Saturday, July 31, 2021

Frndly gets friendlier

I've posted before about how much I like the Frndly.TV service. It's the only live streaming service I keep year round. It's not expensive -- as cheap as $6/month; $5/month if you pay by the year -- and there's always something to watch. While I constantly question others' "need" for a live streaming service, I actually do use this one year round. Yes, I'm a bit of a hypocrite and no I don't care.

Frndly.TV had 19 channels at the time. Now they have 20:

  • Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Drama
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • BabyFirst TV
  • BYU TV
  • CuriosityStream
  • Dove Channel
  • FETV
  • Game Show Network
  • getTV
  • INSP
  • Local Now
  • Outdoor Channel
  • PixL
  • QVC
  • Recipe TV
  • Sportsman Channel
  • The Weather Channel
  • UPtv
  • World Fishing Network

The newest is FETV. I wasn't familiar with Family Entertainment TV, but now I am. Well, a little. Their shows include:

  • The Addams Family
  • Barney Miller
  • Bat Masterson
  • Bewitched
  • Designing Women
  • Father Knows Best
  • Hart to Hart
  • Hazel
  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • Lassie
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Matlock
  • Maude
  • The Monkees
  • One Day at a Time
  • The Partridge Family
  • The Patty Duke Show
  • Perry Mason
  • The Saint
  • Sergeant Preston of the Yukon
  • T.J. Hooker
  • Tombstone Territory

Sure, you can find many of those on other channels, particularly over the air channels such as Antenna TV, MeTV, RetroTV, and the like. So, if it doesn't bring much value to you, then this isn't much use. However, it is nice to see more channels and more shows available to watch.

Frndly.TV is a part of my Streaming Life that I do enjoy. Maybe it will be a part of yours, too.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Testing The Roku Channel

When I posted recently that I would be testing The Roku Channel, I thought my next post about it would be several days later where I told you about the experience. Allen Saunders said "Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." Here's what happened.

Part of the reason for this is my testing of The Roku Channel is going to be a little more involved than I originally thought. Here's what's complicating things.

You may recall that I don't like subscribing through Roku Pay for anything. Or you may not. I have mentioned it a time or two, but I haven't dedicated a post to just talking about that. I'll do that soon. But, briefly, here's my issue with Roku Pay.

If you subscribe to something using Roku Pay, you are limited to using it on devices tied to your Roku account. That may not seem like a problem, until you want to watch something on a device that's not your Roku streamer. You know, like your phone or tablet? Yes, Roku has some workarounds for that, but I don't care for them. I'll tell more in a detailed post in the future, but keep in mind for now that I don't like using Roku Pay.

Why did I bring that up? You'll see in a minute.

When I began testing of The Roku Channel, I decided I'd do some lengthy in-depth testing. That's not to say I haven't been doing serious in-depth testing of other things; I have. But The Roku Channel is different. Those other things I've tested have been first-use tests. That is, things I hadn't used before. Or, if I had and was revisiting, I had an open mind about. Being honest with myself -- and with you -- I don't have an open mind about The Roku Channel.

The Roku Channel has been on my Roku devices for quite some time. I've used it every now and then, but I've always thought, "Meh. I can get all of this through other apps I already use and like." It brought nothing to the table.

So, when I actually sat and began my deep focus on The Roku Channel (which I'm occasionally gonna call "TRC"), I glanced through it and realized that if I were to truly test The Roku Channel, I would need to look at all aspects of the experience, including subscribing to services and watching them through TRC.

This is going to be more complicated than I thought. I was making other plans, then this hit me. So, this will take a while. And, I think this is going to be a lot bigger than I thought. I may end up posting more about this as I test TRC.

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." This was true when Saunders wrote that in 1957, it was true when John Lennon paraphrased it in a song in 1980, and it is true of my Streaming Life today as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Watching The Roku Channel

As much of a Roku fan as I am -- I'm certain you can tell by my writing -- you may be surprised to learn that I don't use The Roku Channel. Well, not much.

My streaming habits may not be the same as yours. When I sit down to watch TV, I'll check Hulu for current season content, and watch it if there is something available.

Then, if I'm playing catchup on older TV series, I'll launch whatever app carries what I'm catching up on. For me, right now, it's Paramount+ and Blue Bloods. I never watched the show, but have seen that it's been on for over a decade, so I thought I'd give it a try. I like it and am working my way though the seasons.

Then, after catching up on current or older shows, I'll often switch to YouTube and watch shorter videos about whatever piques my interest at the time. Perhaps a history video, something about the space program, the two British chaps on Cracking The Cryptic solving Sudoku puzzles, a Dark Corners review of a really bad movie, or something that catches my eye.

Where would The Roku Channel fit in this? Well, that's kinda the point. There are some aspects of The Roku Channel that just don't appeal to me.

Sure, I get that I can subscribe to premium services such as Showtime, Starz, BET+, Acorn TV, and a whole lot more. Only, I won't. Not that I wouldn't subscribe to those services, but that I won't subscribe through The Roku Channel.

You see, a Roku subscription is only good on Roku. For instance, if I subscribed to Showtime on Roku, I could only watch it on Roku, or via The Roku Channel. If I had the Showtime app on my phone, I couldn't watch it with that subscription.

Now, to be fair to Roku, the same is true for Amazon, or any other service that offers subscriptions. When you subscribe that way, you can't use it on other platforms or services.

The other thing about The Roku Channel is that the live and on-demand content is similar to what I'll find on Pluto TV, on Tubi, or on Xumo. It's just another one of those type of services. 

At least, that's the impression I get. Maybe I'm wrong. So, I'll find out if I'm wrong.

I'm going to spend the next week or two focusing on watching The Roku Channel. I won't be doing subscriptions, but I will try the other content and see how it goes.

Maybe my Streaming Life has been missing something that would make it so much better. Maybe I'm missing a real gem. If so, I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

It's hip to trash cord cutting

Now it's a thing to trash cord cutting.

Okay, this isn't a new thing. I've seen videos from cord cutting enthusiasts telling about articles they've seen that call into question many things that cord cutters cite as reasons for cutting the cord. I hadn't noticed a lot of that. Until recently.

Each day, I take a look at news about cord cutting. I have a variety of places I check, but it always involves a Web search for "cord cutting" and checking the "news" category.

Recently, I saw a few articles similar to what others had mentioned. Why I hadn't seen them before, I don't know. For whatever reason, there they were. One reason may be that I don't usually scroll several pages in. I only hit the first couple of pages or so of my initial search results. The articles could have been there the whole time, but not shown up as high on my search. Well, they're showing up now.

I found many, including the following:

Most of these and other posts calculate things in ways that aren't actual real comparisons. For example, if you already have Netflix, and many cable subscribers do have Netflix, you don't count it as part of your streaming cost unless you also count it as part of your pre-streaming (cable) costs. For example, if you pay $200 for cable and Internet, and another $15 for Netflix, you're paying $215. If you cut the cord and wind up paying $75 for cable and $15 for Netflix, you're paying $90.

What many of those cost comparison articles will do is not county Netflix as an existing cost. But it is an existing cost for many. So, yeah, you count it on both sides. And while Netflix isn't a huge cost, that little bit here, and a little bit there, will add up.

They'll also compare a discount cable price. For example, if you only pay $100 for cable and Internet for the first year, they'll use that comparison rather than the regular price you pay if you stay loyal to your cable company.

Another thing they'll do is insist that you subscribe to enough services to ensure you have the same channels available. While I can see the logic in that -- I have to twist my head sideways, but yeah, if I do that I can see it -- that's not a real world thing. Well, it doesn't need to be.

How often do you watch all the channels you have with your big cable package? Never? Sounds about right. You watch a few channels and that's it. With streaming, you still have to deal with bundles that include channels you don't want, but not nearly as many. Perhaps a $25 Philo package will do rather than a $75 AT&T TV package.

And even then, that assumes you want a live streaming service. Do you? I mean, really do you? Maybe, like me, you'll find that most of the year, a $6 Hulu service will do the job.

Bottom line is, if  you're looking to cut the cord, be careful of what agenda might be behind whoever is writing news articles. This is true for news about anything: cord cutting, the economy, the president, any news topic. Agenda drives reporting, and it shouldn't. Be skeptical. That includes being skeptical of what I write, as well as of what anyone else writes. Do your research, figure out what you really want to do.

Your Streaming Life can be enjoyable and cost effective. Don't let anyone manipulate the data to tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Casting and mirroring from Android phones

Although I'm an iPhone user, I do have experience with Android phones. One of the things I like about iPhones is that they all work the same. That is, if you know how to use one, you can use the other the same way. Unless the iPhone is really old, they can all run the same operating system.

Android phones, on the other hand, don't always support the same OS. One family member that uses a new Android phone is running Android 11. Another Android phone by a family member only updates to Android 10. That phone isn't new, but it's not that old either. And, I have a test Android. It's a good one, not a cheap one.

Another thing I don't like about Android phones is that the settings and commands aren't consistent across different manufacturers. And one big example of this is the different ways different Android phones refer to screen mirroring. The terms include:

  • Smart View
  • Quick Connect
  • SmartShare
  • AllShare Cast
  • Wireless display
  • Display mirroring
  • HTC Connect
  • Screen casting
  • Cast

Part of the problem is actually one of the strengths of Android phones: the ability for different manufacturers to add features. The consistency of iPhones also means that they all have the same features. With Android, a manufacture can develop a new feature and add it. If it goes well, it can be incorporated into Android and become a standard. However, even when standards happen, the varied names still happen. It helps inspire innovation, but can cause confusion.

The other thing is, as an iPhone user, I'm in the minority. While iPhone brand is one of the top sellers, the wide variety of brands that run Android means that Android is actually the largest mobile platform.

So, how does the largest mobile platform work with the largest streaming platform, Roku? Not as well as you'd think. Yes, Roku supports mirroring and casting from Android phones. The problem is that not all Android phones support it, and some that do, don't do it well.

Roku dedicates a page to mirroring and casting from Android. Even then, that's not enough. Consider this:

If you cannot easily determine the term for your device or you are not certain your device supports screen mirroring, refer to the manufacturer's website or contact them directly. You may also want to try an internet search using the phrase “screen mirroring” along with the brand and model of your device.

That means you will need to contact your phone manufacturer about it, if you have trouble. Of course, you can get help from other Roku users at the Roku Community Forum.

So, what's my advice on how to handle mirroring or casting from Android to Roku if you run into problems? Simple. Use Chromecast.

As big of a Roku fan and supporter I am, I keep a Chromecast connected to my main TVs in the event I want to cast or mirror. If Roku shows up as a device to connect, great. But sometimes, Roku doesn't show. But for me (I have a test Android, remember), Chromecast always shows up.

I'm not suggesting you switch to Chromecast and drop Roku. Roku is still my streaming platform of choice. But if you use Android, and if you want to mirror or cast, you may want to look at adding a Chromecast to the mix. I suggest the Chromecast with Google TV rather than the older Chromecast.

I understand if you don't want to spend the money. But, as I do own a Chromecast, if I run into issue mirroring or casting to Roku, I'm not going to spend a lot of time and effort trying to resolve that issue. I'll just use the Chromecast. It makes my Streaming Life so much easier.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Tablo trouble

I recently switched from Air TV to Tablo for my over the air TV watching and recording. If you recall, I manage the TV setup for a couple of houses in the family, including, of course, my own. I utilized Tablo in one, and Air TV in one. I did that because I wasn't sure which way I wanted to go, and my research indicated either would be good.

So, I got one for one house, and the other for the other house. And, as my research indicated, both worked well. When it came time to put one in a third house, I decided to go with Air TV. But, instead of buying an Air TV, I bought a Tablo. Why? So I would replay my Air TV with a Tablo. I didn't feel bad about moving the Air TV to the third location because it was a good device. But, I liked Tablo better, so I replaced my Air TV with a Tablo, and assigned the Air TV to the third house.

All of that seems to indicate that everything is just rosy with Tablo. But it's not. I ran into an issue the other day.

I turned on the TV and launched the Tablo app, but it couldn't find the device. I rebooted the Tablo, and I had to add the device back to the network. I don't know why it lost network connectivity. It connects via Ethernet cable, not wirelessly. But, that's what happened.

The fact that I don't know why it happened makes me wonder if it will happen again. I certainly don't want it to, but I'm afraid it might. Manually rebooting the Tablo device and reconfiguring the network setup is not something I want to do.

Apart from this hiccup, I do like Tablo, and prefer it to Air TV. However, if it turns out the network connectivity isn't reliable, I will have no problem switching back to Air TV. To me, both are great options for an over the air DVR and for putting live local channels on the network, allowing me to watch them on any streaming device.

I thought Tablo would improve my Streaming Life. And it has. I just hope it stays that way.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

College football prep

Recently, there's been some major sports news with the possible (at this writing) move of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference. This is big -- heck, it's huge -- in college football, but has major implications in other sports as well.

So, I've been thinking about college sports lately. I don't watch lots of sports except during the fall, when I take time out for football. So as August and the start of the college football season approaches, I'm planning out my sports channels.

Being a fan of SEC football -- there are teams I love and teams I hate -- I'm looking for CBS, ESPN, and SEC Network. I'll need to look at the live streaming services that carry those channels. I'll even look at multiple services if it will save some money.

Looking at the schedule, the national championship game is January 10, so I'm planning to have service through January 11, just to be safe. Since subscriptions for the live streaming services are for 30 days at a time, I need to do some calculations.

Now, it's not as simple as saying, "Okay, I need to subscribe on August 11th" because the subscriptions aren't for a month, but rather 30 days. So, a subscription starting August 11 actually will need a renewal on January 8, 150 days later, in order to cover through January 11th. That means subscribing on or after August 15 means 5 months of service. Subscribing between now and the 15th means 6 months of service. I'm cheap, and I'm going with subscribing on August 15th.

Which services? Well, I have several options.

First, I have an antenna, so I can pick up the local CBS affiliate, giving me the SEC game of the week. I'm not opposed to a streaming service with CBS included, it's just that I don't need that. But you might.

Next, I want ESPN. That's where the games are. Well, most of the games. The ones I care the most about will be on ESPN or CBS. But not all.

I also want SEC Network. You may want ACC Network, PAC-12 Network, Big Ten Network, or some other sports network. That can complicate things. I'll go into how to pick your poison some day soon, but for now, I'm just giving a rough idea of what you'll need to do, just to get you to thinking about what you'll finally do come mid-August.

Right now, for ESPN with SEC Network, the best price is for Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra. That's $46. Here's the breakdown.

  • $46 - Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra.
  • $55 - Vidgo
  • $65 - Hulu + Live TV
  • $65 - YouTube TV
  • $75 - Fubo Starter with Fubo Extra
  • $92 - AT&T TV Choice

If I didn't have an antenna, and needed to stream CBS, the list would change slightly, by needing to add Paramount+ Premium to Sling TV or Vidgo. The others already include CBS locals.

  • $56 - Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra, Paramount+ Premium
  • $65 - Vidgo, Paramount+ Premium
  • $65 - Hulu + Live TV
  • $65 - YouTube TV
  • $75 - Fubo Starter with Fubo Extra
  • $92 - AT&T TV Choice

As we approach mid-August, I'll go over in detail what's necessary to watch college football in the most cost-effective manner.

Planning this far in advance may seem silly, but I want to ensure I have the best bargain for the sports I want. And, you don't have to drop everything and do this now. Just be thinking about it over the next three weeks, then, when it's time, you can start the services to make the sports fan in your Streaming Life happy.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Fixing a sluggish Chromecast

While Roku is my streaming device of choice, I do like the Chromecast with Google TV device. It's currently holding the Number Two spot in my hierarchy of streaming devices. I like the device a lot.

However, it has one little issue that helps keep it from rising to the top. The device is a little sluggish at times. That was unexpected. Here's why.

According to my online research, the Chromecast with Google TV has specs similar to a Roku Ultra. Both have an ARM Cortex-A55 processor and 2 GB RAM. For that reason, I assumed they would be similar in responsiveness. Silly me.

The Roku Ultra is a very responsive device. When I press an arrow button the response is fast. When I press the OK button, it's fast. It's like I would want and expect from a quality streaming device.

However, sometimes the Chromecast/GTV has a noticeable delay between the button press and the associated acton. Not long, but enough for me to notice. And that doesn't happen on my Roku device.

So, what's going on? Well, one difference is the operating systems. Roku uses a different OS than does the Chromecast/GTV device. That's not a criticism of Chromecast/GTV or Android, just an acknowledgement of the differences. Bottom line is the Chromecast/GTV is a little sluggish.

To resolve it, there's not a lot you can do. But you can at least restart the device.

From the main menu of the Chromecast/GTV, move to the account icon at the top left. Then, drop down to Settings. Select that.

From the left side of the menu, scroll down to System, then select that.

From the resultant menu, scroll down to Restart and select that. You'll be prompted with "Restart now?" and a Restart or Cancel option. Choose Restart and the device will restart.

You'll have to wait for it to restart. It takes several seconds for the screen to fully resolve, so be patient.

Oh, one other thing. You may want to ensure you have the latest update. Before you scroll down to Restart from the System menu, stop at About, then pick System update. That would, ideally, ensure that any bugs in the system that are contributing to any sluggishness are fixed in an update.

In fairness, it wasn't a really irritating sluggish behavior, but it was enough to be noticeable. Now, it's better.

Sometimes, restarting a device will resolve an issue. That's true for Chromecast/GTV, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, anything.

It's a running gag, but there's a lot of truth to it.

Sometimes the simplest things make your Streaming Life easier. And your regular life, too.

Friday, July 23, 2021

I don't care, but others might

In the last few days, I've seen posts and notices online about a new Olympics portal being available for Roku. According to a blog post by Roku:

We’ve partnered with NBCUniversal to bring you an all-new, immersive Olympic experience to your Roku device. Our Olympics hub makes it easy for you to access NBCU’s Olympic coverage and Olympics-related entertainment on supported Roku devices.

Only, here's the thing. Well, two things. Well, three things.

Three days now after the rollout, it's still not on my Roku devices. And, yes, I have current Roku devices. I mean it's not like I am using a Roku XDS from 2010 to stream. I have a 2021 device that I'm looking at as I type. Got all the updates. Just don't got Olympics portal.

The second thing is, I really don't care. You see, I'm a firm believer that sports and politics shouldn't mix. Hitler tried to use the Olympics to prove the superiority of the German race. That blew up in his face. In my mind, people that use Olympics for political purposes are pulling a page from Hitler. Don't be like Hitler. And, since the Olympics have themselves gone all in on politics, when the games themselves are supposed to be outside of politics, I don't give a rat's ass about the Olympics. Hitler was wrong for trying to use the Olympics for political purposes, Jimmy Carter was wrong for the 1976 U.S. boycott of the Moscow games for political purposes. The U.S.S.R. was wrong for boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1980 in retaliation. And the Olympics themselves are wrong for getting into politics. I stopped watching the Olympics years ago for that reason.

But here's the third thing. Roku doesn't know that I don't care about the Olympics. Roku should make the Olympic portal available on my devices. If the rollout didn't come to me, that means it didn't come to others, including some that do care about the Olympics. And that's unfair to those fans of the games.

When will it be resolved? I dunno. If it does appear, I'll be ticked if there's not a way to turn it off. But it should be available to all users, even uses that don't want it (as long as we can turn it off).

Roku is falling down on the job. They need to fix this. They are adversely impacting the Streaming Life of some users. And that's a bad thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

PBS and PBS Passport

Way back in the 1980s, or maybe the late 1970s, I first contributed to PBS. I think I was liking some British sitcom (Britcoms) or other. Anyway, that's when it started. I think I got some silly dollar store bling as a thank you. I don't recall. Maybe even a mug. I just don't remember.

Anyway, the point is that contributing to PBS still has some benefits, and today, they're a little better than a dollar store mug. Unless you're a pessimist, in which case you think they're extorting money from you. I'll give you the details and you decide.

PBS has streaming apps available for several devices, including the Big Four: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android/Google TV. You can watch PBS content on demand. Well, a lot of PBS content.

While a lot of content is avaiable on the PBS app, some items are marked with a little compass, indicating it's PBS Passport content.

The content that doesn't have the icon is available for watching for free. The PBS Passport content requires you to have a PBS Passport membership. How do you get one of those? Donate to PBS at a certain level.

The level for PBS Passport is $5/month or $60/year. If you donate that amount, you can log in to the PBS app and watch PBS Passport content.

I suspect most people will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Ooh, look at all the free stuff. Oh, and if I donate, I can get even more stuff. Cool!
  2. Oh look. They make you pay for the good stuff.

I'm more of the first category. But, however you fall there, the end result is the same: PBS content on your streaming device. How much is up to you.

I don't watch PBS content regularly, but when I do, I'll spend hours there. To me, it's worth the $5/month -- and I give more than that -- to get the content. I also simply like supporting PBS. No, I don't like everything PBS does. My political stance and theirs often conflict. But I do think that, overall, PBS is a good thing. So, I donate. I prefer people supported stuff, not government supported stuff, which is about as political as I'm going to get.

PBS apps, with or without PBS Passport membership, offer a lot of good content for your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Figuring the cost of cutting the cord

Here's a little bit of math that many people forget. If you have an equation, and the same value appears on each side of the equation, you can remove that value and the equation still holds. Here's an example in the form of a math problem.

You have two rooms. There are a bunch of boxes of stuff in each room. Each box of a certain color contains identical items. For instance, all blue boxes contain the same thing and weigh the same. All red boxes contain the same different item, and they all red boxes weigh the same, but not the same as the blue boxes. And so on. 

Each blue box weighs 10 pounds, each red box weighs 5 pounds, and each green box weighs 8 pounds.

In room 1, you have:

10 blue boxes.

7 red boxes.

12 green boxes.

In room 2, you have:

8 blue boxes.

7 red boxes.

12 green boxes.

What is the difference in weight between the content of the two rooms?

One way to solve this is to say that 10 blue boxes weigh 10 pounds each totaling 100 pounds, 7 red boxes weight 5 pounds each totaling 35 pounds, and 12 green boxes weigh 8 pounds each weighing 96 pounds, making room 1's total 231 pounds. In the other room, 8 blue boxes total 80 pounds, 7 red boxes totaling 35 pounds, and 12 green boxes total 96 pounds, making room 2's total 211 pounds. That makes room 1's total 20 pounds more than room 2's.

Another approach would be to see that both contain 7 red boxes, so you could take them out of the equation all together. Both sides have 12 green boxes, so they can come out of the equation. You're left with 10 blue boxes vs 8 blue boxes. That's a difference of 2 blue boxes, or 20 pounds.

Both ways get you the same answer. The first means you have to add up all the different numbers. The other way takes the parts out that are the same on both sides, leaving only a few things to add up and compare.

And that's how to figure our the cost or benefit of cord cutting. Here's how it worked for me.

Before I cut the cord, I subscribed to Amazon Prime and to Netflix. After I cut the cord, I was still subscribed to Amazon Prime and to Netflix. When I calculated the difference, I could add the totals for each, or I could leave them out of the equation and only focus on what changed. I did the latter. Fewer numbers to deal with. Think of that like the 7 red boxes in each room: the same before and after.

Before I cut the cord, I had TV and Internet service. After I cut the cord, I had only Internet service. Here's the complication: most cable companies offer discounts by having two services, and if you drop one, you lose the discount. Think of that like the blue boxes: the totals from before and after are different, just like the total of the blue boxes in the two rooms are different.

I bring this up because I've seen many Website and YouTube videos talking about how to calculate the cost of cord cutting. They'll include Netlfix or Amazon in the calculations, which is only valid if you weren't already a subscriber. If you don't do Netflix, but then cut the cord and subscribe, then yes, count it. If you were a subscriber already, don't count it. Or, if you do count it, count it as part of your current costs, too.

Those Websites and YouTubers don't always have you do that. They'll act like you've picked up an expense you already had. If you had a service before you cut the cord, and have the same service after you cut the cord, you can leave it out. If you don't, you have to include in both the before and after.

If saving money is the reason, or even a reason, that you're cutting the cord, it's good to get an accurate total of the amount of money you save, or that it costs you.

Totaling the expenses before and after can be confusing, but if you do it right, you'll know just how much you save, or what it's costing. It's good to know how much you're saving in your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Calling Roku customer service

Spoilers: There is a phone number. For some things.

I frequent the Roku support boards and the question about how to call Roku to speak to customer service comes up often. People have told again and again that there is no customer service number for Roku, but they keep insisting they want a number to call.

Why are they told there was no customer service number? Because there was no customer service number.

But now there is. Hallelujah.

According to the support forums, Roku restarted telephone support for customer service a few weeks ago:  (816) 272-8106. It's only for addresses account/billing issues (option 1) , and first time setup/activation issues (option 2). Nothing more. But, that's better than nothing.

If you're new to Roku, this might be helpful. I've not called it, nor am I likely to. But if you need it, and if calling makes your Streaming Life easier, there it is.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Movies Anywhere

Let me get this out of the way: I'm a huge fan of Movies Anywhere.

There. I said it. You can stop reading now, because that's the ending. Or you can read on and find out why. Unless, of course, you use Movies Anywhere. Then you already know all about it, and are probably a fan, too.

Here's the background of Movies Anywhere. It started out as Disney Movies Anywhere. It was a free service of Disney that allowed you to purchase Disney movies and watch them on any platform. For example, you could by Cinderella from iTunes and it would also be in your Amazon library. Or, you could purchase Sleeping Beauty from Amazon, and you could watch it on Google Play. You get the idea. You no longer had to purchase a movie multiple times to watch it on multiple platforms.

Around four years ago, they rebranded, and expanded. It's not just Disney movies. More studios have joined in, and the list now includes:

  • Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment)
  • The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Twentieth Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm)
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment

That's not every studio, to be sure, and key players such as Paramount are not participating. Still, it's a pretty impressive lineup. Of the over 1,600 movies -- downloads and rips of DVDs -- I have in Plex, over 800 are in Movies Anywhere. Considering I have about 300 DVD only movies ripped, that bumps the percentage up to over 60%. That's not bad.

It's cool that I can buy a movie from Google Play and watch it on iTunes/Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video. Or on any of the supported platforms:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Vudu
  • Google Play/YouTube
  • Microsoft
  • FandangoNOW
  • Xfinity (for Xfinity TV subscribers only)
  • Verizon Fios TV (for Verizon Fios TV subscribers only)
  • DIRECTV (for DIRECTV subscribers only)

But what I like even better is the savings in buying movies. Consider this. A particular movie may be on sale on Amazon, but not on other platforms. Or Vudu may be running a special on a group of movies that are full price on other platforms. Many of the movies in my library were purchased when they were put on sale. That meant I always paid best price for the movies. Keep in mind the service is free. You do have to link your various accounts, of course, but that's it.

When it started, I only used iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu. I hadn't purchased movies from Google, Microsoft, or any of the other platforms. However, it was free to connect them to my accounts (if I had one) or to create an account for the platform (if I didn't have one). And yes, I have purchased from all of the ones I use. I'm not an Xfinity TV subscriber, Verizon Fios subscriber, nor a DirecTV subscriber. But, I have accounts with the other services, and they are linked to Movies Anywhere.

They've also introduced something called Screen Pass:

Screen Pass is a new, innovative feature from Movies Anywhere that lets you share your love for movies with someone. Screen Pass allows you to send a pass to another movie lover that allows them to watch a Screen Pass-eligible movie for a limited time at no additional cost.

That sounds like something many people might like. I haven't used it, but I can see its appeal. And perhaps if you aren't a Movies Anywhere user, you see the appeal it has for me. Maybe it will appeal to you, too. I find it makes my Streaming Life much cheaper and easier.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

MST3K joy

There are some people that are rabid crazy fans of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you're not familiar with the show, here's the premise: Mad scientists sent a lowly factory worker into space as part of an experiment to find the worst movie of all time, one so bad that it would break the poor fellow. The scientists would then subject the entire world to the movie and take over the world. Only our intrepid hero used parts on the spaceship to build some robot companions who helped him get through the bad movie sessions. Or something like that. It's not really all that clear, but that's about as accurate as any other description.

The reason I know that much about the show is that I was a fan of the show. Still am, since they are making more episodes someday soon, and I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign.

So, I'm always happy when there is any positive news about MST3K, as the show is also known. And the positive news is that the show is now available on Plex, as part of its ad-supported live streaming service.

That brings to at least five live streaming services that carry MST3K. At least, three that are on free live streaming services that I use. There may be more. I'd be interested in finding more. No reason other than I simply want to know.

Anyway, those five services seem to offer three separate streams. I looked at the five apps and their live streams, and I found that at one particular time Roku TV, Shout Factory TV, and Plex TV offered "The Dead Talk Back," while Pluto TV was showing "Last of the Wild Horses" and Stirr had "Night of the Blood Beast."

Why there are different streams, I don't know. Maybe you do. I am curious about that. Anyway, three separate streams that I know of. I can watch MST3K live streaming any time I want. And so can you.

Of course, I can watch any episode on demand, too. Many are available from different services, in addition to the live streams. Most of the MST3K episodes are available.

And, since I'm such a big fan, I have all the episodes of the show available on my local Plex server, since I've purchased all of the digital versions from iTunes and Amazon, as well as owning all of the DVDs. Oh, and the episodes that aren't available? They are. People did the whole "Keep Circulating The Tapes" thing through all the original series. I have the missing episodes from OTA recordings. Well, cable recordings. You get the idea.

Oh, and the KTMA episodes too, including the "pilot" which is actually a demo, not a full pilot. Well, almost all of the KTMA episodes. I'm missing KMTA Episode 3: "Star Force: Fugitive Alien II." But then again, so is everyone else. Except maybe Jim Mallon. MSTies know what all this means. If you don't, it's just a show and you should really just relax.

If you're a MSTie, you should be excited to know there's yet another way to watch MST3K for free. And, if you aren't a MSTie, Plex still added other stuff recently, including:

  • AfroLandTV
  • WildEarth
  • Johnny Carson TV
  • The Carol Burnett Show
  • MMA TV
  • USA TODAY
  • USA TODAY Sportswire
  • Motorvision TV
  • Shout! Factory TV
  • Tribeca Channel
  • Love Nature en EspaƱol
  • The Walking Dead Universe
  • BUZZR

Those are some decent additions to a free live streaming service lineup. Our Steaming Life just keeps getting better.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Discovery+ or Philo?

One of the most popular streaming services is Discovery+ (Discovery Plus). At last count, the service had over 15-million subscribers. Keep in mind that it launched in the U.S. in January.

AT $5/month, it's a good price for the content. The Discovery+ gives subscribers access to content from:

  • A&E
  • Animal Planet
  • DIY Network
  • Discovery Channel
  • Food Network
  • HGTV
  • History
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • Oprah Winfrey Network
  • Science Channel
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • Magnolia Network
  • The Dodo

Those are some pretty good networks, to my way of thinking. Many of those are the content I like. Well, I'm personally not a fan of Oprah Winfrey or Lifetime, and really don't care for Food Network or HGTV. And History has gone to hell in a handbasket when they quit with history and started carrying pawn shops and space aliens programming. Still, Discovery, ID, TLC, and Science have lots of shows that are of interest to me.

So, is Discovery+ the best way to watch those channels? Maybe. Or...

What about Philo? It carries most of those channels (Magnolia Network and the Dodo are not part of its programming) plus 49 more:

  • AccuWeather Network
  • AMC
  • American Heroes Channel
  • aspireTV
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • BET Her
  • CLEO TV
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Cooking Channel
  • Crime + Investigation
  • Destination America
  • Discovery Family
  • Discovery Life
  • FYI
  • Game Show Network
  • getTV
  • Great American Country
  • Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Drama
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • IFC
  • INSP
  • Law&Crime
  • LMN
  • Logo
  • Motor Trend
  • MTV
  • MTV Classic
  • MTV Live
  • MTV2
  • Nick Jr.
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nicktoons
  • Paramount Network
  • PeopleTV
  • REVOLT
  • Sundance TV
  • Tastemade
  • TeenNick
  • TV Land
  • TV One
  • UPtv
  • VH1
  • Vice
  • WE tv

Philo is $25/month. Yes, that's quite a bit more, but here are some reasons you might opt for Philo rather than Discovery+:

Well, to start with, the extra 49 channels. That's enough to make it worth the extra money. Well, maybe, if those are channels you like. And some of them are indeed some that I like.

Another plus is the live streaming functionality. Philo is a cable replacement service, and you are able to switch to a channel, just like on cable. And, like Discovery+, you can stream some content on demand.

Which do I use? Well, I've tried both. I use neither. I can get a lot of similar content on Pluto TV.

But, let's limit the answer to Discover+ or Philo. So, Discovery+ or Philo?

If you want a live streaming service, then it has to be Philo. But, if live streaming doesn't mean that much to you, and if you can stand the 16 channel lineup vs the 62 channel lineup, then the cheaper Discovery+ may be the better fit.

Heck, at the price Discovery+ is, you could carry it for a month if you did a trial of Philo, or even was a full Philo subscriber for a month. Then, you could make up you mind.

Whichever you choose, you'll find the service a welcome addition to your Streaming Life.

Friday, July 16, 2021

More classic TV

A few weeks ago, I lamented about Hulu no longer having a Classic TV category. However, I did note that some shows are what would be considered classic TV. It's nice to be able to watch classic TV.

What brought this up is an article in The Hollywood Reporter this week about Amazon adding some classic TV shows to its lineup.

Amazon and Sony Pictures TV have struck a deal that will bring an extensive catalog of legendary producer Norman Lear’s shows to the Amazon’s Prime Video and IMDb TV streaming services. The titles headed to the two platforms are Maude, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, 227, Good Times, the original One Day at a Time, Diff’rent Strokes, Sanford & Son and Sanford.

Now, I did watch some of these shows when they first aired. I didn't watch them all, and I didn't watch all the episodes of the ones I did watch. They weren't may favorites. But, as I said, I did watch some of them. And, yes, they are considered classic TV.

While these aren't may favorites, I am still glad to see that older TV shows, particularly those of good quality, are available for viewing.

Perhaps more classic TV shows will become available soon. It makes my Streaming Life so much more enjoyable.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Watching the British Open

One of the hardest achievements in sports to accomplish is the golf Grand Slam. That's when a golfer wins the four major tournaments in a year. It's only been done once. Or twice. Depending on what you mean by "in a year."

Bobby Jones achieved a Grand Slam in 1930, winning the British Open and Amateur, and the U.S. Open and Amateur titles. Nowadays, the Grand Slam is the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and the British Open (traditionalists call it "the Open"). Tiger Woods held all four titles at the same time, but that was across two calendar years, 2000 and 2001. So, maybe that's a Grand Slam, maybe it's not.

It won't happen this year, because of the three majors so far this year, three different golfers have won. So, when the British Open is done, there could be four major title holders this year. And that's pretty much normal.

Still, the British Open is a big deal in golf. And it started today. If you're a golf fan and a streamer, how do you watch it? Easy. Peacock TV. Some action will be on the Gold Channel, and some will be on NBC this weekend, but everything -- just about -- will be on Peacock TV.

If you want to see the schedule of what will be carried where and when, go to the Peacock TV Webpage for the tournament.

It's nice that more and more major sports events are available streaming. That makes the Streaming Life of every sports fan more enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Roku or Roku TV

I'm not intending to disrespect Amazon's Fire TV devices in any way. However, as I prefer Roku, I'm going to talk about Roku, but this could probably apply to Amazon Fire TV devices as well.

When it comes time to get a streaming device -- and I prefer Roku for my personal use -- some people will purchase a smart TV. That's a good idea. In theory. There are problems with making such a purchase, however.

First, what kind of smart TV is it? There are Roku TV devices -- TVs with Roku functionality built in. There are Fire TV devices -- TVs with Amazon Fire TV functionality built in. There are Android TV devices -- TVs with Android TV built in. WebOS ... well, let's stop after those first three, and add that there are other generally inferior platforms.

Why inferior? Well, I'm going by my experience. Those other platforms -- not Roku, Amazon, or Google/Android -- don't generally have as many apps available. I've found some of those off-brand smart TV platforms to be sluggish, too.

The conclusion I've reached is that if you get a smart TV, try to get one for the platform you want. Which means the answer is Roku TV.

But, that brings up the question: do you need a smart TV?

The answer to that question is "no." You do not need a smart TV, particularly if the TV you have otherwise works like you want. If the picture is good, if the sound is good, if everything but the TV "smarts" is good, you really don't need a smart TV. Just connect a Roku (or Chromecast, or Fire TV, or Apple TV, etc) to the television and start streaming.

So, the answer is Roku, not Roku TV.

Unless, of course, you need a new TV. Why would you need a new TV? Well, if the TV is bad, or the picture is bad, or you want better resolution, then sure, go ahead and get a new TV. 

So, the answer is Roku TV.

But don't get a new TV if the only thing you want is the "smarts" of a smart TV. Get a Roku device and connect it to your otherwise perfectly good TV.

So, the answer is Roku, not Roku TV.

Confused yet? Yeah, it can be confusing. If you need a new TV, get one with the streaming platform you want. If you have an otherwise perfectly good TV, just get the device that connects to your TV.

So the final answer is Roku or Roku TV. That wasn't a question, it was the answer all along.

I'm not trying to make your Streaming Life complicated. It's just that sometimes, the answer depends on what you need.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

IPTV, Again

Some weeks back, we talked about IPTV. I gave a rundown on what it is, and my reasons for rejecting those services.

I recently re-read that post, and I'm not really happy with it. I don't disagree with anything I wrote. After all, I gave my thoughts on it, and they haven't changed. But, I don't think I really emphasized what I don't like about IPTV services.

Here it is: IPTV services are a bunch of thieves selling stolen content.

Also, if you support them, you're supporting theft.

There. That's straight to the point.

Am I being a little harsh? Yeah, maybe. But I'm also being truthful, and very blunt about it.

I wonder how many people buy IPTV devices or subscribe to IPTV services -- and I'm talking about pirate TV boxes and pirate TV services -- not realizing just what they are.

People always want to get a good deal on something. And they see all these hundreds and hundreds of channels they can get for a really good price.

The old adage about if it seems too good to be true, it probably is? Yeah, that applies.

Now, if you feel totally different than I do, that's your choice. Am I going to say I respect that choice? No, I'm not. It's theft and I don't respect theft.

If the cost of something means I have to do without it, then I have to do without it. It's simple as that. My Streaming Life isn't complicated. It doesn't have everything, but I'm happy with what I have.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Movies! Times Ten!

Why do we stream TV? To watch TV, of course.

Of course, there are other ways to watch TV, including cable and satellite, but we stream. And streaming is just another source for TV.

TV means TV shows and movies. And we spend money on streaming services and streaming devices in order to watch TV shows and movies. Which means we really like TV shows and movies.

And that's my lead in to a post about something I read on Facebook.

There was a question about movies one had seen ten times. So, I thought about it and came up with several.

Now, there are two ways to consider this. Watching the movie in a theater, as the movie makers intended, narrows the list quite a bit. Watching movies on TV opens the list up.

So, let me start with movies I've seen in theaters ten time. I can think of one and only one: Star Wars.

I loved that film, and went back to the theater over and over to watch it. I think I saw it 13 times, if memory serves.

Opening the list up to watching movies on TV, it grows.

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Stagecoach
  • Casablanca
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Angry Red Planet
  • A Hard Day’s Night
  • Mary Poppins
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Patton
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Star Wars
  • The Thing
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • The Princess Bride
  • They Live

Maybe there are more. Probably. But these are the ones that come to mind. And I don't want to hear it regarding The Angry Red Planet. Yes, it's a stupid silly bad science fiction film with a stupid plot and some stupid characters and some bad acting. Okay, the bad acting is a little harsh. It's not that bad. Some is good. But, considering the type of movie it is, it can't have great acting.

The other movies on the list? Yeah, those seem about right. They are some of my favorites, of course. And they're all great films. I'm talking about the others, remember? Not that silly sci-fi movie with the bat-crab-spider thing in it.

The next movie I watch? Maybe one of those on the list. Maybe something else. I got lots of options. My Streaming Life is good.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Reporting Roku issues: Model number

I've been a streamer since 2010. Well, actually before that, but I got my first dedicated streaming device in late 2010. Two different ones, actually: Apple TV (2nd generation) and Roku (XDS model 2100). I had used Netflix on my TiVo prior to that, but the TiVo wasn't really what I considered a streaming device. The Apple TV and Roku XDS were definitely streaming devices.

I liked the Roku better, because you could do more with it. Today, I'm still a fan of Roku. I've used a lot of different streaming devices, including a lot of different model Roku devices. I'm very familiar with the devices, and might even be considered an expert on them. Roku considers me one, to some degree. Seriously.

That's from my Roku Community page. Roku assigned me that. I'm one of several who are listed as Community Streaming Expert on the forum. If one of the experts suggests something, it's a good suggestion. The other CSEs know their stuff. And, to be frank, I do too.

So, with that bit of background, I want to offer suggestions should you find yourself needing support from Roku with an issue.

It's difficult to speak to Roku directly, so the Community is probably one of the best options you have regarding getting support for issues. Who knows, you might even encounter me there. Which isn't a big deal, since you can get me here too.

Anyway, if you go to the Roku Community support forum to get help, there are a few things that you really should do to help those that are trying to help you.

Provide the Roku device model number. You can locate the model number on the device itself, or from the menu system by going to Settings > System > About

Now, why is this important? Well, different devices may have small details different in how you approach them. For example, if for one problem, the first step in fixing it is to change the HDMI cable, that would not be the solution for a Stick, that plugs directly into a TV. Knowing which device it is makes a difference.

Another is that sometimes, people aren't sure which device they have. That may sound silly, but it can be difficult to know which device you're using. I've seen people report they were using the Roku Express Ultra Stick. Well, the problem with that is that there is a Roku Express, a Roku Ultra, and a Roku Stick, but there is no combination of those. The model number would help support determine which Roku it is.

When you're needed help with Roku, always provide the model number of the device. It helps them help you. And, if that makes your Streaming Life easier, it's worth it.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Frndly.TV is friendly TV

I've been a fan of Frndly.TV ever since it launched. The primary reason? Hallmark.

It's been difficult to find family friendly streaming content with which family members were already familiar. Hallmark is the, well, hallmark of family friendly programming. Sure, the programming is sappy at times, but if it says Hallmark, it's going to be family friendly.

There used to be a streaming service called Feeln that I was delighted to discover. I started watching it and was a yearly subscriber from the time Feeln launched in 2014. Actually, Feeln was a rebranding of a service with which I was not familiar: Spirit Clips. That was where you could find Hallmark content on-demand. That became Feeln, and with the rebranding push, I came aware of it, tried it, liked it, and became a yearly subscriber.

I continued to subscribe to Feeln until 2017, when it changed its name to Hallmark Movies Now. And, I continued to subscribe until Frndly.TV was launched in 2019. I liked Frndly, particularly liked that it carried current content -- there was no, or at least very little, overlap between Hallmark Movies Now and Frndly.TV -- and family members liked the live stream. I decided to stick with just one of the services, and when the Hallmark Movies Now yearly subscription expired in 2019, I let it lapse. I kept Frndly.TV.

And that's the background on how I came to be a fan of Frndly.TV. It actually had more than just the three Hallmark channels -- Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries -- and had more family friendly content. Today, at least as of this writing, it has 19 channels of live and on-demand content, with a 20th scheduled to launch soon.

The service has apps for the major streaming platforms -- Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast/Google TV, Android TV -- as well as mobile platforms. And, with plans as low as $6/month, it's a heckuva deal.

Frndly.TV is an important part of My Streaming Life.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Onn UHD Streaming Device fails the test

Recently, I tested the Onn FHD Streaming Stick. It didn't go well.

Then, I got the Onn UHD Streaming Device to test it. I have to admit, it went a lot better. But it still didn't go well.

I'll give you the ending now: okay device, but I recommend the higher priced Chromecast/Google TV for a similar platform, or a Roku Express 4K+ for a similar priced streaming device.

Let me tell you what I liked about it first.

The price. The price of under $30 is a good. And it may be worth that price. Maybe.

It's not much more than the Onn FHD Streaming Stick, but it's a much better device. So, for the money, the Onn UHD Streaming Device is much superior to the FHD Stick.

It's noticeably faster, and much more stable. As with the Stick, setting up and downloading updates was actually pretty smooth. Like the Stick, the device is an Android TV powered unit. It included the option to use an Android phone to set it up, but I don't use an Android phone. Even so, manual setup was easy enough. The only problem came when running apps for the first time. I had to configure each, signing in with my account, but that's not a major issue at all for me. That's true for almost any device. Bottom line is setup was easy, and didn't have the sluggishness of the FHD Stick.

Also, unlike with the FHD Stick, the UHD Device responded well to the apps. At least, it didn't hang up nearly as much. I was so frustrated with the FHD Stick that I cut the testing short, after I had tried the features and used it for a few days. I didn't want to keep using the Stick. The UHD Device was a much better experience. However, it wasn't up to my standards.

In the week I tested the Onn UHD Streaming Device, I had to power cycle -- unplug and plug it back in -- the Device as many times as I normally have to do a Roku in a year. That's not an exaggeration. I rarely ever have to unplug a Roku device to restart it. In the last year, either three or four times. I think three. In the past two years, maybe six times. Perhaps seven. But no more that that in a 12 or 24 month period.

I had to unplug and restart the UHD Device five times this week alone. That's over 50 times more than a Roku on average over a period of time. And that's not acceptable.

Still, I have to say it's a huge improvement over the FHD Stick. But not enough. Once testing was done, I disconnected the Onn UHD Streaming Device and reconnected the Chromecast/Google TV, which is my secondary device, behind Roku.

Oh, there's one other thing I like about the Onn devices. The remote is pretty good. I actually like it better than the remote that comes with the Chromecast/Google TV device. If the Chromecast/Google TV came with the Onn remote, it would be a much better experience. Almost enough to threaten Roku as my go-to device. Yes, I like the Onn remote that much.

Why? The layout of the remote makes more sense to me. I don't have to look as much as often to see what button I'm hitting. The Chromecast/Google TV remote team could take lessons from the Onn design team.

Oh, there is one thing, and one thing only I don't like about the Onn remote. There is no pause button. You have to press the center button, which functions as an OK button, a pause/play button, and probably something else. I prefer the separate pause/play buttons.

So, as I said, I won't recommend the Onn UHD Streaming Device, but if I found myself using one, I would be okay with it. At least, a lot more okay than with that Onn Stick. If not for the almost daily hangups of the device, I would put it in the "yeah, its a good device, go ahead and get one" category. As it is, I won't try to scare people away from it, but I won't encourage it either. My Streaming Life doesn't need an unreliable device.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A&E networks

Before I dropped cable in 2011, I didn't watch A&E all that much. I used to some years back, when they carried Biography (Peter Graves and Jack Perkins) and similar programming. But, I got away from that as they moved the shows I watched to other A&E owned networks.

It's a popular network, though, with a lot of programs that a lot of people like to watch. And, of course, it's available on all the major live streaming services.

Or it was.

Turns out that when I used the Suppose.TV online tool, it doesn't show up on Fubo TV. It used to be there, but now it's not. In fact, it's not just A&E, but their six major channels to include History and Lifetime. Lifetime Movie, FYI, and Vice were the other A&E Networks channels dropped by Fubo TV.

That was a bit of a surprise to me. Fubo TV isn't as popular as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV, but it's traditionally been a good option for those wanting a live streaming service. But now, it has an A&E Networks size gaping hole in its lineup.

If A&E is in your must-watch lists of channels, you still have plenty of other options. You can also find A&E Networks channels on other services:

  • Philo $25
  • Sling TV $35
  • Vidgo $55
  • Hulu + Live TV $65
  • AT&T TV $75

So, if you are a fan of A&E, you still have options. But, unfortunately, Fubo is no longer an option. That means Fubo and YouTube TV both do not carry those channels. I'm curious as to what might be going on. It doesn't impact my Streaming Life, but it might impact yours, so it's important.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Regional Sports

Yes, this the third day in a row I've written about streaming sports. But this isn't about watching hockey or basketball playoffs, but a more general sports topic.

Part of the reason I write about sports is that sports was one of the major concerns I had when I dropped cable. My concern was valid, as I had no access to ESPN via streaming from fall 2011 through 2014. In 2015, Sling TV launched and gave me the access to ESPN.

However, even now, in 2021, it's still not easy to get all the sports one wants. Regional sports networks are a prime source for many sports fans. Many of them, formerly part of the Fox Sports network, were sold off a couple of times, and now operate at Bally Sports.

Bally is looking to increase its regional sports footprint now. According to an article int he New York Post, Sinclair, which own Bally Sports, is bidding on the seven NBC regional sports networks:

If Sinclair succeeds in buying the RSNs, it would add dozens of popular National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball teams to its already vast collection of sports broadcast rights, including the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Capitals, Golden State Warriors, and San Francisco Giants.

Is this a good thing? I think so. I hope so. At least, in the short term. Right now, Bally is having trouble getting deals done with streaming services. Only AT&T TV, one of the most expensive live streaming services, carries the regional networks. While the NBC regional sports networks are few in number, the locations are huge and have large viewing audience potential. This will give Bally (Sinclair) more bargaining power.

What if Sinclair gets too big? Well, let's worry about the behemoth that is Disney and ESPN first, okay?

Will Bally be a solution for sports fans? Yes, it already is, for many. If the deal goes through, it just means it will be a solution for even more. For sports fans, it may be a service that make their Streaming Life easier.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Watching basketball

I've posted about how to watch the NHL finals as a streamer. But, there's another set of finals going on, and they start tonight. The NBA championship series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns tips off on ABC TV this evening. And, as a streamer, how would you watch?

Well, all four to seven games will be broadcast on ABC. So, you just need access to ABC. How does a streamer get that?

Other than going to a sports bar, you have five (or six) options. Those five (or six) divide up into two categories. So let's look at the five (or six) options, starting with...

Over the Air

Do you have a TV antenna? If you do, either connected directly to your TV, or to a network-connected tuner such as Tablo or Air TV, then it's a simple matter of tuning to your local ABC affiliate and watching the game.

But that only works if you have an antenna. Suppose you don't? Well, remember I said there were two categories? The other four options fall into that other category.

Over the Internet

You'll need to find a live streaming service that carries ABC. That rules out Philo and Sling TV, since they don't carry local stations. That's one reason their price is so much cheaper than other live streaming services. So, what's left?

There are four (or five) streaming services that carry local ABC affiliates:

  • Vidgo $55/month
  • Hulu + Live TV $65/month
  • YouTube TV $65/month
  • AT&T TV $76/month

What about Fubo $65/month? After all they advertise sports as one of their big draws, right? Well, yes, Fubo is big on sports. It's probably the best live streaming service for sports fans. So, why isn't it being listed? Because you many not be in an area where it will carry ABC. But you might.

Go to this page and find your market.

If you can get ABC in your market, then you have five streaming options. If not, you have four options.

Either way, cutting the cord and ditching cable doesn't mean you can't watch sports. If you're a basketball fan, you can still include the NBA championships in your Streaming Life.

Monday, July 5, 2021

More hockey streaming

I'm late to the party on this one. I mentioned a couple of week back that Peacock TV was carrying the NHL semifinals. But what about the finals?

Well, Peacock TV added the finals to their lineup too, but I failed to mention it. I feel bad about that. I'm not a hockey fan, and that's probably part of the reason I didn't stay on top of it like I should have. But that's no excuse. There is no excuse. I failed to keep you updated.

Regardless, if you are a fan of professional hockey, you're interested in the hockey games. And, there may be only one match left, since Tampa Bay leads 3 to 0 in the series. But, that will be streaming on Peacock TV tonight. And, if Montreal extends the series, all future games will be available on Peacock TV.

I do apologize for not posting this earlier. But, if you are wanting to watch the finals, and you subscribe to Peacock TV, or are a Comcast/Xfinity Internet subscriber, you can watch championship hockey, and fill that hockey-size hole in your Streaming Life.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day 2021

One of the most important documents in world history is the United States Declaration of Independence. If you've never read it, it may be worth reading. It gives you a glimpse into history, as well as the U.S. phyche.


In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

As a proud citizen of the United States of America, I still get chills every time I read it.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Those Roku remote buttons

As one who frequents the Roku support boards, I have seen many complaints about the buttons on the Roku remotes. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, it's the four buttons on the lower portion of the Roku remotes that act as shortcut buttons for certain apps.

Roku sells space on the remotes to services/apps and if you purchase a remote that has these buttons -- and for some time, that's been all of the remotes -- then you have quick access to those apps, whether you want that quick access or not.

For example, the remote I normally use for my Roku has Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Vudu buttons. I never use the buttons. The one I would use the most would be Hulu. I would not use Netflix, as I no longer subscribe to Netflix. I don't even have the app on my Roku. But I have the button on my remote.

I understand the frustration some people have with the buttons. Most of the complaints fall into two categories:

  • Accidentally pressing the buttons
  • Wanting to reprogram the buttons

Roku pretty much takes the attitude that if you don't want to use the buttons then don't use the buttons. They also won't consider allowing the reprogramming since it's a revenue stream. If a service pays for the buttons, they should get the buttons for the life of the remote, not just until the user opens the box.

I understand and actually agree with Roku's position. If I bought and paid for buttons, I wouldn't like it if Roku allowed someone to reprogram them. If Roku turned them into simply reprogrammable buttons, then it's no longer a revenue stream. Making money is actually the purpose of being in business. Some people don't get that.

As for accidentally pushing a button, I am in the camp of don't push the button. Learn to use a remote. And quit whining because you can't.

Harsh? Yeah, maybe. But if your biggest problem in life is that you can't stop pressing a button you don't to press, you're problems aren't that big. You're in pretty good shape.

I do wish Roku would take Amazon's approach to the on-device advertising. You know how Amazon offers tablets with discounts if you allow advertising? Or you can pay more and skip the advertising? That would allow those that hate the buttons to not have the buttons and Roku not lose their advertising income.

Or, people can just deal with it. That's the approach I'm taking. My Streaming Life is good, and little things like this don't complicate it.