A Business Technology Place

Roku Streaming Stick

I had a television content problem.

Charter Communications went to a digital only network a few months ago and started requiring set top digital converters to unscramble program content. I’m not bashing Charter in this post for their decision, but when they did this, the two small TVs in my basement became unusable. I have a wall mounted TV in a workout room another one in a game room. Both have a cable coax drop next to them. But I don’t use them enough to warrant paying $20/month for two set top boxes and they don’t have a place to mount a set top box unless I created a stand or somehow mounted them on the back of the TV.

In a perfect world, I would not have cable TV service at all. I previously wrote about my obsession with dropping cable TV and cable TV online alternatives. But I also don’t want to create a family revolt. For right now, it simply is what it is.

HD Antenna Trials.

I tried a couple of different HD antennas for local programming and because I could mount the antenna behind the TV. I’m about 35 miles away from many of the major network broadcast antennas. The antennas provided limited success. The problem is that both of my TVs are in a basement and not near a window. Even with a power booster, the reception was spotty at best.

Enter Roku Streaming Stick.

My next thought was to buy a Chromecast HDMI stick to put in the TVs and then simulcast from a tablet near the TV. That would work for some content and provide an alternative to cable. As fate would have it though, when my wife was shopping at a local retailer they didn’t carry Chromecast. They had a Roku streaming stick and after some preliminary research we decided to give it a try.Roku_Streaming_Stick-20

The Roku streaming model was a closer fit for what I wanted. In the Roku system the device streams content directly to the connected screen and not as a simulcast. Since my display device is a wall mounted TV, I didn’t want to have to bring a tablet with me to view the content.

Roku Experience.

The installation of the Roku was simple. Plug the stick into a HDMI slot and the AC adapter to wall for power. Then change the source on the TV to HDMI and follow the onscreen setup. The process asks questions about language and wifi connectivity. Once configured an installation key is displayed on the screen with a URL and you simply go to a website to register the device.

After installation, the Roku menu presents applications much like a phone or tablet. There is a base set of applications or you can add more through the on screen Roku menu or via a computer hooked to your account.

Roku solved my television content problem.

It streams Netflix. It streams news channels with clips of recent news. It streams ESPN with live sports. It streams live music through Pandora. Let’s just say it has options. There are over 1000 app channels. Some of the channels do require separate subscriptions (like Netflix), but the Roku service is a one-time fee for the price of the stick. There is no recurring fee for the roku service. This is the type of solution I was looking for on those basement TVs that don’t get used everyday.

Oh and it still fits within my dreams to dump cable TV service. One day I’ll get there!

Thought readings 2

Each week I capture, mark, and comment on blog posts and news articles around the internet. This is short list of three links that I think others will find valuable for their thought lives.

  1. Aero aimed at TV cable cord cutters by Kay Bachman at Adweek announces a new service to bring cable television programming to internet connected devices. I have a dream one day to cut my cable TV cord. I just wish my family shared the same dream.
  2. Digital marketing matures beyond “best practices” by Scott Brinker at Chief Marketing Technologist. This is a thoughtful piece that discusses the maturation of landing page creation. Brinker lists a set of principles higher than any check-list that are relevant for landing page (and other marketing disciplines) creation.
  3. Study finds huge drop in corporate blogging by Helen Laggatt at Biz Report. Laddatt reports that the number of companies in the Inc. 500 that are keeping active blogs has dropped to 37%.  Producing relevant content consistently is hard work. Does the work strain big corporations or is it a matter of proving ROI? You decide.

Let me know what links you shared, tagged, or commented on this week.

Have you ditched cable and satellite TV? Online alternatives

In my last post I compared the marketing focus and features of Netflix and Blockbuster mail order DVD programs. Traditionally these have been thought of as complementary programming to standard cable or satellite TV. However, with added features such as television network programming, they may become substitute products for cable and satellite in the future.

Another group of alternatives is online streaming video and programming from companies such as Hulu and Joost.

Joost provides television, movie, and music programming through online streaming. The content is free of charge to the consumer as ads from sponsors pay for the service. The Joost web site is a a full-on social media site with recommended content, reviews from others, sharing links, popular content, etc. There is even an iPhone app to stream the content.

What surprised me was that the television programming was up-to-date. I picked CSI: NY at random from a list of dramas. The first episode originally aired on March 25, 2009 on the network and was posted online for viewing just a few days later. The film selection on Joost did not appear so fresh. Not bad if you like classics or want to catch up some films you never knew existed.

All-in-all, the site is mainly focused as a navigation of content tool. Information about how they manage their programming, a knowledge base, a blog, and other program type materials are in the footer of the application away from primary eye-sight.

Hulu contains television programming and video content without the music section offered by Joost. As with Joost the selection of films is very dated or unpopular, while the television programming is recent. The site also has a blog to keep subscribers informed of new content.  Hulu is a catalog based sited. It’s purpose to to create a catalog of online content so that users may navigate and watch.

So are these online and mail order content providers ready to replace your cable/satellite programming? I think that depends what type of programming you watch. If you watch alot of current programming such as sports or news then this option is not for you yet. But if you watch alot of TV series and an occasional movie then these options could be your way to unhook that cable/satellite box.

Have you ditched cable and satellite TV? Mail order alternatives

It’s 2009 and just like you have alternatives for how you listen to music (radio, satellite, CD, digital player, etc.), there are a growing number of alternatives for how you watch video content as well. Gone are the days when you were restricted to watching video on your television from cable or satellite. You’ve got choices now for free or subscription based content delivered through your Internet device or from a home subscription service. This can make a big difference in your monthly budget. Right now I pay $52 per month for expanded basic cable TV (No movie channels, No High Definition, No DVR, yaddy yadda.) That’s $624 annually for 100 channels of programming of which I probably view 10-15. There’s opportunity for cost savings for sure. But what about buyer utility? What about choosing the content I want to see?

In this post I’ll take a look at mail order alternatives from Netflix and Blockbuster.  I’d like to look in general at how  these programmers are marketed and at the difference in features.  In a follow-up post, I’ll look at free online streamed content.

Netflix

I found that Netflix focuses on two primary features in its online Marketing: The ability to have unlimited rentals each month and its ability to stream content to your PC or TV at no additional cost. They are a few mentions of television episode programming as well. I think this will become a larger feature for them in the future as they compete with traditional television and programming. They also heavily promote the speed of the turn-around service you receive for DVDs.

Blockbuster

Blockbuster focused its marketing effort on promoting the fact that they have a mail-in option that can be combined with in-store returns and exchanges. Their subscription plans vary with the fee for exchanging in a store versus a mail-back. They also promote the ability for just a simple return to a store which releases the next mail-order DVD in the mail to you.

Feature Comparison

Feature Netflix Blockbuster Online
Shipping Free shipping both ways Free shipping both ways. Additional option to return to store for exchange for discounted rental.
Television Programming Yes (limited over 5,600 DVDs) No
Movies DVD and Blu-ray DVD and Blu-ray
Streaming to PC Yes (limited selection) Yes with Movie Link
Streaming to TV Yes, with converter device (limited selection) Yes, with converter device
Plans
  • Unlimited $8.99 month 1 DVD out at a time. Unlimited online content

  • Unlimited $13.99 month 2 DVDs out at a time. Unlimited online content

  • Unlimited $16.99 month 3 DVDs out at at time. Unlimited online content

  • Limited $4.99 1 DVD at a time and limited to 2 per month. 2 hours per month online content.
  • Limited $3.99 1 DVD out at a time, 2 per month, $1,99 in store exchanges.
  • Limited $9.99 1 DVD out at a time, 2 DVD per month, 2 free in store exchanges, $9.99
  • Unlimited $16.99 2 DVDs out at time, 3 in store exchanges.
  • Unlimited $19.99 3 DVDs out a time, unlimited through mail, 5 free in store exchanges.
Contract Required? No, cancel at anytime No, cancel at anytime
Free Trial Yes, One Month Yes, two weeks

So what’s your experience with either of these two services? How is the customer service? What is the quality of DVDs received in the mail?