Service Profiles
Articles on different streaming services and the related software software.

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Will XES Sell?
Microsoft is planning on entering the original content fray as part of their X-Box Live program launching Xbox Entertainment Studios (XES). The software and gaming console giant is the latest in what is becoming a long line of companies entering the new media market of original shows based around an online platform. Their approach though may greatly hinder its success. We Ask some key questions.

The WWE Network launched Monday and I decided to take advantage of the free week long preview. The network, which will cost 9.99 per month with a 6 month commitment offers hourly programming along with a large collection of WWE related on demand options ala HBO-Go or Netflix. The network had its problems due to issues with some of its app developers, namely Xbox but the product itself is compelling and is laying the groundwork for something that could well become a model for future Internet based networks.

The Salad Days
This week viewers accessing the linier feed of the network were greeted by repeated announcements from the McMahon family as they thanked their fans and supporters for jumping in on the venture. Vince McMahon smiled like a proud papa as he welcomed viewers

The new WWE Network is ready for prime time. Registration for the Internet based network began at 9:00 am along with a free week long preview of the network. The venture which is priced at 9.99 per month includes access to the WWE’s monthly pay per view broadcasts as well as an extensive library of past ppv events from the WWE’s properties including former rival promotions WCW/NWA as well as the ECW. The network will also feature replays of its current programming that appears on traditional TV networks, original shows and archived footage dating back to the 1970s. For a full listing of the

Ryan Michael Downey

Many people who are considering the purchase of an Apple TV set top box are looking for a simple way to watch movies and TV shows using apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus but the truth is that you can watch great Itunes Podcast video content on Apple TV using iTunes Podcasts. iTunes Podcasts  is a treasure trove of information and entertainment where users can keep up to date on news, sports, entertainment, politics and other current events.

Full Video Programing
In many cases full length video programming is available. Numerous newscasts are added sometimes only hours after they have aired. Video segments from a variety of subjects are available and so numerous you can get lost just searching. Everything from sports based podcasts to the “Naked News’ can be found.

Aereo, the web based service  that provides users with crystal clear local and network channels along with 20 hours of DVR service will be heading to the Raleigh Durham media market in the near future. On the company’s home page there is a message inviting residents to provide an email address in order to pre-register for the service. According to Aereo, those who pre-register will get access to the service before the rest of the public has access along with a free month. Aereo has proven to be a popular option for those looking to cut ties with cable but maintain a dependable source for network television stations like CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC. The service provides viewing for those networks as well as the CW, ION, Qubo and any other channel in a given media market provided that the channel is available via a digital antenna. The service provides the content via remote miniature antennas that collect the free signals from the broadcast towers like a home antenna and then send a digital signal to the homes of subscribers using the Internet. The antennas are not located at the home of the user so there is no set up or maintenance on the part of the customer.

The WWE became the first major media company to launch a new Network exclusively based on the Internet. The Network, which will debut in February and cost 9.99 per month, will stream all 12 pay per events including WrestleMania. The offer may be very tempting to its fans as  WrestleMania  alone sells at  around $70.00 meaning the ppv event alone would costs as much as 7 months of service.

In a Variety  story The WWE said that it will need around 1 million subscribers to break even on the investment. The WWE has reason to expect that goal to be met. According to Variety the WWE App, available for multiple platforms” has been downloaded 9 million times.

How Can You Watch It?
There are many ways to take in the programming including the WWE App on: mobile devices including Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices along with Android and iOS devices. Roku will also be in on the game as well as game console giants the Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4 along with the Xbox 360.

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Until recently Roku did not offer an official YouTube channel on any of its devices. The best option for many users looking for a simple way to access YouTube via a Roku has been “My Video Buzz”. My Video Buzz is a more than capable

My Video Buzz is still available to those without a Roku 3.
My Video Buzz is still available to those without a Roku 3.

portal to YouTube that provides users access to their playlists, favorites, and subscribed channels along with a selection of prefabricated categories. While other Roku models have been left out of the YouTube party Roku 3 users now have the option to use either one.Which one is the best? Both channels have strengths and weaknesses. We are going to take a look at some of the features of both channels and see how they compare.

Personal Profiles
Both YouTube and My Video Buzz provide access to personal YouTube profiles so that users can access their custom playlists, favorite videos and subscribed channels. Setting up YouTube with playlists and channels greatly enriches the experience with the app whether utilizing My Video Buzz or YouTube. For more on how to organize a YouTube profile see our guide here.

Interface

YouTube
The official YouTube channel populates all of a users subscribed channels, favorites, watch lists, along with prefabricated categories from YouTube designed to assist in video discovery. The selections are organized in a vertical column on the left side of the screen. Once a category is selected three videos

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

  from the chosen category are displayed.

Where this causes a problem is for users with extensive subscription lists and highly developed play lists. There is currently no quick and easy way to access any playlist or subscribed channel without toggling through every playlist and channel in front of it. This sort of re-creates the experience of flipping through channels on a TV. If a user has 70 subscriptions and the channel they wish to view is the 36th channel then they must toggle one by one until they reach the channel of choice. If they want to reach a play list then they must scroll through 75 channels before they reach their playlists.

My Video Buzz
My Video Buzz has separate menus for playlists, favorites etc set up in a carousel left to right configuration. Its opening menu has preset categories including History, What to watch, Your Playlists, Your Subscriptions, Your Favorites, Nursery Rhymes, Top Channels Top Rated, Most Discussed, Top Favorites, Most Responded. Once selected each playlist tittle is presented along the top of the screen with the videos populating underneath in the old fashioned carousel format. The set up is the same for any category that is separated in to sub categories.  By organizing the interface in to separate menus instead of one long list the developers of My Video Buzz provide a simplified interface and easier experience for the user.

Play Lists and subscriptions

YouTube
YouTube automatically loads all of a user’s playlists and channel subscriptions in to its left side vertical menu.

My Video Buzz
My Video Buzz will allow users to display play lists but it requires extra steps. In order to see a playlist in My Video Buzz a user must first access their YouTube account on a computer or tablet and then access their playlists. From there the user must make their playlist public and not private. The Playlist will only be displayed on My Video Buzz in public mode. A users subscribed channels are automatically loaded in to My Video Buzz with no extra steps.

Viewing Videos

YouTube
When viewing videos in the YouTube channel, the selection must be viewed from start to finish. If you leave a video in the middle of viewing the video cannot be resumed though users can fast forward to where the video was left off. My Video Buzz allows users to resume a video where ever they stopped watching the selection. This is not necessary when say watching a 2 minute cat video, but if you use YouTube to view documentaries and full length programs this feature is a must.

Subscribing to Video Channels
The YouTube Channel allows users to subscribe to video channels while viewing them in the app. My Video Buzz does not offer this feature. Unlike YouTube when accessed via a computer or tablet neither program will allow users to add a video to a playlist while in the app.

Viewing other videos from a user
Videos on my video buzz and YouTube are often parts of large collections of content. My Video Buzz users can access the other videos from a given library by clicking “view other videos from this user” This is not an option on the YouTube channel.

Searching for Videos
My Video Buzz allows users to access the familiar Roku search box used in its universal search as well as a majority of the channels on the set top box. The YouTube Channel utilizes an A-Z  left to right list and actually encourages users to search for videos on a computer or mobile device and then launch them instead of using its native search.

From a branding perspective the addition of YouTube has been big for Roku. Up until now almost every review of the Roku 3  lauded its speed, channels and many other features but pointed out its lack of a YouTube Channel. While the Roku 3 and its other products did not offer YouTube, the private channel my Video Buzz has been available for over a year and still is even with the debut of YouTube .

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The inclusion of YouTube on the Roku 3 and the exclusion of the service from the rest of the Roku lineup appears to have some of its customers up in arms. The Roku Blog  has 129 comments associated with the

YouTube roll out story and a number of them are by Roku owners who feel jilted. A moderator on the blog said this in reaction.

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

 “Since the Roku 3 is our fastest and most powerful streaming player and as such, from time to time, it will receive new content and features before other players in our line-up. It’s expected to be available on additional players but that said, as software evolves, hardware needs to evolve to keep up – and sometimes, our older players aren’t capable of running certain channels.”

Is This Strategic
It is certainly not impossible that the app was left off of the older models because they were incapable of utilizing all of the features correctly. Obviously Roku has for a long time offered other video discovery apps such as Vimeo, Daily Motion, College Humor and the side loaded channel My Video Buzz, but because is possible to view video content on the Roku this does not mean that every Roku can utilize YouTube in the way that Google wants its products showcased. It appears from the comments on various blogs that there are many who feel that the release has more to do with promoting the Roku 3 over all other models. This is certainly a possibility but one has to ask the question, if Roku only wants people to purchase the Roku 3 than why bother having at least 4 current models on the market, they could just offer one model in the same fashion as the apple TV. The Roku 3 and Apple TV both cost $99.00 at normal retail price.

Rollout Pattern Nothing New
It should be noted that different Roku products have debuted with temporarily exclusive features in order to showcase them at launch. The Roku 3 was the first torun the current Roku interface. An update was pushed out for all of the other models later. M-Go debuted on the Roku 1, 2 and updated LT and was later available through a software update on the rest of the models.

The current Roku Interface debuted on Roku 3
The current Roku Interface debuted on Roku 3

 The company even said that it expects YouTube to be available on additional player models next year, which officially begins less than 30 days from now. Also keep in mind that there are other exclusive features that are associated with Roku 3 such as Angry Birds space which requires a motion sensitive controller. Its previous flagship product the Roku XS featured the original Angry Birds to the exclusion of the rest of the product line at the time.  Big Fish Games channel was also a feature only available on the Roku 3. It has since been removed as a channel option. The difference between those options and YouTube of course is that YouTube is far more popular than the above mentioned services and is also seemingly available on almost every other format from streaming boxes to mobile devices and Blu-Ray players.

Can the other Roku’s Run the current Channel
The YouTube channel for Roku comes packed with a lot of under the hood features that showcase the versatility of the company’s top model. For one, YouTube is the first service that is using the new “Send To” feature which is built off of the DIAL protocol, which was created by YouTube and Netflix, and made popular by the Google Chromecast. This feature allows users to link their computers, smart phones and tablets to the Roku in order to send YouTube video to the device. A company Like Google wants the experience with their products to be positive and as uniform as possible. It had to approve the YouTube channel before it could debut as an official channel for public consumption. We should not discount that Google simply does not want their product on a model that is not capable of providing the same experience. Can the other models run the software at the same level as the Roku 3 even without its higher end processor? If YouTube were to run badly on say the Roku 1 or LT or the older generation models like the Roku HD then there could be a firestorm of negative headlines for Roku and YouTube “New Roku YouTube Channel Crashes on Majority of Models”. That sort of press and angry public reaction on message boards and through word of mouth is not something that either company wants.

Could This Be A Money Grab?
Yes. It is also possible that YouTube has been released on the most expensive Roku model just before Christmas as a way to push the product as part of its Holliday blitz that has included price cuts on all of its models, commercials on TV, movies screens and the Internet as well as the inclusion of other channels like Watch ESPN. Roku has used its product updates and commercial rollouts to repeatedly gain eyeballs and win the day in the media. We will know whether this is the case as we move forward. If YouTube becomes available on its older models soon after the big ball drops in time square then we can assume that the timing of the release was not a coincidence. As of right now the inclusion of YouTube is highlighted as a feature specific to the Roku 3 on the company’s product profile site . If YouTube never becomes available for other products then it means that Roku either rewarding those who spend for the premium product or that the channel will not run up to the performance standards set by Google and Roku.

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Review of Roku’s PlayCast App (thestreamingadvisor.com)

Not exactly air play like (thestreamingadvisor.com)

Ryan Michael Downey
In a highly anticipated move the Google Chromecast has added HBO Go to its list of officially supported apps. HBO-Go, which is an Internet based service from Time Warner owned HBO, provides on demand viewing of its library of original shows and movies along withimage a large selection of feature films and documentaries. The films change frequently to reflect what is in the TV stations rotation. Until now Chromecast  users could only access HBO Go via a laptop using its Google Chrome tab mirroring abilities. The service is only available to those who possess the ability to authenticate a cable subscription. Besides cable access smart phone or tablet users will have to have the HBO Go App installed. This brings the number of officially supported app for the device to six. The device also supports Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora and Google Play movies, TV and music. The Chromecast has been adding support for the most popular internet services slowly but surely as it builds partnerships with media companies who must first Integrate DIAL support.

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Ryan Michael Downey Roku‘s new firmware is available for manual download via its settings menu. the update unlocks many new features. From new looks for familiar apps to freshly integrated features  like M-Go on demand services and Roku’s news service, the update gives Roku a new shine heading in to the holiday season. New Universal Search Features The universal search now includes results from M-Go along with all of the other choices in the select group of video apps linked to the search feature. In fact the universal search feature is the only way to look for specific titles  in M-Go, which has no native search feature,

The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.
The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.

more on this later. Also included in the search results are Netflix, Block Buster on Demand, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu, Crackle, Red Box Instant and HBO Go.  This means that despite Roku including M-Go in its main menu it is not attempting to stifle competition from other on demand apps when searching for individual titles or actors. The look of the interface gets a slightly different feel also but still remains a helpful way to find selections across a wide spectrum of the set-top box’s featured apps. Netflix Changes The visually stunning new Netflix interface brings it in line with Netflix’s cross-platform upgrade meant to give the service a uniform look across all of the devices that offer the industry-leading streaming app. Roku users will now be able to select personalized profiles before launching the app, which means no more cartoons and children’s movies taking up real-estate in mom or dad’s queue. While this feature had been available on other platforms already this marks its

The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to  to highlight  it features.
The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to to highlight it features.

debut on Roku. The personal profiles are not the only new experience. When navigating Netflix’s menus  any given selection launches a loop of pictures from the film or TV show to give viewers a sneak peek at the visual style of the feature,  like the feature art on the back of a DVD or Blu-ray disk. A description for the given selection is prominently displayed in the upper left hand corner of the screen which also includes ratings, video playback quality and length (for movies).  The app even lets users behind the curtain to know why a given selection was recommended.  Last but not least video selections load more quickly. No more similar to Feature One major omission from the functionality front is that users can no longer view selections that are similar to a given movie or TV show with the push of a button. Under the original format pressing the asterisk on the remote previously brought up a menu of selections either related thematically to the current selection or other selections featuring the stars of movie or TV show. This would link a tittle such as Batman Beyond with the Avengers because they are both comic book movies or Thor to Charlie Bartlett because Cat Denning appears in both features. It was a helpful discovery tool that will be missed by those who utilized it. Unchanged Features Not everything about the Netflix experience has changed. If you had a “My List” it will still be available as will all of the specially created niche categories based on personalized ratings and preferences. Everything from because you watched “given title” and the specifically tailored selections “Zombie Based Dark Comedies” are alive  and well. M-Go On Demand TV Shows and Movies While Roku has for years featured many ways to access newly released movies and next day viewing of television shows it has up until now given all of the platforms equal treatment. Users have had the option to add Amazon, Vudu and most recently Target Ticket at their leisure or leave them out of the equation completely. That has changed with the new firmware. Just under the “My Channels” heading in Roku’s main menu is a heading for “Movies” and a heading for “TV Shows”. Both of these selections will shuttle users to M-Go, Roku’s official partner in on demand viewing. The feature is similar to Apple TV’s integration with the iTunes store. M-Go though is not owned and operated by Roku. Because it is partnered with Roku an M-Go account can be created with the push of a button using the email registered to the your Roku account as well as the credit card used to register the device. This saves users the trouble of having to go to a website and enter all of their information before diving in to the selections. Using M-Go TV: The TV selections are broken down by Top 50 TV, New Releases, TV Deals (which is a selection of bargain prices on lots of popular content) and of course “All” which will populate all available titles. There are also separate sections for purchased content and a watch list for those who want a reminder to purchase the latest episodes of their favorites. Television shows can be purchased by the episode or by the season. Movies: Movies are set up in a similar fashion to the television section. They are broken down in to genre categories along with the “My Movie Watch List” and “My Movie Library” for purchased digital content where purchased movies will stay readily available. Not unlike Vudu and other services M-Go also includes sub sections such as “Marvel Super Heroes”. Try For Free As an added bonus M-Go will give new users two free movie selections from its catalogue Lack of Discovery Engine One drawback of the M-Go service is that it does not have a service specific search. Unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and others who have a search feature embedded in to their apps, users looking for specific content on M-Go must use the Roku’s universal search. This means that M-Go titles will be populated side by side with selections from other services. Also despite its genre categorizes  selections are also not organized in any way. When searching for TV shows there is no separation based on Network affiliation nor are the selections listed in alphabetical order. This is a curious omission that almost emulates the days of the discount DVD box at a big box store. When accessing media on a device that is built on the idea of customization of media it is off-putting to search for a movie or television show in that fashion. Roku’s New News Section Roku has partnered with AOL to bring an integrated video news service on to the device. The News heading is listed under TV shows and features short video segments from categories across the spectrum. The categories include News, Entertainment, Technology, Business, Health, Travel and Weird News. The service is easy to navigate and will help users quickly catch up on the headlines of the day with a few clicks. The segments load fast in full HD and will continue from story to story until the user stops. With a selection of models starting as low as $50.00 before various holiday mark downs Roku’s continued firmware improvements and apps may well make it a big winner this Christmas.