Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #50

Hi, everyone !!

On 30th January 2014, The Huffington Post announced VIA THIS ARTICLE that the annual cost for the 'Amazon Prime' service could be set to rise from $79.00 per year to possibly as much as $119.00 per year with no added benefit to it's members. At the time, I speculated that (if this increase were to go ahead) the equivalent cost for the UK version of the 'Amazon Prime' service might also rise from it's current level of £49.00 to a far less wallet-friendly £79.00 to keep it in-line with the pricing for the USA 'Amazon Prime' service. Of course, the main difference with the USA version had been that 'Amazon Prime' members in the USA had the added benefit of FREE ACCESS to 'Prime Instant Video' (the US equivalent of 'LoveFilm Instant' in the UK) included with their service as well as the free priority shipping and free Kindle books which is all that UK 'Amazon Prime' members got for their money. For Roku owners in the USA, there was the ADDED BONUS of being able to stream the content of the 'Prime Instant Video' service via THIS CHANNEL which could be added FREE-OF-CHARGE to their streaming media player(s) making the service far more attractive to Roku owners.

In fact, it was the absence of 'LoveFilm Instant' (i.e. the UK equivalent of the 'Prime Instant Video' service) that kept me from subscribing to the 'Amazon Prime' service from Amazon UK because I thought Amazon were playing some sort of "Rip-Off Britain" game by denying such benefits to UK customers, whilst giving them freely to consumers in the USA. Those of you who have been following the companion Twitter Feed to this blog: @ukrokuchannels will already be aware that I have been repeatedly asking Amazon to instigate a similar offering for the UK market, not least of all because I wanted to get a 'LoveFilm Instant' channel developed for UK Roku players. Believing this could be achieved by cloning the 'Amazon Instant Video' channel (see icon above) and modifying it for UK Roku players to produce a 'LoveFilm Instant' channel, it was something I felt could be easily achieved for the greater good of all parties concerned. Now, I cannot say for certain whether it was down to my petitioning Amazon that prompted Amazon UK into action but, for whatever reason, during the past week came THIS ANNOUNCEMENT that 'LoveFilm Instant' was to become 'Prime Instant Video' in the UK after a merge with 'Amazon Prime' UK service by parent company Amazon.

To see what this means for existing customers of 'LoveFilm Instant' and/or 'LoveFilm By Post' as well as 'Amazon Prime' members, compared with new customers of the I recommend that you have a read through THIS ARTICLE by Pocket-Lint, which breaks it all down for you. To clarify matters even further, there is THIS HELP GUIDE on the transition to 'Prime Instant Video' on the 'LoveFilm' site. Essentially... existing 'LoveFilm Instant' members are getting a rebrand plus the ability to rent or buy from 50, 000 digital media titles from the Amazon Instant Video catalogue (not included with their 'LoveFilm Instant' membership fee) and existing 'Amazon Prime' members are getting access to 15,000 movies & TV episodes thrown in for free (although it will cost them an extra £30.00 per year, once their existing 'Amazon Prime' subscription runs out). The sweetest deal is for those who take out a new 'Amazon Prime' UK membership in the next few days, as shown in this screenshot:-

HINT: Click on the above image to ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!

Basically, if you subscribe for your FREE 30-DAY TRIAL before 26th February 2014 then you will effectively "lock-in" your 'Amazon Prime' membership until March 2015 for the current fee of £49.00 per year, instead of the new increased cost of £79.00 per year which will apply from that date onwards. In other words, you can get all of the benefits of the £79.00 per year 'Amazon Prime' membership (which will include the 'Prime Instant Video' aspect) for the same £49.00 per year fee paid by 'Amazon Prime' members for the (current) service comprised of no more than next-day delivery & free access to the Kindle Lending Library for books. Considering that an annual subscription to 'LoveFilm Instant' currently works out at £71.88 on it's own, the opportunity to purchase the same service for just £49.00 for the year, with FREE NEXT-DAY DELIVERY for all of your Amazon UK purchases plus FREE ACCESS TO 500,000 BOOKS via the Amazon Kindle Lending Library is a bit of a no-brainer, if you ask me !! So, what are you waiting for?!!

As a UK Roku owner, if you opt for a new 'Amazon Prime' membership, it's still a bit of a gamble as to whether you'll see the 'Amazon Instant Video' channel added to your UK Roku player(s) before your 'Amazon Prime' subscription renews in March 2015 for the higher price of £79.00 per year BUT, all things considered, if (like me) you have other ways to view your 'Prime Instant Video' content until the 'Amazon Instant Video' channel (hopefully) does get added to your UK Roku player(s) this is too good an opportunity to miss. Let's face it, you're practically halving the annual cost of your 'LoveFilm Instant' subscription anyway and, if you enjoy reading books via Kindle or would welcome free next-day delivery of all your orders from Amazon UK for the next year, then you're quids in !!!!!!

PLUS... let's not forget, the fact that there is already an 'Amazon Instant Video' channel on USA Roku players does tend to suggest that we will more than likely see the channel added to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store at some point, surely?! There's even a further clue from the compatible devices illustrated in the UK 'Amazon Prime' promo (shown above) where what can only be a Roku player or a NowTV Box is positioned in the front row (on the right) below the TV:-

Actually, come to think of it, it must be a Roku... because you can even see the 'Roku' tag on the left of the player which, of course, the NowTV Box does not have (never mind the fact that NowTV would never allow the addition of an 'Amazon Instant Video' channel to their streaming media player!). Then there's the little LED on the front of it, just like on a Roku, so we have to assume that the Roku player is going to be supported in future... even if it's not right now !!! Otherwise, what do they mean by, "you can watch Prime Instant Video on... streaming players", when we already know that Roku owners in the USA have been watching it on their "streaming players" for several years now?! But, don't take my word for it, especially since (at this point) it's pure speculation, instead just have a read of the small-print in the partial screenshot (below), then look at the illustration beside it, and decide for yourselves...

HINT: Click on the above image to ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!

What I will say is... quite a few people have been asking me if I think that we'll see an 'Amazon Instant' channel on UK Roku players and, whilst I cannot say "yes" with absolute certainty, from what I know thus far I'd say it's fairly likely that we will. Meanwhile, if any of you want to take advantage of the special offer for new 'Amazon Prime' subscriptions, you can do so VIA THIS LINK but be sure you subscribe BEFORE 26th FEBRUAY to "lock-in" your membership at £49.00 !!

Anyway, never mind what is (or might be) yet to come, instead let's get on with what we've already got for you in terms of Roku-related news from the past week... perhaps the most significant of which was THIS ANNOUNCEMENT on Friday 21st February via Bloomberg News, that Roku are considering an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the USA at sometime during 2014. Apparently a decision to move ahead with going public hasn't been made, since Roku has yet to appoint a lead banker. That said, with THIS NEWS STORY from USA Today proclaiming that Amazon are set to release their own set-top box as early as March 2014, it's hardly surprising that Roku would look to generate extra funding to move forward, whilst defending their current market position, and continue to fight competition from Apple TV and Chromecast as well as any potential newcomers to the streaming arena, especially those with the clout of a company such as Amazon with their already established content partnerships.

In other related news, there was a minor software update for NowTV Boxes during the week with the overnight implementation of 'version 4.9 build 8509' to replace another recent update which came in the form of 'version 4.9 build 8506' and, like it's predecessor, the latest version offered very little in terms of improvements for the end-user. In fact... if THIS THREAD, from the 'NowTV Community' Forums, is anything to go by, it offered nothing more than updates to security, filters and server locations. Mind you, those behind-the-scenes changes may have something to do with the forthcoming 'ITV Player' channel for the NowTV Box (and, hopefully, UK Roku players) which was recently touted as part of a wider agreement for the new 'ITV Encore' channel. OK, so it's purely speculative (once again) on my part, but something 'positive' has got to happen on the NowTV Box soon, surely?! It's been months !!

Meanwhile, in addition to all that, we've also had some more new readers coming to the pages of this blog. Once again there were many repeat visits from the various countries that I've mentioned in previous posts and, as with four weeks ago, there were another two countries that had not yet graced the pages of this blog until now. So, before we go any further with the current 'Weekly RoundUp', I'd first like to extend a warm welcome to those new readers from Bahrain and the Dominican Republic, who each took the time to pay a maiden visit during the past seven days.

To those new readers, and to everyone else who continues to read my Roku-related ramblings here on this blog, I'd just like to say... "Thanks for stopping by" & long may you continue to do so.

Anyway, let's now press on with the details for the current 'Weekly RoundUp' of NEW ADDITIONS to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store. This time, there are SEVEN NEW CHANNELS which have been added during the past seven days. These latest additions to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store provided FRESH CONTENT to the Games, News, Weather, Sport, Special Interest, Screensavers & Apps, plus Religion & Spirituality genres (i.e. categories).

In keeping with previous installments from the 'Weekly RoundUp' series, details of these new channels have all been listed below, together with links to obtain further information {by clicking on the channel name(s) beneath the respective channel icon(s) as pictured} and to read a 'Roku Guide' review (where available) with an independent (slightly more expansive) assessment of each one:-

SHUT THE BOX....................................COST: £0.69 (ONE-OFF PAYMENT) [Roku Guide Review]

BIRDIE.................................................COST: £0.69 (ONE-OFF PAYMENT) [Roku Guide Review]

THE REAL NEWS...................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

6TH PLANET........................................COST: £1.49 (ONE-OFF PAYMENT) [Roku Guide Review]

PLEASE NOTE:- As with 'Propel Man' (see "Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #48" published a fortnight ago) & 'Coconut Dodge' (see "Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #47" from three weeks back) this game is currently ONLY AVAILABLE FOR ROKU 3 PLAYERS !!!!!! The avid gamers among you may well recall '6th Planet' from it's original incarnation on the Apple iOS platform, where it is still available for both iPhone & iPad as well as iPod Touch, and where it was first launched back in 2010. If you're not yet familiar with the game, but would like to know more, you'll find a dedicated website VIA THIS LINK and you can view additional screenshots plus read more about it on the 'iTunes Preview' page FOUND HERE which, incidentally, also lists a string of review scores & awards afforded to the original game (as developed by 'Monkube' Ltd). Speaking of which, the iOS version is now COMPLETELY FREE for anyone with a compatible mobile device from Apple so, if you want to keep your hand in (so-to-speak) while you're away from your Roku player, there's an EXTRA BONUS for you. For the record, the Roku version of the game was developed by 'Marmalade Play' who (from the look of things) have kept things pretty faithful to the iOS version. It's a pity the Roku game isn't free too, but 'Marmalade' have to be paid somehow !!

Anyway, as you'll see from the channel description (via the Roku website), what you're getting for your money is a 2D Platform Game in which you must guide your space pod through 50 levels, divided across seven different worlds, to arrive safely at the landing site on each level. The concept is a fairly simple one but, once you start playing the game, you'll soon find out that it's quite difficult to master. There are a handful of screenshots in the Roku Channel Store details (on Roku 3 players) and you can get a better idea of what to expect from the additional screenshots included in the 'iTunes Preview' (see link above) but, in my opinion, you'll get a much better feel for the game from this 'YouTube' video trailer uploaded by 'TheGameTrail' which really shows of the artwork well:- 

HINT: If you happen to own a Roku 3, which (as I said) you'll need to have in order to add/play this game, you could even USE THE NEW 'YouTube' CHANNEL TO WATCH THIS VIDEO on the big screen. If you launch the channel on your Roku 3 and perform a SEARCH FOR the video using the term, '6th Planet iPhone/iPod Trailer', you should be able to find it easily enough. It's just over two minutes long... so it won't take up too much of your time and, if you do decide to watch it on your Roku-connected television, you'll be able to see more clearly what the game will look like when it's up & running on the big screen before deciding whether to purchase it for yourself. Fans of comic book art should note that there is also a stand-alone "6th Planet" comic book, featuring original artwork from the game, available to buy through all major iPad comic apps. Go on... you know you want it !!

CENTRAL UNITED METHODIST..............................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

WUSHU MASTER...................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

NOWHERE PIX.....................................COST: £0.69 (ONE-OFF PAYMENT) [Roku Guide Review]


Still, whether it's using an Instagram-based screensaver to view some of your favourite photos on your TV, watching a mixture of live and on-demand church services, or catching up on some daily video news & analysis via a non-profit, viewer-supported network news service, playing the Roku equivalent of (the now discontinued) 'Flappy Bird', or testing your brain (as well as your luck), either alone or with friends, to compete for the lowest score, or taking the role of a 'space monkey' to pilot a lunar pod across seven different worlds (comprised of fifty levels), or (perhaps) even getting martial arts instruction from hundreds of the best & most difficult-to-find martial arts training videos (incl. Tai Chi, Shaolin Boxing, Wing Chun & many other styles) straight from China... we've pretty much got all of those covered with these latest NEW ADDITIONS to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store.

Anyway, like it or not, that is your lot for this week and, whilst it doesn't quite the match-up to the eighteen channels which made it into the "Official" Roku USA Channel Store during the same time-frame, I always think it's better to have SOME NEW CHOICES than none at all, don't you ?!!

Still, hopefully everyone in the UK with a Roku player managed to find something they like within the seven channels outlined above. If not, then you'll just have to pay us a visit another time when, with any luck, there will be something more to your liking. Afterall, there's no point installing every channel because, as I've said before, when it comes to adding new channels to your Roku player, IT'S YOUR CHOICE and, as with all things Roku... THE CHOICE IS ALWAYS YOURS !!


In the meantime, for my last twenty-eight 'Weekly RoundUp' posts, I have been suggesting we spare a thought for all the poor folk who handed over their hard-earned cash for one of those NowTV Boxes [Powered by Sky] which, as you may recall, have (so far) totally failed to live up to their full potential. Likewise, the original promise from NowTV of "more apps being continually added", is yet to be adhered to, since there has been ONLY ONE NEW CHANNEL ADDED to the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box SINCE THE PRODUCT LAUNCHED. Moreover, it seems the Roku channel developers at NowTV are now more creative with tumbleweed than they are with new channels...

HINT: Click on the above image to ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!


ARTIST CREDIT: Kirsten Stoltmann

The title of this piece is "Chrome Tumbleweed On Southwestern Rug" which suggests to me that someone in the 'NowTV' community must have requested a "Chrome" browser channel for the streaming media player and, given their creative flair with tumbleweed, the Roku channel developers for the NowTV Box probably mistook the 'Chrome' browser for chrome spray-paint and came up with this effort instead. However, rumours that the "Southwestern Rug" was (ahem) "lifted" by said Roku channel developer on their train journey into London (from the south west region) that day have yet to be substantiated. Still, if they get it right, a NowTV / Roku browser would be most welcome !!

Joking aside, this piece of contemporary art was created by Kirsten Stoltmann (see "artist credit" above) who, as with much of her work, drew from her own experiences of growing up in the American Mid-West to illustrate how this symbol of nature & freedom (i.e. the tumbleweed) has been confined and domesticated by the carpet base on which it stands. Born in Milwaukee, her art career began in video but has since progressed to embrace object-making, such as the example used above from 2007. As well as her Midwestern roots, her work often references feminism, sexuality, adolescent culture and self-deprecating humour. For a more recent example of her work, WATCH THIS VIDEO, which was uploaded to the artist's Vimeo Account last year & is called "The First To Arrive" and is sure to provoke a reaction of one form or another... assuming you 'get' the humour, of course !!

Meanwhile, it's likely to be of no surprise to any of you that (as with EVERY WEEK BAR ONE since it was launched) there has (once more) been literally NO ACTION in terms of NEW ADDITIONS to the Roku Channel Store selection on the NowTV Box. What this means is that, over the course of the past week, NowTV have (again) produced a (NOT SO) GRAND TOTAL of ZERO NEW CHANNELS to add to their (already SEVERELY REDUCED) version of the Roku Channel Store as included on their NowTV Box. Meanwhile, the "Official" Roku Channel Store that features on all UK Roku players has added a further SEVEN EXTRA CHANNELS during that same period of time. To keep things firmly in perspective, in the thirty weeks since the launch of the NowTV Box, there has been a total of TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO EXTRA CHANNELS added to the Roku Channel Store on UK Roku players, as compared with ONE EXTRA CHANNEL being added to the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box. That, surely, must tell you something ?!!!

Like I've said in previous weeks, it seems to be a case of one step forward and two steps back when it comes to the meagre selection of channels available in the Roku Channel Store which features on the streaming media player from NowTV. To illustrate my point... from the moment that the NowTV Box was launched, they have managed to completely lose 'WatchIndia' and 'USTV Now', with 'HooplaKidz' plus 'VEVO' electing to hide out in the "Most Popular" channels category and 'Havoc Television' going completely AWOL from the channel store all together (although it will still be listed among "My Channels" if you happen to have added it previously)... presumably they all went into hiding from the embarrassment associated with the lack of channels in their original channel store categories on the NowTV Box - and who can blame them for that, poor things ?!!

Sadly, this means that there is still a total of just 47 CHANNELS to be found in the NowTV Box version of the Roku Channel Store PLUS the 'NOW TV' and 'Sky Store' channels, but (let's not forget) they are only there by default and not included with the apps (i.e. channels) in the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box. So, leaving aside the "Most Popular" channels and any additional channels listed under "My Channels" (as I do with my channel count for the Roku player), when it comes to the actual Roku Channel Store categories on the NowTV Box, there remains no more than a paltry 45 channels in total, compared with 775+ in the channel store on UK Roku players !!!

Bearing this in mind... whilst the NowTV Box won't exactly leave you out-of-pocket, if you are after a streaming media player which can genuinely boast of "more apps being continually added" and is a lot less likely to leave you wanting by the time you settle-in for a family movie over Easter, then I strongly advise you to do yourselves a BIG FAVOUR and spend the extra twenty quid or so to get a genuine original Roku LT streaming media player that will allow you to ACCESS NETFLIX plus many other film & tv channels (incl. NowTV) as well as having the 'Plex' channel readily available via the channel store and will give you more than 725 EXTRA CHANNELS TO CHOOSE FROM when compared with the selection (currently) found on a NowTV Box.


Still, whether you happen to own a Roku player, a NowTV Box, OR BOTH, as I do... be sure to come back in seven days' time for my next 'Weekly RoundUp' and, if you can't wait that long, remember you can always keep up with all the UK Roku action (as it happens) throughout the coming week, by following the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels where up-to-the-minute info on all things Roku-related (here in the UK) is posted on a daily basis (well, almost).

Until the next time, then...

That's all folks !!

No comments:

Post a Comment