OS update resolves at least one “spam button” annoyance. When you accidentally sit on your Roku remote or your toddler grabs it, you won’t necessarily be dumped into a paid partner’s streaming app. Instead, while video is playing, you’ll be offered up a confirmation screen (as shown above, which doesn’t seem to time out) before making the leap. Sadly, Roku still doesn’t provide the ability to remap their growing list of rotating affiliates… to regain valuable real estate from a variety of shuttered services, like Rdio and Target Ticket (as shown below). While Roku remains a compelling player in this space many of their recent product decisions are driven by advertising and, by comparison, the similarly priced Fire TV offers a superior, clutter-free remote (that obviously pitches Amazon services via the on-screen interface).

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As regulars are well-aware, I love me a good mystery. And Roku just applied with the USPTO to trademark “Tada!” These sorts of filings are generally difficult to decipher, as the descriptions are often broad and vague, providing the company latitude down the road. So Tada! could refer to just about anything from a new marketing slogan, to an improved universal search utilizing recently licensed TiVo patents, another in-house recommendation show, a publishing platform for content distributors, or a full-on streaming video service to take on the likes of Sling TV or PlayStation Vue.

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As announced last year, Comcast has made good on their promise to deliver Xfinity television to the Roku platform. However, the initial experience may not provide what many cable customers had hoped for. First, the Xfinity Roku channel is not capable of simply replacing every cable box as “at least one Comcast-provided TV box, a CableCARD and have a compatible IP gateway in your home” are required. Yet, despite those hardware requirements, the Roku Xfinity app does not (yet?) actually link into one’s collection of local DVR recordings. But where the in-home-only streaming starts to come apart is in pricing…

During this “beta” period, access is on the house. However, once deployed, Comcast indicates successive Rokus will be hit with “additional outlet” fees — to the tune of $7.45/mo. Comcast justifies this approach by referencing their TiVo/CableCARD pricing model. However, a single CableCARD-powered TiVo feeds multiple TiVo Minis … without requiring additional fees. But this approach is probably the best we’re going to get under the new administration, unless or until a sufficient number of consumers speak with their wallets and move to a more cord cutting-friendly service like Sling TV or DirecTV NOW. However, on the plus side, the service is streamed over Comcast’s private, managed network, so data usage doesn’t count against one’s broadband cap. Plus, supported Rokus are certainly more compact, energy efficient, and economical than the typical cable box rental. Continue Reading…

As I indicated back in November when the TiVo 20.6.3 software update starting rolling out, “the cool stuff” wasn’t quite ready and this revision was mostly “unremarkable” bug fixes. However, one item I was unaware of until recently is the launch of a significantly enhanced screen reader (as displayed in the SD settings above) to meet a December 20th FCC deadline. I’m no expert in this area, but TiVo’s accessibility feature seems quite comprehensive in providing the visually impaired audible cues inui menuing, during playback, and while perusing the guide.

Video content information, setup options and configuration changes are now optimized to interacts with Screen Reader. Your TiVo is programmed to read menus, program descriptions, channel numbers and similar selected options in a way that is optimized to interpret acronyms and similar formatting. The entire guide is not audible, so not all visible text will be read.  Only one program at a time, when a show is highlighted/selected, is audible. Program information displayed on the screen, but not necessarily from the Guide, is also audible.

The TiVo Screen Reader is toggled by holding down the TiVo Bolt, Roamio, Premiere, or Mini remote’s A button for two seconds, so feel free to take it for a spin. Just be aware that the screen reading doesn’t have its own volume adjustment and that PCM audio will replace Dolby Digital — you’ll have to manually flip it back if/when moving on from the Reader.

Similarly, Roku also launched an “Audio Guide” in November… that seems decidedly less well-rounded than TiVo’s implementation in my brief test. While Roku supposedly provides advanced customization, it wasn’t available on my TCL television. Continue Reading…

The fine folks at Sideclick have provided two Roku accessories to share with our audience.

As a refresher, Sideclick clips onto your streamer’s remote to provide additional control — think televisions, soundbars, and the like. Beyond Roku, they also offer interchangeable sleds for Fire TV, Apple TV, and the couple dozen Nexus Players out there. It may be a tough sell at its price point, in relation to a streamer’s cost, and it will obviously impact your ergonomics. However, bolting on a simple, effective learning remote, will absolutely be priceless for a significant percent of us … and I’ve been enjoying Sideclick’s capabilities in our bedroom the last few months (especially since Roku’s HDMI-CEC functionality doesn’t actually work in all cases).

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Is Roku Prepping DVR?

Dave Zatz —  November 3, 2016

roku-pause-live-tv

Roku’s announced a seriously impressive update… assuming you’re running recent, supported hardware. And, surely, the highlight of OS 7.5 is the ability to pause live OTA television on Roku Televisions. While Roku’s CEO declared the “DVR is dead” way back in 2011, the company seemingly recognizes the ongoing draw of linear programming in 2016 – but intends to “get rid of the five commercial block.” As such, pairing a Roku TV with 16GB USB thumb drive will enable a 90 minute buffer to pause television while hitting the head or intending to crash through a 60 block with 40 minutes of ad-free programming. Hopefully it’ll also allow us to scrub through the buffer to catch a bit of missed dialog or replay some dramatic event. But I’m left to wonder if they’ve invested the engineering resources to go this far might full-fledged DVR functionality also be on the roadmap? CES is just around the corner…

Other Roku OS 7.5 goodies: HDMI-CEC volume control (!) and “private listening” via smartphone. Continue Reading…

AirTV Delayed During FCC Review

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2016

airtv-guide2

It seems Echostar failed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as the AirTV over-the-air network tuner, designed to pipe live OTA television into Sling TV, has been delayed… while they seek FCC approval to waive an archaic analog tuner requirement.

Pursuant to Section 1.3 of the Commission’s rules,1 EchoStar Technologies L.L.C. (“EchoStar”) respectfully requests the Media Bureau (“Bureau”) to waive the “all channels” requirement in Section 15.117(b) of the Commission’s rules to permit the importation, marketing, and sale of an Internet-enabled, set-top box (the “AirTV”) that does not include an analog over-the-air tuner.

Designed and manufactured by EchoStar for use with applications running on smartphones, tablets, and streaming devices such as Android TV, Roku, and Apple TV, the AirTV will offer consumers access to digital HD television content broadcast over-the-air from almost any broadband-enabled multimedia platform using groundbreaking place-shifting technology from Sling Media. The ability to combine over-the-air television content on devices with over-the-top functionality makes the devices a perfect, economical choice for households that have “cut the cord” but still wish to enjoy the combination of over-the-air content and pay-per-view or subscription over-the-top services without the confusion of swapping TV inputs and using multiple remote controls. All of this functionality is packaged in an attractive energy efficient form factor that can be used with a TV, monitor, or mobile device.