Saturday, February 4, 2017

Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #204

Hi, everyone !!

Before I get into the Roku-specific and/or Roku-related news from the past week, I'd just like to draw your attention to a LIMITED-TIME SPECIAL OFFER on the flagship 'Roku 3' streaming player via the Tesco Direct website. Please be aware that the deal price is for THIS WEEKEND ONLY and the T&C's state that THE OFFER ENDS ON MONDAY 6th FEBRUARY 2017... so, if you want to take advantage of this HUGE SAVING on the top-of-the-range UK Roku model, you will need to be sure that you ACT FAST to secure your discount of 51% OFF THE ORIGINAL MSRP OF £99.99 and get a 'Roku 3' with FREE DELIVERY TO YOUR LOCAL TESCO STORE via Tesco "Click & Collect"!

HINT:- Please CLICK on the above image TO ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!

To get a 'Roku 3' for ONLY £49.00 WITH FREE 'CLICK & COLLECT' TO YOUR LOCAL TESCO simply visit the relevant product page from the Tesco Direct website, before the offer ends and make your purchase online, for collection in-store at a later date. No matter whether you are looking to buy your first Roku device in the UK, or add another (e.g. to a second television) to expand your viewing options, this is a really great price for this flagship streaming media player from Roku in the UK! :-)

It is also AN IDEAL OPPORTUNITY for owners of 'NowTV' branded devices to improve on their (massively restricted) NowTV boxes, somewhat misleadingly labelled as "Roku Powered": with only 51 Roku channels in the built-in App Store, for an original UK Roku-branded streaming device that offers a vastly superior choice of 3,500+ Roku channels (including Netflix, Amazon Video, etc.) while still offering access to 'NowTV' for those with 'Sky Cinema', 'Entertainment', 'Kids' or 'Sport' passes from the NowTV streaming service. So, for a better choice of content, forget 'NowTV' boxes and UPGRADE TO THIS FLAGSHIP ROKU MODEL FOR LESS THAN HALF-PRICE! ;-) :-)

Speaking of 'NowTV', there was some anxiety among subscribers to their 'Entertainment Month Pass' earlier in the week... after the news of a dispute between Sky and Discovery over the renewal of their carriage deal had come to light the week before and it was beginning to look like 'NowTV' may have to find a replacement for the 'Discovery Channel' in the channel line-up for their 'Entertainment' pass if an agreement wasn't reached by 1st February 2017. However, at the 11th hour, a solution was found and subscribers to the 'Entertainment Month Pass' from NowTV were able to breathe a sigh of relief when it became clear that an agreement had been reached to keep the channel(s) as part of the overall carriage deal with Sky and NowTV. That said, I can't help but still wonder what the replacement may have been (had it come to that) or whether Sky / NowTV would have continued to charge the same amount to subscribers for a reduced service. Obviously, this would have been worse for subscribers to Sky's satellite service (with a total of 12 or 13 channels under threat) but, thankfully, no-one needs to worry about that any more. Even so, it would have presented an ideal opportunity for Discovery UK to "go it alone" and perhaps develop their own Roku channel(s) with the likes of 'Eurosport' being an ideal choice for boosting the (current) selection of 158 channels within the 'Sports' category of the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store still further. Whether this might still happen is anybody's guess but, while it's unlikely that 'Eurosport' will be added to the channel line-up on  'NowTV Sport' passes, the opportunity to develop a channel for UK Roku devices definitely remains a viable option for the folks at 'Discovery UK' to consider going-forward. The fact that they haven't already done this is what I find harder to fathom - are you listening Discovery UK? There's a place for you on Roku! :-)

The other 'NowTV' news story to surface earlier this week was a change to the "Most Popular" genre of the (ahem) "Roku-Powered" (really!?!) App Store on NowTV devices. Having witnessed a similar change to the "Most Popular" genre (i.e. category) of the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store on my own genuine Roku-branded media players, from 25 channels to 75 channels, it seemed like being a fairly straight-forward move to replicate that on NowTV devices. However, due to the restrictions / limitations (imposed by Sky / NowTV) on the channel selection available in the 'App Store' from NowTV, there are not 75 channels to list... "Most Popular", or not! So, bizarrely, this category of the 'App Store' on NowTV boxes now lists ALL 51 ROKU CHANNELS AVAILABLE for installation by users of 'NowTV' devices. In other words, the "Most Popular" category now includes every single channel from all the other categories combined!?! Can someone please explain to me... what exactly was the point of doing that? Unless, of course, there's so few channels to choose from in the NowTV 'App Store' that every one of them has proven to be "most popular" among NowTV users!?!! :-/ :-|

Anyway, at least the increase in "Most Popular" channels for UK Roku devices is worthwhile... it is, after all, far easier to list 75 channels from a choice of 3,500+ than it is to list 75 channels from a selection of only 51 channels (as is the case with NowTV devices) and the added exposure for the fifty channels selected by Roku for inclusion in this category will, I am certain, be welcomed very much by the developers of those particular apps - as well as any which may be afforded that honour in future revisions to that list. Personally, I'm still not convinced as to the legitimacy of what makes certain Roku channels (listed as "Most Popular" by Roku) worthy of inclusion... when other channels with more and/or higher ratings from UK Roku users are not part of the list, but - it is what it is! :-/

Another bit of good news I shared via the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels this week was that 'SuperBowl LI' - that's, 'SuperBowl 51', to you and me - will be FREE-TO-STREAM for both Roku UK users and NowTV Box owners, thanks to 'BBC iPlayer' providing a LIVE STREAM of the annual highlight in the American Football calendar on Sunday 5th February 2017 (i.e. tomorrow!) from 11:20pm (UK time) with the game starting at 11:30pm and coverage continuing until 4am on Monday 6th February for those who follow the sport (and don't need much sleep before work!). This year the showpiece event comes from the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and will see the 'Patriots' of New England take on the 'Falcons' from Atlanta, Georgia for the title of Superbowl Champions!

While we're on the subject of Twitter... there was an interesting tweet from the Roku Developers Feed: @RokuDev which could prove useful for anyone looking to find a Roku channel developer, well-versed in BrightScript, for their Roku-related project. Essentially, Roku have opened-up their LinkedIn page to allow people to post details for relevant job opportunities and attract candidates. Since far fewer UK programmers are familiar with BrightScript, especially when compared to the USA, this could turn out to be a useful resource for any UK companies looking to get into the OTT streaming market by developing a Roku channel through which to stream their media-based content.

Another news item of relevance to Roku developers was the recent article published by SlashGear which detailed plans by Roku to end support for legacy SDK Visual Screen components. Essentially, this means "pushing" developers to update the look of their Roku channels (or, "apps", if you prefer) according to their proposed timeline... whereby, as of 1st January 2019, all legacy visual screen components will be removed entirely from the Roku OS. In the meantime, Roku developers are being advised to make the switch to Roku SceneGraph (or use 'Direct Publisher' for Roku) by 1st July 2017. Starting with immediate effect, no new features will be added to the legacy SDK visual screens arena and, from 1st January 2018, it will be a requirement for all channel updates to be made using either 'Direct Publisher' or 'Roku SceneGraph' (RSG)... YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! ;-) :-)

Moving on, for Roku USA users with Comcast (cable) subscriptions, there is now a BETA TRIAL of their new Roku channel for 'Xfinity TV' which may interest those in the U.S. looking to access cable content through conveniently placed Roku devices on televisions (perhaps) in other rooms around the home. While there is no charge for this, during the trial period, Roku users would be well-advised to read the full terms & conditions when joining-up because, from what I've read, Comcast plans to charge users for each Roku box (much like they do now for additional cable boxes) once the final version is released. Any readers of this blog from the USA wishing to know more about this latest beta trial for Roku users from Comcast / Xfinity TV can read the official announcement from Roku, posted by Andrew Ferrone, via the "Official" Roku Stream Blog on Tuesday 31st January 2017.

I also took the opportunity this week to conduct a brief (24-hour) poll of Netflix subscribers... so as to determine how many people are as displeased as I am about the "Auto-Start" feature that has been implemented within the Netflix main menu which (as far as I'm concerned) serves no useful purpose other than to interrupt my browsing experience when looking for something to stream on Netflix. As can be seen from the above screenshot of my post on the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels the results were pretty conclusive (despite being only a small sample of Netflix subscribers) and I was sure to send my findings to both Reed Hastings (CEO, Netflix) and Netflix Customer Service, as well as the Twitter feeds for Netflix (USA) plus Netflix UK & Ireland... but, as with any big company, it remains to be seen whether they will take any action to remove this latest "feature" from their UI, or if they will only be able to look back in hindsight once they start losing too many subscribers as a result of their (seemingly) "couldn't-care-less" attitude towards their paying customers! :-/ :-|

Other than that... there's been some interesting news for Roku UK gamers, including an update on the progress to his latest retro-gaming remake, "Donkey Kong", by indie developer Marcelo Lv Cabral [Twitter Feed: @LvCabral] who has added "Fireballs" to the weapons arsenal of the title character. Below is a 'YouTube' video recently uploaded by Marcelo, showing how development of the game was progressing prior to this latest update. Meanwhile, in other Roku gaming news, there have also been a couple of FREE GAMES added to Roku devices this week (see list of new channel additions) that are compatible with all current generation UK Roku devices (including Roku Stick, plus both Roku 2 and Roku 3 models) as well as Roku 2 XS - the original Roku UK flagship device! :-)

While there may have been a number of both Roku-specific and Roku-related items of news during the past seven days, unfortunately the new channel additions were not quite so forthcoming. In fact, we've seen the lowest amount of new apps in one week for UK Roku devices since the (expected) lull over the festive period & into this year. Meanwhile, Roku UK users are still subject to restrictions (imposed by Roku) and (bizarrely) remain unable to access the channel descriptions in the web store on the Roku (USA) website. That said, the majority of text from those web channel store listings can also be found within the individual channel descriptions from the built-in "Channel Store" (accessed via "Streaming Channels" from the main menu) on all Roku devices and, together with the associated screenshots (where available), should give a pretty good indication of what those channels are about.

My advice to any UK-based readers of this blog is to ignore the links below (and to the left of) each channel icon shown below and (instead) rely on the link to the right (below each channel icon) which will redirect you to an 'Roku Guide' review for additional details on each channel. As it stands, the links below (and to the left of) each channel icon are (currently) only of use to readers of this blog from the USA. This means Roku users from the other "supported" regions of the world (i.e. Ireland, Canada, France and Mexico) are, like those of us in the UK, unable to browse the Roku Web Channel Store - which for now (at least) remains an exclusive privilege of Roku users in the USA. :-(

Hopefully Roku will (one day) wake-up to the fact that improving the experience for users in "other" Roku "regions" is just as important as it is for those who buy & use their products in the U.S. and denying access to the Roku website does not help the end-user experience for those of us (outside the USA) who wish to browse the web channel store. Meanwhile, that which Roku (apparently) doesn't want UK Roku users to see on their website (i.e. the list of new channels) is regularly summarised on this blog in my 'Weekly RoundUp' posts. So, without further ado, here's my 'Weekly RoundUp' of all the new Roku channels which were released between 29th January and 4th February 2017:-

GET CONNECTED TV..........................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]


BA RECIPES..........................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "FOOD" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***

BUBBLE JAM........................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "GAMES" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***

CUPS AND BALL FREE.......................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "GAMES" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***

GIZMOOT PLAYER..............................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "APPS" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***

PLEASE NOTE:- That the above 'Gizmoot Player' channel for Roku devices requires the use of a free companion 'Gizmoot' app for either iOS (Apple) or Android mobile devices, to act as a remote control for the playback of music, movies, photos, podcasts & internet radio over your WiFi network. Internet services such as Vimeo or Flickr can be used within Gizmoot, while RSS feeds can also be browsed and played. Other features include: play queue, favourites, recently played, loop, shuffle and slideshows. For more information about 'Gizmoot', please visit their official website, and for further details of the 'Gizmoot Player' app (itself) there is a dedicated page which offers a basic explanation as to how the player functions, as well as a user manual for more in-depth instruction. If you do get stuck, there is an 'FAQ' section for frequently asked questions which might provide a fast answer for any issues you may be experiencing. Meanwhile... if you'd prefer to connect with 'Gizmoot' via social media, then please visit their "Official" FB Page at:- Gizmoot (Facebook) ;-)


Anyhow, like it or not, that is your lot for this week and, although it barely amounts to forty percent of the twelve channels which made it into the "Official" Roku USA Channel Store in the same time-frame, it's still better to get these 5 NEW CHANNELS than none at all... as I'm sure you'll agree?!

In any event, hopefully everyone in the UK with a Roku player managed to find something they like within the five "public" channels outlined above... or else from the "private" channels, whose access codes were "gifted" to you via the companion Twitter Feed to this blog, at various points throughout the last seven days. In particular, those who follow world news & current affairs will find details of one new Roku private channel (in particular) which could well be of interest to 'News Hounds', since it offers various live news feeds in both English and French, for Roku users who are fluent in either of those languages... plus one or two more besides. That said, if you didn't find anything to add to your Roku channel selection from the assortment of channels on offer this week, you can always pay us a visit another time when, with any luck, there will be something more to your liking. After all, there's no point installing every channel because, like I say... when it comes to adding new channels to your Roku, IT'S YOUR CHOICE and, as with all things Roku... THE CHOICE IS ALWAYS YOURS!


As mentioned previously, you can expect my usual summary of all the goings-on (or not) in the (severely restricted) Roku Channel Store that features on NowTV Boxes to follow in the near future. Meanwhile, whether you happen to own a Roku player, a NowTV Box, OR BOTH, as I do... be sure to check my earlier posts (as mentioned before) for all the new additions to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store in each of the one hundred and thirty preceding weeks and then come back again in seven days' time for my next 'Weekly RoundUp'. However, 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 !!

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