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HuluPlus Activated on Roku for $7.99 – Should Netflix be Scared?

Posted by J Powers at 12:34 PM on November 17, 2010
Roku

Roku Player

Editors Note – As Blake pointed out, there is a 1 DVD + online movie plan for $8.99.

The wait is over…

Roku announced today that Hulu Plus is now available to watch as an application. You can try the service free for one week, but thereafter, for $7.99 a month, you can watch network television run shows within 12 hours of airing. You can also watch movies and other content that Hulu is publishing.

The $7.99 price also means it undercuts Netflix’s 2 DVD + streaming price by half. Netflix does offer 1 DVD and online movie subscription only for $8.99. Still, Netflix’s big advantage is their movies and TV shows come without commercial interruption and won’t edit for content.

The $17 combination might be a great duo to finally cut that cable TV cord.

Hulu Plus

Hulu Plus

Hulu Plus will start to show up on other platforms, like PS3 and XBox360 very soon. Of course, you can get it on your computer right now.

First Thoughts: Like I said in the review, Hulu Plus does have commercials. However, I can catch up on season shows like Glee and Grey’s Anatomy.

The one thing I am not too keen with Roku is their cataloging system. It would be nice to have a keyboard and a search option. However, I can go on the computer, type in the show I want to watch, then queue it up to play on the Roku.

I was really hoping the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” would be more up to date. However, restrictions only allow it to be seen via the computer. In fact, there are a few shows that are “Web Only”.

If I back out of a show, then go back in, I start from the beginning. Forwarding back to the spot I was at is a little choppy.

On the other hand, Netflix has their own limitations. If you want to watch the Starz channel, you have to switch over to a computer with Internet Explorer installed. Their search is almost non-existent. Once again, you can go to the computer to put shows in your queue, then watch on Roku.

At $59.99, the Roku is the cheapest option for IPTV. With $7.99 for Hulu Plus and $14.99 for Netflix, you might be able to justify cutting the cable cord and beef up your internet connection.  Not to mention the original programming from independent content creators.

Dear Roku, Best Buy is not Doing any Justice for your Brand.

Posted by J Powers at 2:41 PM on November 8, 2010

I decided to update my IPTV at home. A newer TV and Over The Top (OTT) system. I have run Boxee for a while, but wanted to get the Roku Box. I heard that Best Buy had the Roku box, so I made the trek out to the store.

That was a bad idea.

I was on the east side of town, so I stopped into the East side location. I figured the Roku would be somewhere next to the Google TV display. It wasn’t – In fact, I could not find it anywhere.

I did something I try not to do – envoke a Best Buy employee. I never have any luck with these guys, so I avoid them. However, since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I had to walk up to one. And the following conversation is why:

Hello. I am looking for the Roku box

Yes. They are over here (we walk to where the supposed Roku is). Here you go. It comes with Blu-Ray.

Excuse me? Roku does not have a Blu-Ray Model.

This one is. You can get Netflix.

I am sorry, but that is not a Roku box. Just because it connects to Netflix doesn’t make it a Roku.

Oh… Well, we are out of Roku players (pointing to the other shelf)

When will you get more?

We only got one. I don’t know when the next one is. However, we have a great line of internet connected players (pointing down the row).

This conversation really pissed me off. The guy  was quick to say that a Roku Box was some Blu-Ray from Insignia for $99. At first I didn’t think of it, but a couple days later I was in Best Buy on the West side and the exact same thing happened.

The Best Buy employee tried to tell me that this Blu-Ray player with Netflix was exactly like a Roku. Once again, I was annoyed and told him off. I walked out of the store, putting down what I was planning on purchasing.

Both stores only received 1-2 models of Roku. Both stores sold out in an hour and couldn’t tell me when the next batch was going to be here. Both employees also said that another device was “Just like the Roku”.

Certain Blu-Ray players do have applications. You can get Netflix and Vudu – along with other cool options to the player. However, this is not a Roku.

I started thinking about this: With the news announcement that you can get a Netgear branded Roku at Best Buy, I wonder how many people ventured out to get this. I also wonder how many ended up getting something else?

I have never been felt so misled by an employee in a long time. The last time I was, it was a Radio Shack employee trying to sell me a CD player stating it had MP3 support. Over 10 years later, I walked out of a store feeling just as annoyed.

The worst part about the Roku at Best Buy is it’s overshadowed by Google TV. The humongous display might make people change ideas for IPTV.

I ended up purchasing the box online, although I thought it would be nice to have a Blu-Ray Roku Box. Nonetheless, I think I will be avoiding Best Buy for a while.

OTT Tsunami

Posted by tomwiles at 10:28 PM on September 28, 2010

We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Internet-delivered video content lately. Trends sometimes seem to advance slowly over a long period of time but then tumultuous market shifts seem to happen overnight.

Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster was unable to reconfigure their business structure to compete effectively with Netflix. It seems that Netflix has won the ongoing war.

Streaming video and video podcasts have been around for several years – these are not new ideas. However, what is new is the proliferation and increasing popularity of set-top boxes.

Back in the 1980’s backyard satellite TV dishes were a hobby among people that were looking for something different and as many choices as possible. That quest for choice ended up going mainstream in the form of commercial cable and satellite providers offering hundreds of channels.

Starting in 2004 people began experimenting with Internet-delivered content in the form of podcasts. I believe that podcasting happened as a direct result of broadband availability getting to a certain critical mass, combining the existing elements of RSS, MP3’s, etc. into a new form of communication. This new form of communication offered something very different along with unprecedented levels of choice.

Internet-delivered content of all kinds is rapidly becoming mainstream.

I believe 2010 is the year of the app. Apps suddenly seemed to have come out of nowhere to seeming to pop up on every device imaginable. Why the sudden popularity of apps? Desktop and laptop computers have been around for a long time, along with full-blown applications. What has really happened is that computers have now shrunk down to the point where they not only are in our pockets in the form of smartphones, but they are also showing up in HDTV sets and plenty of other devices. These devices we are running these apps on are actually quite powerful computers in their own rights.

There is now a wide variety of content that is heading for every computer-enabled screen you own, especially your HDTV.

Netgear Roku XD Player

Posted by geeknews at 1:27 PM on September 4, 2010

Over 25,000 people are now watching Geek News Central on the Roku, and I was very excited to see that Roku has apparently made a distribution deal with Netgear. The evidence is this image that has surfaced at the FCC hat tip to wirelessgoodness.com for the source on this.

Up to this point the only way you could purchase a Roku was to do so online. You could not stroll into Best Buy and pick one up, now with Netgear’s International distribution chain that will not be the case for much longer. This equals more units in consumers homes, and more chances that we will pick up a new audience member.  If you do not think I am not excited about this space then you have not been listening to my show and or watching what we have been doing in this space at RawVoice.

So an early congratulations to the team at Roku for doing this deal, and we look forward to all the viewers when nation wide distribution of this new Roku box gets underway.

Popbox Initial Reaction

Posted by geeknews at 1:01 AM on July 22, 2010

You all know my excitement for Over the Top TV due to our overwhelming success so far with our Roku channels, heck thousands of you are watching my show on the Roku every day. Since January we have known the Popbox was coming, and my team at RawVoice really wanted to have channels ready for the device. Sadly we did not get invited to their developers program until just recently, even after personal chats with the Popbox folks at both CES and SXSW. I was told at SXSW that the device would have a lot of premium, high value content on it, and that is how they were going to set themselves apart from the competition.

Yesterday when I received the Popbox that I purchased on Amazon I was surprised to find that the unit did not come with WiFi, and that they had a second model available that had a WiFi Dongle for an extra $20.00. My advice to Popbox kill the wired only model no one wants to run cables. So today after stringing a network cables to get it hooked to the network on my big screen here are my thoughts about 60 minutes into playing with it.

First shocker only 10 channels, plus no Netflix that was promoted back in January? Our competitor in the space Mediafly was not in the channel list either which we fully expected so I am not sure what the deal is with that. Does that indicate that Popbox does not want any user generated content on the device? Time will tell. While I understand they are promoting this box as a media center of sorts to play your pictures and your personal media. They could have had at least four more channels from us if they would have gotten us into their developer program.

When I loaded the Channel from Revision Three, the videos loaded pretty fast resulting in a pretty good experience, the one thing I did notice is that the menu system required me to do a lot of clicking to change channels and get to content. You have to exit each channel,  then load the next, it is not easy to quickly navigate the menu system.I am sure this is a limitation of the software running the device.

I loaded the YouTube application, went to my show channel, clicked on my latest show and guess what it never played. I played some other YouTube videos, and they are simply slow to start,  it appears to me that they are not using the flash media, but instead are using the physical media file. Probably the reason my show did not load is that the file I send to YouTube is over 900 megs.

Other videos in other channels loaded and played ok, the video quality is pretty good. I am sure that the Popbox folks will face the same challenges that the Roku folks did, but the Roku now has tons of content/channels. If the barrier to entry on channel development costs to be in the Popbox are as high as they are to be in the Roku then I am gonna have to really weigh my options on whether we develop for this device or not in lieu of the Vudu etc.

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, they are going to have to get a lot more channels in the device in a hurry. Google TV is coming and in order to compete they are going to have to get a lot of content in their that makes it worthwhile for folks to purchase.

OTT And Paid Content

Posted by tomwiles at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2010

OTT, short for “over-the-top-television” is an up-and-coming acronym that we are all likely going to become familiar with in the near future, provided someone doesn’t come up with a different marketing name. The concept is simple – it’s TV that comes “over the top” of traditional channels on a cable system via the Internet delivered in digital packets. It can either be live streaming video, on-demand streaming video, or in the form of a pre-recorded on-demand podcast.

There are many aspects of over-the-top TV that have yet to be shaken out. Specifically, here in the early stages there are some still-murky areas when it comes to details of how advertising is going to work.

Things that we know about how OTT works successfully so far:

People are willing to pay for bundled on-demand professionally created OTT content in the form of Netflix on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows, and other content. The bundled Netflix price for all-you-can-eat on-demand streaming OTT offers the consumer a real value. In most cases, a great deal of marketing money and effort has been spent promoting the majority of individual movies and other content that are available on Netflix, so the consumer has a fairly high degree of familiarity with much of the on-demand streaming content they offer. These are essentially repurposed movies that are already on the shelf.

People are willing to watch on-demand streaming OTT of professionally-created content with embedded ads as demonstrated by the ongoing success of Hulu.Com. The consumer is likely already familiar with a portion of the content, but Hulu also allows the consumer to discover and explore previously unknown TV show content in an on-demand stream with embedded ads. These are essentially repurposed TV shows, some movies, and other content.

Live streaming OTT of live content is still catching on. The most successful live OTT content as typified by what Leo Laporte and company are generating still offers an on-demand podcast version that can be downloaded later. Currently, on-demand, after-the-fact podcast versions of live OTT generated content end up with many more downloads than people watching via live streams. Both live streaming OTT and the on-demand podcast versions can contain ads. For the ads to be effective in this format, they need to be relevant to the audience’s needs and desires. The old “shotgun” advertising approach does not work in this format. This specific type of content is closely associated with word-of-mouth promotion.

There are a few questions that remain to be answered. Will consumers pay for on-demand streaming of TV drama-type content they are unfamiliar with — in other words, will consumers pay to watch an on-demand stream of a new TV show drama, documentary or reality show? Using myself as a gage, I wouldn’t pay for individual on-demand episodes of a TV show or movie I wasn’t fairly familiar with. Promotion and word-of-mouth still has to take place.

If consumers will pay-per-view for an unfamiliar on-demand TV show, can the content still contain ads? I think the answer to this depends on the content and its perceived value – i.e., how well it is promoted, and the resulting perceived value that is generated in the potential consumer.

Once “Lost” was a hit TV show, would the fanatic fans have paid for on-demand streams of new episodes? Probably they would have, if they could have gotten them, say a week or so in advance of the actual broadcasts. “Lost” fans would have also put up with ads in the advance on-demand stream. They might have grumbled about it, but if that were the only way it was available in advance, many of them would have opened-up their wallets and paid the price monetarily and with their attention to the embedded ads in order to satisfy their “Lost” habit. Clearly, the producers of “Lost” – ahem – “lost out” on a time-sensitive revenue stream opportunity.

Bottom line, I believe it all revolves around the content and the real and perceived values that the content delivers.

I liked last season’s remake of the old “V” television series. If I could be assured the production values remained just as high, I might pay to subscribe in some manner. If the “V” series is picked up again by ABC next season, I would also pay to subscribe if I could get episodes via on-demand streaming before they were broadcast.

In the meantime, we are still dealing with the death-throws of the old broadcast model with its old appointment based viewing schedule combined with the old shotgun advertising approach. ABC broadcast TV affiliates would have had a cow if “Lost” episodes had been made available as a paid on-demand OTT stream before the episodes were actually broadcast via the network.

The final destination of OTT and when it ends up at that destination depends on what is right for the time. Both delivery infrastructure capabilities and consumer demand will make that determination.

Should You Pay For Content?

Posted by tomwiles at 6:05 PM on July 8, 2010

I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were chatting back and forth about the newly offered Hulu Plus, where for $10 dollars a month, you can get Hulu on a wide variety of devices including smart phones and over-the-top Internet TV boxes. Hulu is also offering a somewhat wider, but still incomplete back catalog archive of shows. One of the hosts was saying he wouldn’t pay for content, he wanted it “for free.”

Whether we realize it or not, we are all paying for content, either directly or indirectly. Even if we have only a TV antenna and watch only the local TV channels, we are still paying for content indirectly via advertising. When we buy consumer products of virtually any kind, part of what we pay goes for advertising, which pays for content creation.

If we are paying indirectly only, someone else is deciding for us as to the quality of the programming content. We can either consume that content or not, but we still pay as consumers buying products. We have very little indirect control over what gets put on the air. On the other hand, if we pay for content directly, then we have far greater control over the quality of the media we are consuming.

If Hulu can offer value for the money, then it will succeed What they have to do is figure out what people are willing to pay for. Perhaps that value revolves around putting highly-sought-after content on as many devices as possible. Perhaps it revolves around coming up with the absolute best back catalog of old TV shows. Imagine having instant streaming access to every TV show ever produced in every country in any language, and every movie ever produced anywhere in any language. Something like that would be well worth paying for. Imagine a site such as IMDB.Com that lists every movie and TV show ever made, except as a subscriber you could instantly stream it – now you’re talking. Hulu, anyone else out there – are you listening?

I personally would be willing to pay for a service such as Hulu, except for one small glitch. There are no back catalog shows on the site at the moment that really excite me. Network drama shows can sometimes be quite good, but my tastes are somewhat different.

When I had Dish Network, I was watching a few selected shows on only 3 channels – Discovery, TLC and History. I can get most of these shows if I really want them at some point via Netflix. To my way of thinking, Netflix is a much better value. Netflix has a far wider variety of content, plus they also offer the handy rental service of DVD’s and Blu-ray discs.

The verdict is currently out whether Hulu will be able to figure out what value it needs to best serve its customers. If people are paying Hulu money directly, then Hulu had better quickly figure out exactly what those customers want and do its best to deliver it to them.

Hey Hulu, here’s an idea to try. Offer first-run streaming movies, but do it the Hulu way. I would be willing to pay for a first run movie streaming for a nominal pay-per-view fee, say $5.99. Vudu is offering streaming first run movies, but you have to have a big fat Internet connection to be able to use Vudu. The Vudu service demands way more bandwidth than my Internet service can currently deliver.

Here’s yet another idea for Hulu – offer exclusive, Hulu-only content consisting of well-produced material revolving around the “Entertainment Tonight” type of concept. Do exclusive interviews of movie and TV stars. Do exclusive interviews of directors. Give people real value for their money. Make your customers want to not only see you succeed, but motivate them to help you succeed.