Saturday, April 26, 2014

Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #59

Hi, everyone !!

Unless you have had no access to the internet and/or your Roku player during the past week, then I'm sure you will have discovered the BIG NEWS in terms of Roku, for the UK & ALL REGIONS, was the announcement, VIA THIS BLOG POST, that the 'YouTube' channel for Roku was made available to "all current-generation devices" as of Tuesday 22nd April 2014. Specifically for UK Roku owners, this means that ALL UK ROKU MODELS now have support for 'YouTube' (including: 'Roku LT', 'Roku 2 XS', 'Roku 1' and 'Roku 2' players) and it's not just those with a 'Roku 3' or the latest 'Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version)' who are able to enjoy all that the channel can offer. 

Of course, once the details had been announced via the "Official" Roku Blog, it didn't take long for the news to be shared via social media, as this screenshot of a followup tweet from Roku confirms:-

By the time the news made it onto the "Official" Roku Facebook page, the excitement had reached fever pitch even provoking violent outbursts from some... one fan, Basulto Gulliver, was so overcome that he (apparently) gave Roku multiple "THUMPS" for their "great service" as evidenced below:- 

NO, WAIT! He must've been giving them a "THUMBS UP" at the good news, after almost giving-up on Roku for not having the 'YouTube' channel on his particular model. Well... we all know how you were feeling, Basulto, but (fortunately) none of us have to take any drastic action (violent or otherwise) because Roku came up TRUMPS, rather than "thumps", by satisfying our need for 'YouTube' on all current-generation models... so, "THANKS, ROKU!" and, not forgetting... "THANKS, YOUTUBE!"

Aside from all the GREAT CONTENT offered by the multitude of 'YouTube' users out there, the addition of the 'YouTube' channel to all current-generation Roku models will (hopefully) mean we can access all of our 'Google Play' movie purchases and rentals through the 'YouTube' channel for Roku. As of now, I have yet to test this particular functionality out but I feel fairly certain that this should work given that you used to be able to do it with 'Google Play' & 'YouTube' via Google TV and vice versa. If anyone already succeeded in doing this, perhaps you'd be kind enough to leave a comment below?!

One thing I am certain of is that users of 'Roku LT' & 'Roku 2 XS', as well as the newer 'Roku 1' or 'Roku 2' models, will no longer have to rely on 'Twonky' or 'Plex' for access to the 3,500 hours of footage from the British Pathé library of 85,000 videos, that are slowly being made available online via 'YouTube', because now (just like owners of the 'Roku 3' & 'Roku Streaming Stick' devices) this wealth of content can be ACCESSED ON ALL AVAILABLE UK ROKU MODELS !!

Meanwhile those of you who read my "Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #58", where I first made mention of the British Pathé collection, will (no doubt) have also seen my comments regarding the UK release of the new Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) [Model 3500EU] which was brought forward from the original date of April 21st (published by Media Streaming Market) to the (slightly) earlier date of 18th April 2014 (advertised by Currys / PC World) and then to Tuesday 15th April 2014 (when it was first listed as available to "BUY NOW" via Media Streaming Market). What puzzled me was WHY, given the supposed widespread availability of the new Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) [Model 3500EU] in the UK, there had been NO UK REVIEWS published online (either video reviews & unboxings, via 'YouTube', or written reviews from the various tech sites and UK media outlets / newspapers). It further troubled me that I had yet to come across a packshot for the UK version of the new Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) [Model 3500EU] and I began to question just how "available" the new 'Roku Stick' was in the UK?! Such was the extent of my concern(s) over the matter that I put out a request for anyone with a genuine UK version of the Roku HDMI Streaming Stick [Model 3500EU] to take a few photographs and post them via social media. Luckily, my call was answered by Ian Roberts [Twitter Feed: @sonartribe] who very kindly uploaded photographs of both the front and rear of the packaging for the UK Roku Stick. Since then, I've had a chance to crop & resize those images to focus on the detail and have decided to include them within this blog post for the benefit of UK Roku purchasers. So, here they are... and first up is the front of the slip-case which houses the main (purple) box containing the Roku Stick plus accessories:-

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

The first thing I noticed from this photo was just how far short of the mark Roku were (once again) in providing details of the UK Roku channel count for their latest streaming device. Some of you may recall a similar situation when the 'Roku 3' as well as the newer 'Roku 1' and 'Roku 2' models were released in the UK (i.e. around September / October 2013) where, as with the Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) [Model 3500EU], the figure quoted was several hundred channels fewer than it ought to be. In the case of the Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version), it's barely more than half what it should be with the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store rapidly closing in on the one thousand channel marker as I type this post. Anyone wishing to view the current channel total during any given week should, in future, refer to my "Official Roku UK Channel Store - Overview", FOUND HERE, for a more precise figure (accurate to within seven days) of the number of channels in each channel store genre (i.e. category). For the record, the exact number of Roku channels available in the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store during the week that the Roku Streaming Stick hit the shelves in UK stores (i.e. Currys / PC World) was NINE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX CHANNELS which, as you can see, is FAR MORE THAN QUOTED by Roku on the packaging for their latest product. Quite why Roku choose to undersell themselves in such a drastic fashion is completely beyond me... especially when, by doing so, these woefully inaccurate figures are then echoed across the website(s) for every online Roku retailer and reviewer of the product !! You'd think that, by using a slip-case (as they have done here), they could LEAVE THE PRINTING (of the slip-case) plus the final packaging procedure (i.e. the addition of the slip-case to the main product housing) UNTIL THE VERY LAST MOMENT so that the channel count could be as accurate as possible in each case... surely?! But, NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On the plus side, THE GOOD NEWS IS... that the new Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) [Model 3500EU] has become the 4th Roku device in the UK to officially support the '4oD' channel (along with the original 'Roku LT' and 'Roku 2 XS', plus the newer 'Roku 3' streaming media player). Hopefully, since the 'Roku 1' and 'Roku 2' (as well as all other UK Roku models) now have support for the official 'YouTube' channel, it won't be too much longer before they get '4oD' as well !! Let's not forget it was only last week that Roku confirmed, VIA THIS COMMENT, on Facebook that '4oD' will be available "on additional Roku player models in the UK in the future" so it can only be a matter of time now before all UK Roku owners have access to CatchUpTV from Channel Four on their boxes. Of course the glaring omission (in terms of UK CatchUpTV on Roku), when looking at the above slip-case image, is a channel icon for 'ITV Player' to complete the set. Having heard as far back as January, VIA THIS PRESS RELEASE, that a deal between Sky and ITV for the new 'ITV Encore' channel would bring 'ITV Player' to the NowTV Box (as part of a wider agreement between the two) it seems HIGHLY LIKELY that, once that happens, we'll see it added to UK Roku players too !!

Anyway, enough about the front of the slip-case... as I'm sure you're keen to see what the rear panel looks like, too, and whether (or not) they managed to avoid the embarrassment of picturing the 'Crackle' channel when, as we recently found out, that service is no longer supported in the UK for any platform. So, without further ado, here is a close-up of the detail on the rear of the slip-case for the Roku Stick:- 

AS BEFORE... Click on the above image TO ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!

And, as you can see, there's (thankfully) no sign of the 'Crackle' channel icon anywhere on the box. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the "Film & TV" or "Most Popular" categories of the Roku UK Channel Store where, FOR SOME UNEXPLAINED REASON, the 'Crackle' channel remains and can still be added to UK Roku players despite it's only function now being to display an on-screen message informing us that the channel is no longer supported in UK.... GREAT! THANKS A LOT! Now, several people have (quite justifiably) asked me why the channel is still in the channel store when it no longer serves any useful purpose on UK Roku players and I, for my part, am equally keen to get an answer to that particular question. However, despite sending messages to both Crackle and Roku on the subject, no-one has been courteous enough to comment on the matter... let alone do anything to fix the problem by removing the channel from the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store altogether. So... if anyone from Sony / Crackle or Roku reads this then, PLEASE, do something to RESOLVE THIS !!!!!

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 TEN NEW CHANNELS which have been added during the past seven days. These latest additions to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store line-up have provided us with FRESH CONTENT in the News, Weather, Sport, Internet TV, 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 with an independent (slightly more expansive) assessment of each one:-

KENNEDY CLASSICS..........................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

MY FOX BOSTON NEWS.....................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

CAPE NAZARENE...............................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

HAITI HD LIVE....................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

PLEASE NOTE:- That whilst this channel is FREE-TO-ADD and (currently) also free-to-view, the Roku Channel Store description does state that it "May require additional fees" so it could be that the channel is offering it's programming free-of-charge on a temporary basis by way of a "Preview" and that, at some time in the future, this situation could change & that a subscription would then be needed in order to view the content on your Roku player. SO... GET IT WHILE IT'S FREE !!!

WRAL NEWS RALEIGH DURHAM........................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

MY FOX PHILLY NEWS.......................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

MY FOX DFW NEWS..........................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

MY FOX DC NEWS..............................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

MY FOX TAMPA BAY NEWS...............................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

IN THE FIGHT FREE............................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]


Anyway, like it or not, that is your lot for this week and, whilst it doesn't quite the match-up to the thirteen 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 ten 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 thirty-seven '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. So, pretty much like every other week, when time moves on... so, it seems, does the tumbleweed:-

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


In actual fact, the tumbleweed 'photo' used above is a still image taken from a short video that featured in an article, curiously titled "Rolling In The Cash - The Tumbleweed Tycoon", which was published by Kevin Sites and can be viewed in it's entirety, VIA THIS LINK, on his blog. Forming part of a series called "People Of The Web", the video gives a brief insight into how Midwestern entrepreneur, Linda Katz, err... "tumbled" (ahem!) into a small fortune, making thousands on the internet, by building a business selling "a piece of the old west" online. However, suggestions that this idea for making vast profits from selling "nothing" or "nowt" (if you prefer) formed the blueprint for the business model which led to the NowTV Box have yet to be substantiated. Still, it is (perhaps) of no small coincidence that the word "nowt" makes-up 80% of the word 'NowTV' who, like Linda Katz, have clearly made a lot of money for, err... nowt (ahem!). Certainly, all the people who have paid out their hard-earned cash in recent weeks for a 'Sky Sports Day Pass' (at £9.99 for only 24hrs viewing... cough!) only to find that they were unable to watch their chosen sporting event(s) because of "technical difficulties" will feel that they forked-out for nothing! Likewise... all those other NowTV customers who each spent £4.99 for an 'Entertainment Month Pass' hoping to stream live episodes from the new series of "Game Of Thrones" on a Monday night, only to be hit by the same "technical difficulties" experienced by NowTV sports fans before them, will (doubtless) feel similarly aggrieved at what went on. To their credit, the folks at NowTV have been compensating viewers (in most cases) but I'm sure each and every one of the people affected by these "technical difficulties" would rather have watched what they paid for than have to be compensated for that which they could not. Of course, NowTV can hardly blame the lack of any new additions to the Roku Channel Store for NowTV boxes on "technical difficulties" because, as we all know, their streaming media player is capable of having ANY CHANNEL that features on original Roku models such as the 'Roku LT' added to it's channel selection. The only reason it doesn't is because NowTV (themselves) dictate which channels will or won't be added to the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box. Essentially, this means there will be no movie channels other than 'NowTV' (which shows content from Sky Movies) and 'Sky Store' (which shows pay-per-view content, such as was previously found in Sky Box Office) added to the streaming media player from NowTV unless they adopt a less ring-fenced approach to the Roku Channel Store that features on their device. 

Consequently, it's likely to be of no surprise to any of you that (as with EVERY WEEK BAR ONE since launch) 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 TEN EXTRA CHANNELS during that same period of time. To keep things firmly in perspective, in the thirty-nine weeks since the launch of the NowTV Box, there has been a total of FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN 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 '4oD' being  the one & only channel added to the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box since it launched !! Most recently it was the turn of the 'Flixster' channel to up-sticks and leave it's original home in the "Film & TV" category to hide-out in the "Most Popular" channels, presumably preferring the (relative) obscurity of a twenty-five channel lineup to the company of just seven other channels with which it had shared a genre upto that point. At least the 'Havoc Television' channel which, until a couple of months ago (or thereabouts), had been 'AWOL' for a very long time and the 'VEVO' channel (which had been missing an "official" Roku Channel Store category on the NowTV Box for a similar period) have both managed to stay put for the past seven weeks, having found their way back into the 'Music' genre (i.e. category) of the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box. Likewise... the other channel lacking an "official" Roku Channel Store category on the NowTV Box for quite some time, namely 'HooplaKidz Rhymes', remains part of "Internet TV".

Whilst this means there are still 48 CHANNELS to be found in the NowTV Box version of the Roku Channel Store PLUS the 'NOW TV' and 'Sky Store' channels which (as I said before) keeps the overall total pegged at fifty channels (as there were at launch) let's not forget those last two are only there by default and not included with the apps (i.e. channels) in the Roku Channel Store on the NowTV Box. If we then leave aside the "Most Popular" channels and any additional ones listed in "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 47 channels in total compared with 925+ 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 the summer holiday period begins, 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 both the 'Plex' and 'YouTube' channels readily available via the channel store and will give you more than 875 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 !!