Monthly Archives: March 2015

0 939
Roku has a number of free Spanish language channels.

The Internet was a buzz today as numerous reports of a Best Buy listing for a new Roku 3. This is likely related to the story that The Streaming Advisor shared with you March 13th via a great find by Janko Roettgers that Roku had filled with the FCC to release a few new items. See our story here for the official details. Best Buy in Canada briefly listed one of the new products online. It has since been taken down but not before we were able to get a look at it. Check it out bellow.

New ROku 3 set to go on sale April 13.
New ROku 3 set to go on sale April 13.

Since the HBO Now announcement and subsequent price drop Apple TV is a hot topic. Sales have spiked on Amazon prompting Amazon to fight back and call the fruit company out on the carpet. But if you have an Apple TV or have been considering picking one up to watch the debut of Game of Thrones with HBO’s cable free app you might need a bit of help exploring your new new box. The Streaming Advisor has launched a brand new set of videos made just for

The Apple TV Playlist comes along just in time for all of you Apple TV Fans.
The Apple TV Playlist comes along just in time for all of you Apple TV Fans. Click picture to be taken to the new playlist.

Apple TV users explaining the basics of navigation, customizing the screen and how to navigate it in general. Bookmark us today. You can always find our YouTube Videos in the videos tab of the website. We hope that this will be a helpful resource for all of you.

See the New Apple TV YouTube Play List Here

Stream on my friends.

0 655

Is Apple TV a threat?

Amazon does not view the Roku family of products as the competition. Since the Fire TV debuted last year Amazon has not ever produced an ad campaign aimed at Roku. The name Roku has never appeared in any copy (at least that we have seen) other than a simple chart that showed the Fire TV in comparison to every other mainstream streaming device on the market. Is this because Amazon views this as shooting down or are they afraid that a head to head comparison between the two would be unfavorable? What we do know is this. Amazon is worried about the price reduction of the Apple TV as well as its upcoming three-month exclusive with HBO Now. On Amazon’s website the company has a rotating banner comparing its Fire TV Stick to the Apple TV. “18x the apps and games of Apple TV”

Amazon V Apple
Is Amazon worried about a spike in Apple TV sales?

Why? Ahead of the beginning of the HBO Now launch Apple TV, which can be purchased for 67.87 new and 50.00 used has vaulted ahead of the Fire TV box at 4th place in Amazon’s Streaming Media Players category. Once the box is officially the sole home of HBO now sales are likely to explode. The launch is set to coincide with the new season of Game of Thrones which could spur sales numbers that may not be seen again until Christmas. So Amazon is now trying to counter by using Roku’s strategy of touting numbers.

I have long maintained that even though the Apple TV is obviously an older piece of hardware than in fact any of the mainstream set-top media devices on the market that it still has a lot to offer. I have also pointed out that despite the tremendous array of channels available on Roku’s platform Apple TV has all of the heavyweights of streaming like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Watch ESPN etc. So the question is that while Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, which is the #1  media streamer on the site, can offer more than Apple TV does or does Apple TV deliver exactly what people want at a low enough price point.

This could be fun to watch.

0 957

Streaming television just got a little more attractive. Sling Television, the web app based TV option has added three more popular channels to its basic Best of Live TV package. The service burst on the scene offering ESPN and ESPN 2, CNN, TNT and many other networks for 20 dollars a month and has continued to grow since then. Its basic package also includes The Food Network, The Cartoon Network, AMC. The service has also added FYI and the Lifetime Movie Network LMN to it’s $5.00 Lifestyle Extra package.

The NFL is moving quickly towards the future and the future is streaming its product live professional football, the most valuable product on television. It’s making precise moves that will change the way Sports on TV works in the future. In February we reported that the NFL was looking at streaming a regular season game and now we know which one. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Kevin Clark, the league plans for a 2015 regular season game in week 7, The Jacksonville Jaguars VS The Buffalo Bills to be streamed live. As many important developments tend to be, this information has not been heavily reported so far because the sports community is obsessed with “hot button” stories like Adrian Peterson and his feud with the Minnesota Vikings. But this is actually one of the most important developments in television history.

Why Jacksonville VS Buffalo
There are a great number of factors at work here. For one the game will take place in London. It will take place in the morning 9:30 am and it is between two teams that have very poor a national following. This is likely why they shipped the game to the UK in the first place. You are pretty unlikely to see the Dallas Cowboys play The Packers exclusively online unless it turns out that online streaming is the most profitable and heavily watched way to distribute NFL football. It will give the league a chance to see how things work without being overwhelmed with viewers, though you can be sure that it will be heavily promoted because of it’s historic nature which brings me to my next point.

Expect the game to be on NFL Now
As of the writing of this The NFL has not named a platform or partner for the game. But here is my guess. The game will be streamed on NFL Now, and possibly Verizon cell phones. This is how the league streamed it’s heavily watched championship game this year (we all know what it’s called but are not supposed to say it). While the Journal reported that the NFL will likely find a partner I think it already has the partner. NFL Now launched this fall with a slick campaign “I Want It Now” and it got loads of publicity during its initial launch, but what will push the service which currently costs $1.99 per month and offers a treasure trove of NFL content including archived NFL Films, weekly and daily features, fantasy football information and so much more, to a new level will be the announcement that live football is on the way to NFL Now.

At the initial announcement for the app in January of 2014 the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development Vishal Shah, who spoke to Time Magazine in a story by Victor Luckerson (see here) said “Live games are certainly an option for us. It’s really figuring out the right distribution strategy on our end.”

Somehow most outlets did not pick up on that comment, which was walked back almost immediately by an NFL spokesperson but we reported on it here  and have been following ever since.

This game will likely be seen by fans as insignificant at the time that it takes place because of the stature of the teams involved and it likely non-impact on divisional standings unless Rex Ryan get the Bills off to a blistering start. But its place will be marked in history as the beginning of the end of the current distribution model for sports. The NFL has got to see the potential earnings that are lost by for instance Fox’s refusal to stream the NFC championship game to non-cable subscribers. This sort of thing cannot continue for the long term. To paraphrase Brian Singer’s X-Men streaming is the future not cable. And the NFL already has a house on that lot.

0 2601

Now that there are a number of streaming services I am constantly running across articles that equate the price of cable with the cost of adding every single streaming service available. This of course adds up but it is completely unnecessary. See two great tools for figuring out the cost of cord cutting here.

The Metro Launcher is the preferred interface for the Minix line.

The MiniX Neo X 8 Plus is a substantial Android set top box/mini computer. Packed with ports and power to match along with its simple Metro Launcher the device offers users a an easy to navigate device with XBMC included. The device has some major strengths and a few weaknesses. Check out the story and well will tell you all about it. And check out our Minix Neo X8 Plus Review video at the bottom of the story.

Interface
The Mini X Neo 8 Plus ships loaded with 2 interfaces.

Launcher
Launcher is a basic Android launcher set up for a touch screen device environment. It features multiple screens, swiping and the like. This is a usable format especially if you are using the box as a desktop Android computer but not

The Metro Launcher is the preferred interface for this device.
The Metro Launcher is the preferred interface for this device.

helpful on a TV.

Metro Launcher

For the best user experience on a set top box for TV we recommend the Metro Launcher. It is a stylized black, green, white and grey look that organizes prefab folders into multi sized blocks. The blocks are a bit misleading because they appear to be launch buttons when they are really folders. They have icons implying their use like a music note, or gamepad, but they are for the most part empty. They do though serve as a place to keep entertainment apps organized. It is set up for ease of use on a TV.

Pros

Easy Access to Main Controls
The Right side of the home screen has a simple to navigate menu where users can access the most important features and commands needed for an Android environment without a lot of scrolling or the need to swipe. That is very important for a device being used primarily as a TV Video delivery system.

All Tasks Killer
Android phone and tablet users should always have a kill switch of sort for their apps. Nothing slows things down like multiple apps running in the background of a device. The All Tasks killer which is included and accessible via the devices main home screen menu is a great way to make sure you are not running redundant apps and wasting resources and memory.

Adding apps to the launch bar is simple just llok for the big green plus box.
Adding apps to the launch bar is simple just llok for the big green plus box.

Apps launch bar
While users can access any app on the device through the All Apps quick launch button The apps launch section located at the bottom of the screen is the best way to put your most used apps in an easy to access location. In order to add an app users click on a large Green square with a plus sign which opens accesses all installed apps. From there users can add as many apps as they choose but the screen only has room to display seven at a time. Users can scroll left to right in order to access any app that is not already displayed.

Settings
Users can easily access the Network, display appearance, Advanced features like Miracast and Controller settings as well as the main Android settings interface in this case labeled “other” settings for the box. Once in this menu select more settings to find Android settings. This is easy to find right from the home page. Sometimes this screen can get buried in other configurations.

Users can adjust screen sizze, access Networking options and main Android setting from this interface.
Users can adjust screen sizze, access Networking options and main Android setting from this interface.

Cons
By designing the interface with what appears to be icons a user might expect each of the buttons to launch an app or a program. But instead as stated earlier the boxes on the left side of the screen are really folders. In the folders are apps that will lead users down the path to what they might be looking for as long as they stored their info correctly. A movies folder for instance has the app 4kMedia Player. This is really just a file manager which accesses the hard drive, the XBMC button opens a folder with the MIniX XBMC app. Music contains the android music interface app, games is empty, the globe has the standard Android browser, a video icon is meant for streaming apps but is empty, a screen casting folder contains Miracast, a comic balloon folder indicates social apps it is empty.

Apps

The device comes loaded ahead of time with the Google Play store. This means that users will have access to the full range of games, media and productivity apps found in the Google Play store. A majority of the apps are not compatible with the basic remote provided. If wish wish to use Android apps like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Vudu and others they will need to use an air mouse. In general I consider Android apps a major bonus on a player like this. Android devices are the only ones that put things like CBS All access on a TV Screen and provide so many games that it setsMINIX XBMC up a device as a full entertainment system. XBMC is the king of all apps on a device like this and of course provides access to any number of apps from the community of developers as well as a great interface for any media available on a networked device.

Performance
This device has the power to handle all 4k decoding. Unfortunately I don’t have a 4K TV to test this on but as for true HD the box performs well. Its XBMC performance did not lag or stutter when running on a hard wired connection. Wi-Fi may present problems depending on where the device is set up and the strength of the connection. Video and audio played smoothly. The processor has all the heft it needs to handle the functions it is designed to perform. The device ran a number of apps and did not crash. Its video and audio playback was sharp and clear.

Controller
The MINIX Standard controller works just fine when navigating the Metro Launcher and XBMC. Unfortunately it is not capable off controlling most Android apps. This is because not only is it not an Air Mouse, which give users the ability

An Air mouse like The Neo A2 Lite is needed if you want to use Android apps on the MINIX X8 Plus
An Air mouse like The Neo A2 Lite is needed if you want to use Android apps on the MINIX X8 Plus

to select using an on  screen curser, it also does not have a curser button to allow users to select content with the arrow button. Any number of wireless keyboards and air mouses will work with the device but it does not ship with one.

Little to no Instructions
The manual that ships with this device provides very little in the way of instructions. This could be a barrier to new users.

Fun Bonus
Miracast
I was able to use Miracast, Android’s mirroring technology to share my computer screen with the MINIX essentially turning the TV into my computer’s monitor. That presents a lot of possibilities for users from using the box as a presentation device light gaming. Android users can also mirror their devices depending on which version of Android they have. It requires at least Android 4.2.

Specs

Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9r4 processor
The Octo-Core Mali-450 GPU

Network  Connections
Gigabit Ethernet Port
Dual-Band Wi-Fi

Input Ports (aside from the Power cord port

1. HDMI out

3. USB 2.o

1. Optical Audio

1 Headphone jack

1. Microphone Jack

1 SD/MMC Card Slot

1 OTG port (connecting smart phones)

Supported Video Formats
DAT/MPEG/MPE/MPG/TS/TP/VOB/ISO/AVI/MP4/MOV/3GV/FLVMKV/M2TS/MTS/M4V/WMV/ASF/RM/RMVB
Supported Audio Format
DD/DD+/MP2/MP3/WMA/WAV/OGG/OGA/FLAC/ALAC/APE/AAC

Our Roku Channel Reviews this week feature a small but plucky group of entries including the great ABC News app, New recipes to try and Ghosts. Check out the whole group and click on the picture to add them.

Stream on my friends

ABC NewsABC News
The ABC News channel is a great addition to the Roku channel lineup. Apple TV users have been able to watch live ABC news for months but lucky for Roku users that has changed. The channel gives users lean back options, a 24-7 live feed and a group of curated clips from across the ABC News programming lineup that plays as a default when the channel launches. The channel also features an entire lineup of on demand choices including news from select local market channels.

TexAgsTexAgs
This is a subscription based channel for all things Texas A&M. It is a one stop shop for fans, sort of a bulletin board come to life. Football is life in Texas and this channel does its best to encompass it. Want to know about incoming recruits they got it, players to watch it’s there. In order to use the Roku channel you will have to be a subscriber to its premium service. For more information concerning the TexAgs Channel check out the website. http://texags.com/s/2958/subscribe-to-texags-premium.

Awake NationsAwake Nations
Awake nations is a video outreach of the Awake Nations Ministries featuring themed sections of video from the ministry. Some of the videos feature taped church services while others are video podcasts like the Prophetic Training Wbinar. There is also a 24-7 live stream option with a seemingly random program lineup not nessasarily Christian based. Sort of the non offensive public programming leaning things that you find on a community access channel.

FizzyFizzy
New channel for paranormal enthusiasts. The team investigates purportedly haunted sites and shares their experiences. This stuff is just like the shows on the cable channels. The only drawback at the moment is that there is so little content on the channel. There are three categories Locked Into Darkness, Psycho Ghost Trackers and White Noise. All three have the same sort of content while Ghost trackers tends towards the intentionally grainy look for effect. But ghost fans will love this one.

Confesions of a hairstylistConfessions of a hairstylist
This is a collection of videos primarily showing women how to style their own hair through braiding. There are lots of different looks to choose from if you have enough on top to work with. This is not about how to cut your own hair or others. But if you want to make your daughter’s hair look like Elsa’s this is a good place to start. There is even a category for celeb hairstyles. Remember when the “Rachel” look was all the rage?

Handle The HeatHandle The Heat
Newest cooking channel for Roku with a heavy emphasis on bread recipes. Pizza dough, rolls etc. There are multiple categories. Our guide, Tessa shows each recipe step by step showing the ingredients, how to mix and prep them, the cooking steps and the final product. The one weakness is that viewers are told to go to a website for the directions. Not a big issue but it just requires an extra step since you will not be using a computer to watch the Roku channel. In general though this is a worthwhile cooking channel.

KelbyoneKelby One
Kelby One is a channel sponsored by the Website Kelbyone.com. This channel is an incredible resource of photography tips. It has three sections of videos. Photoshop User TV, which contains 20 minute videos on using photoshop effectively, Photography Tips and Tricks featuring another set of 30 minute long videos explaining effective use of camera equipment and methods and the photography talk show, a video podcast discussion about the industry in general what’s new and cool. Photo enthusiasts have to check this one out.

 

Live Church
First Methodist Church Sugarland
https://www.roku.com/channels#!details/45238/first-methodist-sugar-land

Hilltop Country Church
https://www.roku.com/channels#!details/55947/hilltop-country-church

 

Which live TV streaming service is Right for you?

PlayStation Vue Vs Sling TV

Starting Price

Sling:    $20.0
PS Vue  $49.00
On price Sling is obviously the less expensive of the two starting off. Both offerings provide the ability to expand the channel lineups through upgrades. More on that later.

Broadcast (Traditional) Networks
Sling No PS Vue Yes
Sling chose not to pursue the rights to the major broadcast networks CBS, NBC, Fox ABC. Though a deal was reached with ABC’s parent company Disney to provide a number of channels from that family of networks. Sony will be offering CBS, NBC and Fox but no ABC. My guess is that the three cities were the first three where Sony was able to make deals with all of the local station owners. Sony could be going down the path of cable and satellite companies with protracted fights and blackouts ahead. But at the same time how many Sling TV users wish they could pay 10 dollars more and get three major networks live without purchasing an antenna? This is a win for Sony

Access to popular channels

What’s the point of paying for a service with no content that you want to watch? Both offerings bring a number of popular cable channels into the home with Sony delivering a number of channels that Sling does not including USA, SyFy, Fox News Fox Sports 1 & 2, FX, FXX and more. Sling has a smaller lineup but does feature the Turner family including TNT, TBS, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2 and AMC in its most basic package. This is where the two offering start to look very different.

To see Sling Television’s packages click here to see PS Vue Packages Click here

Tiered Programming
Programmingtiers have been a staple of traditional Pay TV for years now. We are all familiar with the formula where you get a group of 50-60 channels at one price and move up the lineup at additional cost.

Sony

The Access level which starts at $49.00. It features programming from three major networks Fox, NBC and NBC. Along with that it offers a slate of programming that includes Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Science Spike and USA, Nick, Nick JR along with many others. It’s next tier, $59.00  adds regional sports networks and oddly TCM. One of these things is not like the others. It’s Elite tier for $69.00 tops off the service with over 80 channels but does not add the heft of the first two or even the Access level service.

Sling TV

Sling Television seems to have a different take on tiers. The company chooses to offer by far the majority of their most compelling channels on the $20.00 “Best of Live TV” tier and includes TBS, TNT, ESPN, ESPN 2, The Cartoon Network, The Food Network AMC, IFC, CNN and a host of others some less exiting or requested than others. But it is obvious that the initial tier is meant to offer bang for the buck. Its tiers are strictly theme based. Can’t find enough movies across the regular lineup Add a movie package for $5.00 with 4 Epix channels and Sundance. There is a family that adds Disney XD amoung a group of 5 channels, A sports package that adds the entire ESPN family along with Universal Sports and Bein Sports. Each of these additional packages are optional and can be added without the addition of another. If a household wants more sports the total monthly bill rises to $25.00 and you don’t have to add 14 other channels you don’t want. Compared head to head it is obvious that Sling is far closer to an A-la-carte model while PS Vue is trying to play the cable style game.

To see Sling Television’s packages click here to see PS Vue Packages Click here

Availability
Sony PS Vue
At the moment PS Vue is available on the PS3 and PS 4 with plans to launch on IOS devices (probably not Apple TV) in the future. 3 cities NYC, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Sling
Sling TV is currently available via Android tablets and phones, IOS devices, PC’s, Mac Computers, set-top-boxes (Roku, The Amazon Fire TV and soon the Nexus Player) as well as Sony’s chief competitor the Xbox One. Would anybody be surprised to find Sling on smart TV’s in the future?

Right now Sling Television is taking the Netflix approach to format and Sony is taking an Apple approach. Will placing their service behind the barrier of the $299.00 PlayStation hinder its adoption. In the face of Sling Television and its numerous promotions that essentially give items like the Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick away and cut the price of both respective premium boxes the Roku 3 and Fire TV in half the strategy looks like a mistake. But maybe PlayStation owners will buy in more than the bevy of other customers who purchased equipment for the sole expressed purpose of streaming.

So Which Service is better?
The media world is lined with the graves of showdown losers. VHS over Beta, Blu-ray over HD DVD, Stone Tablets VS Paper (paper won on portability alone) This fight just got started but I have got to give an early round lead to Sling Television in this fight. Obviously Sony has yet to roll their service out past the borders of NYC, Philadelphia and Chicago but I think that a lot of viewers will balk when they realize it is absent of ESPN or any of its affiliated networks. Very few people actually like having tons of channels they don’t watch in order to get three that they do. And this is what Sony Vue recreates without a subscription. Sling Television feels like a product put together after a lot of study and focus groups that asked people what channels they could not do without, or what do they consider worthwhile extras and at what cost. When someone can max out Sling with more channels then they will ever watch for $45.00 including the entire ESPN catalog, 5 premium movie channels, 11 news channels and more while Sony charges 49.00 dollars without even offering ESPN, Fox Sports, USA and many others it seems like a miss match.