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According to an announcement by the Plex developers via its monthly newsletter, new Plex users are going to be required to sign up for a Plex Pass account in order to access the Plex channel on Roku. Part of the January news letter contained this brief statement. The Plex channel will have a one time fee of $4.99.

“Finally, you may have noticed that for new users, Plex is now available as a paid app on Roku with a free 30-day trial. Plex on Roku is still free for all Plex Pass members, and those of you already using Plex on Roku before this update.”

As of now, the Plex channel is not listed under pay channels. Since its launch as a private channel, the Plex channel for Roku has been exceedingly popular especially ammung XBMC fans. Because Plex was built from XBMC code it allowed for much of the same functionality that XBMC provided from the ability to play local files in multiple formats as well as utilize third party applications, which at one point offered many options not available in the Roku channel store especially in the case of YouTube. Many of those channels have since been added including YouTube although exclusively for the Roku 3 at the moment.

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Could XBMC be added to Roku’s channel lineup in the near future? Richard Lawler, with the tech site Engadget, is reporting that older versions of the Roku can now be rooted in order to

Could XBMC be next on Roku after YouTube
Could XBMC be next on Roku after YouTube

allow third party programs to be added to the popular streamer. The models compatible with the current hack include the original Roku LT, 2 HD, 2 XD and 2 as well as the Streaming Stick. The hack does not stay in place on the Roku 3. Once rooted the streaming boxes will not affected by any automatic updates going forward.  At this date there is not a version of XBMC for Roku.  The implications for this are massive.

Will Roku Fix The Vulnerability?
Roku will most likely and quickly close the hole in its coding that allows the system to be rooted. Roku was not designed with this sort of functionality in mind. Apple TV swiftly closed off access to its Movie Trailers app when it was being used to access XBMC. While Roku has an open source approach to their products and allows developers to launch private channels it has yet to allow an official or private XBMC channel. In fact no main stream device including Apple TV, The Western Digital line of products or the Netgear line of products allowed XBMC as an official application on their products. If Roku has not allowed XBMC to be included in the past it is unlikely to allow the program to be added going forward even to older models.

What If Roku Does Not Block The Hack?
If Roku does not aggressively close the gap in their security to prevent the root process then then the appeal of the older devices will certainly rise amongst XBMC enthusiasts. The second generation Apple TV sells for as much as three times the price of the current one simply because the older model has proven to be able to be rooted in order to install XBMC. If the $45.00 Roku LT was suddenly able to host an XBMC app its value would skyrocket among XBMC fans causing its resale value to grow exponentially.

Is The Majority Of The Roku Audience Looking for XBMC?
Does the average Roku user care about XBMC at all? Roku has been painstakingly designed to be a simple device to use even going as far as producing models that feature buttons used for launching applications like Netflix and Pandora. Is that audience looking for a set of codes and commands to be used in order to disable the devices ability to be updated and improved? Does Roku want to be embraced by the XBMC community?  How the company reacts to this development will speak volumes on this issue.

XBMC Based Streaming Devices
In the absence of XBMC  availability on products from companies like Roku and Apple, other set

The G-Box is a popular alternative to Roku.
The G-Box is a popular alternative to Roku.

top devices have arrived on the market in order to fill the vacuum. Numerous set top devices like the linux based  Little Black Box and Android based G-Box Midnight MX2 have emerged. Various configurations of the MX2 currently occupy the top 3 spots on Amazon’s HD DVD player category . There are other suitors including a bevy of Android OS based dongles. The market for XBMC compatible devices even extends to the Android based gaming system the OUYA. There will certainly be other XBMC based set top box options going forward. Will the GTV hack make an XBMC channel for Roku be a reality? The Streaming Advisor will continue to monitor this story as it develops.

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An official Youtube Channel is now available for the Roku 3.
An official Youtube Channel is now available for the Roku 3.

After years of waiting an official YouTube App is now available for Roku owners. At the moment YouTube is only available for owners of the Roku 3, the companies top model, which normally retails for $99.00. At the moment many retailers are selling the model for $89.00. The roll out is perfectly timed for the last frantic holiday push and will likely increase demand for the highest end model over its less expensive brethren until the service is available on those devices. Owner of older models can still add YouTube functionality via the MyVideoBuzz app.

New Channel Debuts New Capability
The Roku YouTube Channel can also be paired with computers and mobile devices so that videos can be played directly from a mobile device, does that sound a bit like the capabilities of another popular streaming device? There were reports earlier in the year that Roku was looking to add DIAL support and it appears that this is the beginning of the roll out for that protocol. Will Roku soon support something akin to Google’s Google Cast which in the case of the Chromecast mirrors Google Chrome browser tabs on a TV screen? It would be shocking if Google allowed their browser to be used by a Roku in the same way it is by a Chromecast but Firefox and Microsoft Explorer on the other hand may be very interested. There has even been reporting that Firefox was working on support for mirroring their browser through the Roku. There will be more to come on this story for sure.

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It appears that the firmwareHulu Pic issue which effectively disabled the Google Chromecast feature Google Cast has been repaired. The previous firmware update caused a severe lag between the video content and its accompanying audio content. Users are again be able to seamlessly cast their Google Chrome tabs to their Chromecast and television directly from their Wi-Fi enabled laptop and desktop computers. Google Cast for Google Chrome adds a versatility to the Chromecast that far exceeds the $35.00 cost of the item itself because it expands the amount of video content that the Chromecast can access from compatible smart phone apps to include anything capable of being viewed from within a Google Chrome Tab on a computer. Video content that is compatible with the Chromecast’s Google Cast feature includes the free version of Hulu at hulu.com as well as full episodes of programming from CBS’s website.

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Ten apps have added support for the Google Chromecast giving users access to more video options and limited access to the popular XBMC based program Plex as well as the music video service Vevo. The additions bring the Chromecast’s total number of supported apps to 16.  The new apps include: Avia (an Android based media center Paid version only), Real Player Cloud service, Viki (an International tv service), Red Bull TV (extreme sports clips), Revision 3 (tech based web show app), Songza (categorized streaming music), Post TV (from the Washington Post) and Beyond Pod (an Android Podcast player).

Android Screen Mirroring Coming Soon
There are multiple reports that Android based mirroring is around the corner though nothing official has been announced. Google has yet to repair the problem that has caused its Tab Casting function to go out of Sync since the latest firmware update.

Time to Organize
At this point I would recommend that smart phone and tablet users create a folder to store the apps that the Chromecast can use. This way they will be easily accessible and easy to find.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Apple has added four new apps to its Apple TV lineup as it continues to ramp up its offerings but The four new apps are Crackle, Bloomberg, Watch ABC and Kor TV. Apple TV has been adding services regularly by building new partnerships and converting IOS apps to meet the specs of the Smart TV format used in the Apple TV platform. The company has added more then 10 apps in 2013.

Apple has added many new apps the the Apple TV lineup recently.
Apple has added many new apps the the Apple TV lineup recently.

Kor TV
Kor TV is a South Korean based app that features Live TV 17 South Korean broadcast Channels, a majority of them Korean language stations along with on demand movies and television shows.

Crackle
Crackle is free a Sony Pictures based app that has a large selection of both well known recent releases along with lesser known features from the past decade and more. The channel also features a vast library of its original shows. Crackle has been a popular app for years on both IOS devices and the Roku line of products.

Bloomberg
Bloomberg features live feeds from its Internet based station and free along with free on demand programming featuring movers and shakers in the business world along with other choices including the Charlie Rose show which features interviews from  a variety of news makers.

Watch ABC
Watch ABC is a Hulu like service featuring recent episodes of all of its top shows as well as live feed from ABC. The service is only available to those who can authenticate with participating TV providers including AT&T U-Verse, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Optimum and Verizon Fios.  Those without a pay TV service on the list are out of luck.

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The Google Chromecast has been a top seller since its debut.

Google pushed out an update for the firmware on its Google Chromecast dongle that appears to have affected the Chrome Tab Casting feature in the process.

The Chromecast Firmware Has been Updated
The Chromecast Firmware has been updated

Chrome tab casting allows users to mirror individual Google tabs on their HDTV’s in order to view images and video content. When working correctly (as mine did before the update) this feature allows laptop users to watch full episodes of shows from websites such as CBS.com, Hulu.com seamlessly but currently there is a noticeable lag between the video and audio performance especially on Hulu. Tab casting is a strong feature rivaling Apple TV’s AirPlay. It also adds important functionality for the device that is otherwise limited to playing video from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and the Google Play Store.  Of those options only one (YouTube) is free. The Chromecast in full working order received a glowing review see it here. The Google customer support representative explained that the tab casting feature is in Beta testing, which likely explains the new kinks. Google will very likely repair this problem as more reports come in on this issue and once it is resolved we will follow up. Until then if you experience issues with this or any other features you can call them at 1-855-836-3987.

Do you own a Chromecast? Have you experienced similar issues or any other? Have you successfully repaired such a problem?  Please share in the discussion area below!

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Ryan Michael Downey

Netflix has become the video format of choice.
Netflix has become the video format of choice.

The popularity of Netflix is affecting the viewing habits of millions of people across the country. A story published by Home Media Magazine published numbers that should startle the cable industry that indicate their customers are not buying in on video on demand services.

A recent study in to the use of VOD in the US and Canada by Digitalsmiths  showed that a majority of people who have on demand options for recently released movies do not use the service to purchase them. In fact over 70% of the studies’ respondents who have access to the services said they have never used the services at all. The VOD often costs between $4.00-$6.00 per selection and have been heavily pushed by cable companies in an effort to offer more services to customers and increase revenues.

At the same time that the cable companies have been making the push, use of Netflix has been growing as well as the popularity of the Red Box rental service which costs users about less than $2.00 for the rental of a DVD disk for one night.  48% of respondents to the study said that they use other means of video service for entertainment like Netflix for instance which along with YouTube is responsible for half of the Internet traffic.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Hulu Plus has added full episodes of Sesame Street to its kids content lineup. Hulu Plus which costs 7.99 per month has been adding more children’s programming as numbers show that kids content leads to higher viewership.

Hulu Plus has been adding more kids shows recently.
Hulu Plus has added more kids shows recently.

Customers without Hulu Plus can still access numerous clips from over the years through the free web based service. This addition continues a trend that started with Netflix and its popular Just For Kids section.  Amazon’s pilot experiment this year also showed the power of children’s programming when it gave a nod to three kids shows “(Annebots,” “Creative Galaxy” and “Tumbleaf) this May. Those shows were three of the five selections out of a group of 14 series hopefuls. Netflix is continuing to develop original children’s and will debut a show based on Turbo the racing snail in the upcoming future. Viewers can access Hulu Plus via Hulu’s website via a computer, via a tablet or smart phone and watch on their televisions via a set top streaming device such as a Roku or the Apple TV. The service also has apps available for game consoles including the Playstation 3-4, the Nentindo Wii and Wii U  as well as the X-Box 360 and the X-Box 1.

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One day after Apple TV launched two new apps Roku has rolled out a major firmware update available via the settings menu. The update brings three new features to the set top box across the product line. The features include the a new more visually appealing Netflix interface, integration of the Roku’s new on demand TV and Movie partner “M-Go” in to the set top box’s main menu and the new AOL poweredvideo news section. All of the new features are listed from the top of the selection menu just under “My Channels” There are a few other small changes including the M-Go service being added to the universal search.


How do you get it?

You could just wait for Roku to force the update via cycling but in order to upgrade manually the firmware users can press the home button on the remote and toggle down to the settings. From there click right on the directional pad and toggle down until the choice for system update is highlighted. Select this option and the Roku takes care of the rest. The Roku will download the latest firmware, reset and awaken with a whole new group of options.