Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Switching networks

I saw online that the NBC show Manifest is being picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season. The show ended its first season in the top ten, with over 12 million viewers on average. Manifest has steadily dropped in the rating since then, finishing the most recent season in 54th place, averaging 5.34 million viewers. It was canceled by NBC in June 2021 after the conclusion of season three, but now it has new life.

This is simply the latest of a large number of TV shows that have switched networks over the years. The first one I remember doing this was Get Smart, which began on NBC, but switched to CBS for its fifth and what turned out to be final season.

I don't remember The Joey Bishop Show changing networks in the early 1960s, but it did. I never watched the show, so it didn't register. Leave it to Beaver had switched from CBS to ABC, but I only ever saw the CBS episodes first run. My Three Sons went from ABC to CBS when it went from black and white to color episodes. Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour -- many years before American Idol, America's Got Talent, and other shows like that -- jumped networks several times between 1948 and 1970, airing on Dumont, NBC, ABC, NBC (again), ABC (again), and finally CBS. Wagon Train ran on NBC from 1958-1962, when it jumped to ABC until it ended in 1965.

More recently, Matlock jumped from NBC to ABC over its time on the air. Mystery Science Theater 3000 switched from Comedy Central (formerly The Comedy Channel) to Sci-Fi (now SyFy), before being revived on Netflix. JAG began on NBC, then spent a decade on CBS. Taxi aired on ABC until its final season on NBC.

Many many other shows have switched networks over the years, some successfully, some not. Manifest is simply one of the latest. I watched and enjoyed the first season, but was extremely disappointed from the second season on. I don't know if the final season will be any good. I enjoyed the revival of MST3K, so moving to Netflix isn't a bad thing. Whether or not Manifest will be any good, I don't know.

I'm happy that fans of shows that are canceled have options. And, with streaming services such as Netflix now in the mix, more have that opportunity. Fans of Manifest will look forward to another season of the show in their Streaming Life. And that means possibilities for us all.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Fire TV Recast

credit: panbo.com

I've used a few different DVR systems over the years. I've used TiVo (cable and OTA), Simple.TV (cable), Tablo (OTA), and Air TV (OTA). I can now add Fire TV Recast to the list.

I've talked about all of these before, and my DVR of choice lately has been Tablo, followed by Air TV. But what about Fire TV Recast? Well, it's a good system, too. It has one drawback.

First, the cost of the Fire TV Recast system is not bad. It costs about the same as the high end Tablo or Air TV devices. And it's comparable to them.

Setup of Fire TV Recast is similar to that of Tablo or Air TV. You use the mobile app to set it up and scan your antenna channels, and then it just kinda works.

But here's where the limitation kicks in. Fire TV Recast is only for Fire TV devices. It won't work with Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, or any other smart TV system that isn't Fire TV. If you're all in with Amazon, and intend to stay that way, it works rather well. Otherwise, it's a waste of money, as there are other good options that work with the other platforms as well as with Fire TV, including Tablo and Air TV.

Let's say that Fire TV is your platform of choice. If so, once you set up Fire TV, the content just shows up on the main Fire TV page, under Live. There is the last channel you watch, displaying what's currently showing on that channel, as well as the Fire TV Recast program guide, called simply "Guide." Other live streaming channels you watched will show there too, but those two Fire TV Recast items will be in the mix, led by Guide.

The Guide itself is easy to use. It's a standard programming guide like all the DVRs and most cable systems have. You can see what's on, what's coming up, and record content if you wish. You can mange the channels, if you want to hide some.

Recording a show is easy, although I had to search to find the recordings. I found them under Library. That makes sense, but I would have liked to have seen a DVR listing under Live TV. However, since some apps and service include DVR functionality, I could see some people getting a crazy about their Sling TV or YouTube TV recordings not showing there. I won't argue with Amazon's decision to put the Fire TV Recast recordings under Library. Once I figured out where to find it, it wasn't really a problem.

All in all, it's a good DVR. The only issue I have is that it only works with Fire TV. To me, that's a killer insofar as it being my DVR of choice. But, if you are all in with Fire TV, it's a good option that integrates well with that system. It won't be the go-to DVR in my Streaming Life, but if you decide to make it yours, it's a good choice.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Roku Channel

I've seen many sing the praises of The Roku Channel since the service first launched in 2017. I've not really bought into it, because nothing stood out to cause me to want to give it a try. Well, recently, I decided I would give it a try.

Well, I've given it a try. And I'll use it some, certainly more than I did, but I won't use it a lot.

The Roku Channel offers live streaming TV, which I can get from other sources. It also offers on-demand movies and TV shows for free (ad supported), which I can get from other sources. It also allows me to subscribe to premium services, which I do directly, because I hate Roku Pay. So, the three big features are all features I can get elsewhere.

Is that a reason to not use the service? No, actually. There are many different apps and services that offer similar content and features as other apps and services. Bringing nothing new to the table isn't a disqualifier in and of itself.  No, what does it for me is how it works; that is, the user experience.

I have a problem with autoplay content. The Roku Channel doesn't do it to the degree that Peacock TV does, but if there is a TV series, it automatically plays the next episode unless I manually intervene. There's no way to turn off Autoplay, or Play Next. I never want Play Next or Autoplay turn on. Never. So, forcing it on me is not a user friendly experience. And if the experience is not user friendly, I won't subject myself to it.

As I said, it's not as bad as other apps/services, such as Peacock TV. But, it does the Play Next thing, and that's a deal breaker for me.

If it offered the capability to turn that off, I would use the app/service more. Really. There is some good content on The Roku Channel, and I will use it on occasion, but not for TV shows. Live streaming? Sure. On-demand movies? Sure. TV Shows? No way, because I don't want Play Next.

Do I recommend The Roku Channel? Well, no I'm not going to recommend something that I don't like. But, I will say that if Play Next doesn't bother you, then there's no downside to The Roku Channel. It won't be a large part of my Streaming Life, but it will be a small part. So there's that.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

College football season underway

The 2021 college football season starts this afternoon. I've already planned my streaming service to use for the teams I follow, but not everyone follows the same teams I follow. And, I may decide I want to watch other games. Saving money was the primary reason I dropped cable and started streaming, but I've also come to appreciate the flexibility I get from streaming. So, if I decide I want to watch something else, I want to be able to do that.

My teams aren't playing this weekend, but maybe your team is. Or maybe you just want to watch a game that's interesting. So, what do you do?

Looking at the schedule for today's games, there are a few things that I'd need to do if I wanted to watch everything -- or be able to watch everything.

There are four major divisions of college football: FBS (Division 1-A), FCS (Division 1-AA), Division II, Division III.

Division II/III

Let's get Division II and Division III out of the way first. This weekend, no games are scheduled for broadcast in those division. There are no Division III games, and only one Division II game, and it's not being broadcast.


To watch all the FCS/1-AA games, you'll need ESPN, ESPN+, and CBS Sports Network.

ESPN+ is a $7 standalone service. Some people still think it includes the ESPN service. It does not. ESPN+ is an service that is best used as a supplement to ESPN, but you do not need to subscribe to ESPN in order to subscribe to ESPN+. It's totally separate. But, again, ESPN+ does not include standard ESPN service.


If you want to watch FBS/1-A games this weekend, you'll need ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and Fox. Some streaming services include Fox, but not all. If you have an antenna, you can subscribe to one of the cheaper services.

The Streaming Services

To watch games this weekend, you'll need some of these:

  • ESPN
    • Sling Orange ($35)
    • Vidgo ($55)
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)
  • ESPN+
    • Standalone subscription ($7)
  • CBS Sports
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)
  • Fox
    • Antenna (free)
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)

So, depending on what you want to watch, those are ways to watch college football this weekend. I'm ready for my games. Are you ready for yours? If not, get to planning, so your Streaming Life isn't missing the games you want to watch.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Getting ready for some football

As a fan of college football, every year at this time I'm excited about the upcoming season. Now, I've not had my team win a national championship in several years. Either team. Yes, I've got a couple of teams I follow.

About an hour away is a Division 1-A/FBS school that used to be a Division 1-AA/FCS powerhouse, winning six national championships. They made the jump to FBS/1-A several years ago, but I've remained a follower of the team. Then, of course, there's the other team that I follow that has been a 1-A/FBS power for many many years, but while they've won their conference several times, they haven't won a national championship but once in my lifetime.

So, despite the odds that I won't be one of those strutting around bragging about how "my team" -- either one of them -- won the national championship, I'm still excited to watch the teams play. And that's something that was hard to do in the early days of cord cutting.

Sling TV launched in 2015, the first live streaming service for cord cutters. That was a welcome service, as the 2011-2014 seasons were pretty much unavailable to me as a cord cutter, apart from what I could watch via antenna.

As the season approaches, I'm ready to subscribe to Sling TV in order to watch college football. Sling isn't the only option I have, but its the best priced option for me. You may choose another service, depending on what you want to watch.

I'm interested in SEC and Sun Belt football. That means I'm wanting ESPN and SEC Network, with some ESPN+ thrown in some time during the season. With Sling TV, the SEC Network is part of an $11 add-on service. I'll subscribe to that when I'm ready to watch something on SEC Network. If I go the season without it, great. But I'll probably want it somewhere along the way.

Same thing with ESPN+. If there's something airing there that I want to watch, I'll subscribe. Otherwise, I won't.

Since I have an antenna, I'll be able to watch some of the major games, include the Georgia-Clemson game that features two highly ranked teams on September 4, without a subscription.

What about you? What service do you need?

Well, that's an involved topic, and there are a lot of variables. We'll talk about that another time. Right now, I've decided what works best for me, and that is Sling TV. You might want something different. After all, my Streaming Life isn't the same as your Streaming Life.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Cell phone service

Okay, what does cell phone service have to do with cutting the cord? Well, maybe nothing. Unless it relates to why you cut (or are thinking about cutting) the cord. If it's to save money, why stop at dropping cable and moving to streaming? Why not save money in other ways, too?

Here's my answer: I do.

I've tried a few different cell phone services and am paying less than I used to pay for cell phone service. My cell phone bill got way up there for a while. Of course, it included financing new cell phones, which will run up a bill, but even without that, the service was pretty expensive.

I have used T-Mobile and Verizon as my primary services. Actually, I think I used what's now AT&T, but it wasn't back then. It was Cingular, I think. Now, sure, that was a long time ago, so maybe my experience with that company isn't the same as it would be today. I don't know, but it really doesn't matter. The service was fine then, and I know lots of people that use AT&T today, and they like the service just fine. So, I have nothing against AT&T. However, things can get expensive. But that's true for AT&T, Verizon, and other services.

Today, I'm using Verizon prepaid, because they ran a special and I got a great plan at a great price, and I keep a pre-paid balance on the account, so everything is good. It's not unlimited, but I come nowhere close to using the 16 GB monthly allotment, so it may as well be unlimited. If it was unlimited, I'd pay more and still not get any better service, so I'm going to keep the 16 GB plan and pay $35/month and be happy.

There are cheaper plans, and I've used some different plans. Some were recommended by friends or family members, and some I just tried to see what would happen. The end result of what happened is that I still have my Verizon prepaid plan, because I've not found enough incentive to move to a different plan or service.

I'm not going to urge you to run out and get Verizon prepaid, even though that's what I have. What I will urge you to do is to see what prepaid plans there might be that you can use, and what all the little details are.

Here's my deal. I have an 8 GB plan for $50/month. That's all well and good, except that doesn't match what I said I'm getting. There are multiple reasons. One is that Verizon ran a special where I could get double the data. So, my 8 GB plan actually gets me 16 GB/month.

They also had an online special running where I could get $5/month off by signing up with some code or something. That changed 8 GB for $50 to 16 GB for $45.

Then, by going paperless billing and having autopay set up, I could get another $10/month off. All those together turned the 8 GB/$50 into 16 GB/$35.

Oh, and there's one more thing. I can use a particular credit card to get 5% cash back, and that includes buying Verizon prepaid cards. Meaning my plan works out to 16 GB/$33.25. And I'm good with that.

So, if you do want to save money in addition to cutting the cord, look at your cell phone plan. Shop around. You may find some deals, or a series of deals you can combine, and save some real money.

While cell phone savings isn't actually a part of my Streaming Life, it's a part of my real life, and that's real savings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Peacock TV

From time to time I go over my viewing habits and look at what apps I actually use. Part of the reason for that is that on my  Roku device, I have 47 apps installed. I don't use 47 apps with any regularity at all. I doubt there are a dozen that I use more than once a week. Heck, once a month, if that often.

Why do I have these apps installed? Just in case. Costs nothing to have them, and many of them cost nothing to use. I like free.

But, looking over my apps, I see that I have Peacock TV near the top of my Roku menu. I'm not really sure why it's so high on the list, since I don't use it that much.

So, why don't I use Peacock TV? Is it that I don't like the service? No, that's not it. I think the service is a good bargain at $5. But, I still don't use it.

I'm not paying for Peacock TV, so I'm not losing any money by having the app or the subscription. I'm an Xfinity Internet customer, and have an Xfinity Flex box (in the box) which give me access to Peacock TV. Only, as I said, I don't really watch Peacock TV. But why not?

Peacock TV has live TV channels, as well as lots of on-demand content from Universal. And Universal has a long history of making popular movies, so why am I not watching them?

Well, let's look at the first 10 "Featured Films" that showed up recently in the Peacock TV app.

  • Field of Dreams
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Harry Potter Collection
  • Fries! The Movie
  • The Boss Baby: Family Business
  • The Croods
  • The Goonies
  • Apollo 13
  • Marshall

I've seen three of these movies. I own two of those three, and can watch either any time I want. So, the other seven? Only one is of any interest. The rest? Meh. Don't care.

Now, maybe I would enjoy some of those other six movies -- actually more, since I've not seen nor care to see the Harry Potter films -- but right now, I've no intention of watching a movie I'm not interested in watching.

The "Latest Episodes" of the TV Shows section showed a bunch of late night TV (no interest), game shows (no interest), soap operas (no interest), and a couple of things I've never heard of (no idea).

I did watch Debris, but I watched it on Hulu. I watched War of the Worlds on Peacock, since I've liked that story for some time. I liked the book, the 1938 radio drama, the 1953 film, and some of the 1988 TV series. So, I decided to watch the 2019 British three-part series on Peacock. I didn't like the experience.

Here's what I didn't like. When I highlight a TV show and am considering watching it, Peacock starts a bit of autoplay. I hate autoplay, and there is no way to turn it off. So, the bad user experience.

Then, after an episode plays, it autoplays the next episode. I don't want that, either, and there's no way to disable it. Again, a bad user experience.

When I go to watch TV, I don't want a bad user experience. And Peacock TV gives me that. So, I don't watch Peacock TV. And, I probably want, unless it's something I really really really want to watch and there's no other way to watch it.

Peacock TV won't become a regular part of my Streaming Life as long as they present me with an experience I don't like.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Meet the new Plex ...

I've been a big fan of Plex lately. Well, for a few years, actually. When I started streaming, many of my digital movies were purchased via iTunes, and I used iTunes to stream them locally. But, I decided to expand beyond that functionality and rip out all my digital movies and DVDs and stream them via Plex. I looked at a couple of different ways to do this, but I bought in to Plex as the way to go, and I'm glad I did.

I've liked the updates they've made to Plex, including adding live streaming and on demand, but to me, the bread and butter has been the local streaming -- and remote streaming. I normally only use Plex when I want to watch my local content, which is sometimes a lot, sometimes not.

The other day, I launched Plex and it looked different. And a little more so than I expected, but not enough to make me wonder if I had launched the wrong app. So, what was going on? Turns out Plex has introduced something they call "Modern Layout."

First, we explored a large number of layout options, eventually landing on a new “Modern” layout that would showcase artwork from the title and provide some additional context when a poster is in focus: genres, parental ratings, and brief synopsis of the title without having to first click. We combined this rich data with a background color extraction process with a goal of providing a more immersive and streamlined experience when you’re sitting down at the couch and trying to figure out what to watch. Since posters generally have the movie or show title contained in the artwork, this layout also forgoes duplicating the (often truncated) text titles and additional information below the poster in favor of displaying that information in the “inline metadata” section at the top. Importantly, we wanted to involve the Plex community in the process and invite you into the lab.

So, what do I think? Actually, it's fine. I'm not one who embraces change for the sake of change. I like familiar and comfortable. But, I don't shy away from improvements, either. And, I like the new Plex layout.

Is it better? Really better? Well, that depends on the person. I happen to be one that likes it. Part of the reason is that it's not a huge change. Not really. There's a lot familiar to it, not a huge change, but enough of a change to make me like it better.

It's a welcome addition to my Streaming Life. Perhaps to yours, too.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Roku Streambar

As you may be aware, I have several Roku devices on several TVs across multiple locations that I manage. One device I've only mentioned a time or two is the Roku Streambar. It's currently on the TV I use the most. I made that change a little while back and have left in in place. But maybe not why you think.

I am currently using a TV with non-Roku smarts as my main TV. Of course, I have a Roku and other devices attached to it: Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV. The Roku attached to this TV is the Streambar, model 9210.

The TV sound is okay, but I wanted to improve the sound, so I was looking at a sound bar. I decided to consider the Roku Soundbar but waited to make a decision. Until it went on sale. So, when I found it on sale, I bought one, and installed it, replacing the Roku Streaming Stick+ that was on the TV.

The Streambar works about as well as the Streaming Stick+, which is pretty good, but it's not quite as good as a Roku Ultra. The difference isn't much though.

The sound is better than the TV's native sound. I know that's not a ringing endorsement, but the fact is my ears aren't perfect; loud music in my youth, being around artillery when in the military, things like that take a toll. If you want to compare it to other sound bars, I can't really offer a full comparison. That's simply a limitation of my physical abilities. So, if you read a review that compares it to others, I won't offer any counter or conflict regarding such reviews.

I will tell you that the TV sounds better with it than without it. I stand by that. The degree is the issue, and one I can't honestly address. But, it's better, and it's a Roku.

Can I recommend getting this as your only Roku device? Well, honestly, no. I would rather you listen to one if you could before you bought one. But, I will have no problem buying another one. I have another TV that needs a sound bar, and I'm getting a Roku Streambar for it. When it goes on sale. I know what I want, but I'm going to save money when I get it.

The Roku Streambar has been a welcome addition to my Streaming Life. I hope that if you decide to get one, you'll be happy with yours as well.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Finding the time to stream?

I've been streaming for over 10 years. I mean exclusively. Even before I cut cable, I streamed content, Netflix mostly, Amazon a little. My TiVo had limited capability and worked better for downloading non-Netflix content. Still, I was a little familiar with streaming.

When I cut cable in early 2011, I streamed content when I watched TV, and loved it. I didn't have to find time to stream. When I watched TV, instead of firing up the TiVo, I fired up the Roku. I just watched stuff through a different device.

And that's the thing, why do I suddenly think that the situation of "finding the time to stream" even exists? It shouldn't. Where did I even come up with the concept?

Is it the same thing as "finding time to watch TV?" If so, then that really doesn't make sense either. Why on earth would anyone need to find the time to watch TV? If TV is that bog of a deal, it's too big in my life. Or yours, if the case apples to you too.

TV is nothing but entertainment. Sure, I put a lot of money into that device hanging on the wall. Or in the bedroom. Or bedrooms. TV should never be the center of anything, apart from being centered on the wall or over the fireplace. It definitely should not be the center of anyone's day or life.

TV is a distraction, like all other forms of entertainment. A book. A hobby. Anything that isn't what you need to focus on: your family, your health, your career. TV is just entertainment. You should find time to relax, but it doesn't need to be TV.

I really do enjoy watching TV, whether TV shows or movies, and I enjoy the variety I can find via streaming. But it's just TV. I do enjoy my Streaming Life, but I (and you) should never let it interfere with real life.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Good streaming news, but...

The Academy of Country Music awards program will be moving to streaming in 2022. That's kind of a big deal.

The ACM has aired since 1972, first on ABC, moving to NBC in 1979, then to CBS in 1998. This year, CBS has announced that it will carry the CMT Music Awards starting in 2022. CMT is owned by ViacomCBS.

Amazon Prime Video has picked up the show starting in 2022.

Amazon Prime Video [August 19, 2021] announced that they will be the home of the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards, which will livestream on the platform in 2022. The 2022 ACM Awards, produced by MRC’s dick clark productions, marks the first time a major awards show has livestreamed exclusively.

First held in 1966, the Academy of Country Music Awards has honored and showcased the biggest names and emerging talent in the industry, and is the longest-running country music awards show in history. The 2022 live show will bring together iconic artists for exciting collaborations, surprising moments, and an unprecedented number of world television-premiere performances, all of which will be announced in the coming months. The date and location will be confirmed at a later time.

This is kind of a big deal. But then again...

Ratings for awards shows are dropping. So, maybe that's not that good of a thing after all. It's a good thing, just maybe not that big after all.

Why are rating dropping? That's a loaded question. I think it's because people want to be entertained and not lectured, and you can't swing a dead cat in a room of celebrities without hitting someone lecturing you. I haven't watched award shows in years. I don't care if the politics leans my way or away from me, I don't want to listen to that in an awards show.

Will I watch it on Amazon? Nope. I didn't watch it on CBS, or on NBC. When it aired on ABC, I didn't always control the remote -- when I wasn't the remote -- so I didn't get a say in the matter. I haven't watched a lot of award shows over the years in fact.

If awards shows are your thing, though, then now you know where to find this one next year. These shows may be getting more entrenched in your Streaming Life.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

I've not been a fan of Amazon's Fire TV devices almost since the devices first launched. To be clear, I have purchased many over the years, and have given them all away. Until now.

Here have been my complaints about the Amazon Fire TV devices:

  • The devices are underpowered
  • The interface is too In Your Face regarding Amazon

My complaints are now tempered ... somewhat.

The interface is not really any better. I suppose the fact that more and more devices do this makes it not stand out as much.

Roku is the least intrusive, although the ads on the menu screen do promote Roku devices and services. Chromecast with Google TV does promote Google a lot. Apple TV is not as obnoxious as Chromecast or Amazon, but that's because Apple is more subtle, but still promotes itself as much; they're just better at it.

So, having accepted that it's going to happen, I'm putting less emphasis on that aspect. But that still leaves the underpowered device as an issue, and that's a big deal.

I have to say, I've been very happy with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K insofar as responsiveness is concerned. Had I purchased a lower end device, I might not feel this way, but with a sale on the top end Firestick, I got a good device.

This makes me wonder if someone has done nothing but purchased low-end Roku devices over the years, would they feel the same way about Roku? Maybe so. That makes me wonder if I've been unfair to Amazon.

Let me state that some years back I did purchase a Fire TV box. Of course, it was in 2014 -- I just looked that up and was surprised it was that long ago -- but comparing it against my, at the time, Roku 3, it was an inferior device. So, I stand by my complaint about the underpowered device. Well, until now.

I gotta admit that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a good device. There used to be a huge gap between my number 3 and number 4 device, with Amazon being number 4, far behind the others. That's no longer the case. Amazon, at least the Fire TV Stick 4K, has risen in my eyes.

I've used the Fire TV Stick 4K almost exclusively for a couple of weeks. I have no complaints over the device itself. It works well, and joins the other devices as a recommended device.

Will I convert to Fire TV? No. But it's now an option I'll have on at least one TV at all times, rather than something stuck in a box somewhere, like I've done with my TiVo Stream and Onn devices. While it won't be my top device or go-to device, at least not yet, it's now a part of my Streaming Life. If you choose to make it part of yours, it's a good decision.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Sling TV update

It finally happened yesterday. My current primary Roku device received the latest Sling TV update.

I may have some Roku somewhere that hasn't received the update, but I'm not going to pull everything out of their boxes and check. My Ultra, my Stick+, but not my Roku TV, which is an older device. I have a Stick+ on that Roku TV, so I normally wouldn't know that unless I checked. I checked.

So, since I don't use the Roku portion of my Roku TV, but rather the Stick+ attached to it, that means that all of the Roku devices I normally use now have the updated Sling TV app.

What do I think of the new app? Well, I've seen it before. Remember, it has been on the Stick+ for several days. And, it's on other devices, such as Fire TV Stick 4K and on Chromecast with Google TV.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the new app.

That's the front page. Next is the grid.

I do like the new appearance. Many don't. I'm not sure why. The old interface worked okay, and I'm not a fan of change for the sake of change. This isn't that. It's an improvement on the front page. I don't normally use the front page of the Sling TV app, but always go to the grid. But, this front page is better. The change to the grid isn't wonderful, since it loses some ground overall, but it does match the new theme, so it is a change that makes sense.

While it's currently only used for local channels, I'll be adding Sling Orange to the mix as I get ready for football season. I'm going to be happy with the new Sling TV app as I use it more and more. My Streaming Life just got better.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

More Streamers (again)

A report out recently shows that more people are streaming, even as COVID-19 restrictions relaxed. True, more restrictions are going in place in many places, but overall, there are fewer restrictions than a year ago, so not as much forced home time as a year ago. Still, overall, streaming is up:

Streaming grew by 13% in Q2 2021 versus the same time last year. June enjoyed the biggest increases of the quarter...

The report from Conviva covers the world, not just the U.S. Most of the increases worldwide was from South America, which showed a 192% increase. North America's increase was the smallest at 2%. However, every region showed increases worldwide over the same quarter a year ago.

There was actually a drop of 7% in North America in April, but an overall increase for the quarter. Apart from that one month in North America, every month every region was an increase over same month a year earlier.

Folks are streaming. I am, and have been for a while. But more and more are streaming. And that's good, right?

Well, there are drawbacks. When there were fewer streamers, our voice carried more weight. But, as the number of streamers increase, there are more and more voices. My voice, and the voices of all long-time streamers, are watered down. However, more streamers mean more and more companies are focusing on streamers. So, while there are more voices, there are more ears listening too. Still, overall, my voice is just one on millions. But, I'm still a voice, as are you.

Companies will listen, and maybe pay more attention to what we say overall, just not so much individually. I think overall it is a good thing, and our Streaming Life will continue to improve.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Starz on The Roku Channel

Recently, I've been watching The Roku Channel, not just on Roku but also on other platforms, too. I've been looking at the features and trying to decide what I've been missing out on.

The Roku Channel is one of the most popular apps on Roku, and is fairly popular on other platforms as well. While I'm a fan of Roku, I haven't bought in to the hype about The Roku Channel. Still, I'm willing to give it a try. So, I'm trying it out.

The feature I'm looking at now is Starz, a premium movie channel that can be added to The Roku Channel. Subscribing to Stars on The Roku Channel adds a separate app, "Starz on The Roku Channel," to the menu. If I want to watch Starz content, it's all right there, as well as being available within The Roku Channel.

The two problem I had with Starz on The Roku Channel were the lack of a search feature and the limited content.

The search is a big deal, because browsing doesn't offer easy ways to find stuff. There is a workaround: you can still search within The Roku Channel, just not within the Starz on The Roku Channel app.

The limited content is the other thing, and the major thing, since there's no workaround. You see, not everything that's available from Starz is available through Starz on The Roku Channel. Starz/TRC did not have everything. If you go to the various categories of content, for example comedies, you'll see up to 40 titles in the category on Starz/TRC.

The thing that I really don't like is that with Starz/TRC you are limited to watching it on a Roku device. You can't watch the content through The Roku Channel on a Fire stick or Chromecast, because premium content to which you subscribe via The Roku Channel is not available on a non-Roku platforms.

I do like that if you sign up for a free trial, you'll be notified ahead of the expiration of the free trial in case you want to cancel and not get billed for the first month. That is a good feature and not every service does this. I commend Roku for taking this approach. More services should.

To summarize, if you're all in with Roku, it's a good way to subscribe to Starz, but not as good as subscribing to Stars standalone service. Still, there's enough good quality content to consider including premium services such as Starz on The Roku Channel in your Streaming Life.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Roku Channel on Fire TV

I mentioned in the last few weeks that I was doing a more serious testing of The Roku Channel and, separately, Amazon Fire TV, specifically a Fire TV Stick 4K. And while those are totally separate things, at least when I decided to check them out in greater detail, they also co-exist.

There is an app for The Roku Channel that is available for Fire TV. And, when I set up my Fire TV Stick 4K for use, I installed my most-used apps on the device. That included The Roku Channel, since that was a focus.

So, what's the difference between The Roku Channel on Fire TV and on Roku? The only big difference I've seen relates to premium or add-on channels.

On a Roku device, you can subscribe to services through The Roku Channel. There is a row for Premium Subscriptions on Roku.

This is not the case on Fire TV, or any non-Roku platform. If you want Roku Premium Channels, you must be on a Roku device. Being in The Roku Channel isn't enough.

There is one thing that I like though -- I think -- and that's that it appears to do a better job of keeping up with the "Continue Watching" section. Checking two separate Roku devices -- a Streambar and a Streaming Stick+ -- I find that it keeps up with movies or TV shows I watch, but not content in the Live TV section.

However, for the Fire TV device, it kept up with content played through Live TV on the Continue Watching section.

It does seem to be device related, and I'll talk more about that another time. For now, the Fire TV seems to include Live TV in the Continue Watching section, while the native Roku device doesn't. So, score that for Fire TV.

All of the non-premium content of The Roku Channel is included in the Fire TV app. Well, at least that I could tell. I didn't find any other missing content.

The apps work pretty much the same, apart from that. If you're a fan of The Roku Channel, and have a Fire TV device, adding the app gives you the content.

If you haven't tried out The Roku Channel, but do use Fire TV devices, you might want to give it a try. The Roku Channel for Fire TV is, apart from the Premium Channels, the full Roku Channel experience. You might want to add it to your Streaming Life.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fewer streamers

I wrote the other day about a couple of streaming services that increased their user base. But not all services are increasing. Hulu+Live TV lost 100,000 subscribers.

While Hulu added subscribers and reached a total of 39.1 million subscribers by the end of the quarter, Hulu with Live TV dropped 100,00 subscribers and ended the quarter with 3.7 million, down from 3.8 million in the previous quarter.

According to the report, Hulu added subscribers overall, but lost on the live streaming service end of things. So, yes, there are more streamers, but fewer streamers when it comes to Hulu+Live TV.

While this is bad news for that particular segment of streaming, Hulu overall is doing well. And, sister company Disney+ did increase subscribers. Overall, it was a good report for Disney.

I don't understand why Hulu+Live TV lost subscribers, though. It's a good live streaming service. I wonder if enough Hulu subscribers came to think like I do that a live streaming service isn't necessary. Or, maybe they found Sling TV or another cheaper service more to their liking. I don't know what the reason might be. It doesn't really make sense.

Regardless, overall streaming is up, as more and more people enjoy a Streaming Life.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Watching NFL Football

I stopped watching professional football a few years ago. There are more and more players that think they're God's gift to mankind. They're not. They're grown men playing ball. There have always been players like that ever since the National Football League was founded. But, and I really don't remember the year, but the tipping point -- the place where it became too much for me -- arrived a few years ago, and I haven't watched an NFL game since. Well, I take that back. I did watch the Giants win the Super Bowl over the previously undefeated New England Patriots, as I recall fondly the undefeated 1971 Miami Dolphins team. The Giants-Patriots game was after the 2007 season, so my tipping point was reached before then.

Still, just because I don't watch NFL football doesn't mean that everyone is like me. In fact, most people are not like me. It's the most popular sport in the U.S., even without me watching. My failure to watch doesn't make a dent in the ratings.

So, as a streamer, I've never really cared about how to watch NFL football online, but with the pre-season now underway, I got to thinking about it. How would an NFL fan watch their teams play? Well, I checked. It seems that the major live streaming services that carry local affiliates -- Hulu+Live TV, YouTube TV, Fubo TV, and AT&T TV -- all carry the local affiliates for the 32 NFL teams. That means, when the local station carries the game, you're good to go.

Note that Sling TV isn't listed. That's because Sling TV doesn't carry local channels. You need an antenna to watch local channels if you use Sling TV. You can get Air TV to integrate it into the Sling TV app. Tablo is also an option for putting local channels from your TV antenna onto your streaming device. Amazon Fire TV users can use Fire TV Recast to accomplish the same thing. There are other methods, but those are the most popular ones.

Oh, just to be complete, there are certain markets where Sling TV does carry local channels, but those are limited. If you're in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York (Giants), Philadelpha, or Washington, you can get the local affiliate for those respective teams.

What if your team isn't carried on your local TV station? Well, the NFL Game Pass on NFL Network will carry out of market games. And NFL Network if available on Hulu+Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Fubo TV, but not on AT&T TV.

Additionally, if you're in an area serviced by Locast, you may find your local affiliate carries the games you want.

If your favorite team is carried by CBS affiliates, you may be able to watch with a Paramount+ subscription.

If you're want to watch NFL games, you have ways to have them in your Streaming Life.

Friday, August 13, 2021

More streamers

A couple of news articles this week reported that two streaming services are continuing to increase subscribers. That's not a surprise to me, but it is evidence of what I knew.

Fubo TV had a larger increase than expected in the last quarter:

FuboTV added 91,000 subscribers in the June quarter, ending the period with 682,000 total subscribers. Analysts expected the New York City-based company to add 12,000 new subscribers in the second quarter for a total of 602,000 subscribers.

That's a few days after Sling TV reported an increase of 65,000 subscribers, bringing the total to 2.44 million. That helped parent company Dish top their earning expectations despite losing 67,000 pay-TV subscribers overall:

Dish's revenue for the quarter rose to $4.49 billion from $3.19 billion, while analysts had been modeling $4.43 billion. The company's net pay-TV subscribers declined by about 67,000 in the second quarter, compared with a net decrease of roughly 96,000 a year earlier. Dish finished the quarter with 10.99 million pay-TV subscribers, including 8.55 million from Dish TV and 2.44 million from Sling TV.

Fewer subscribers but more earning. Streaming is saving these companies. It's is the future of TV. Heck, it's the present of TV.

More and more are enjoying the Streaming Life.

Thursday, August 12, 2021


As a sports fan -- mostly college football -- I've been through the difficulties of finding sports I'm wanting to watch online. In the early days of streaming, there was nothing when it came to live sports. Today, there are a lot of options.

You can watch ESPN and Fox Sports on many live streaming services: Sling TV, Vidgo, Hulu+Live TV, YouTube TV, Fubo, and AT&T TV. Bally Sports is on AT&T TV. There are other sports networks available through streaming services. Oh, and there are some that are not available on any streaming service.

Those that are available streaming have something in common: they're a part of a streaming package, a cable replacement service, if you will. You can't get ESPN standalone. You can't get Bally Sports networks standalone. If I want ESPN, I have to pony up at least $35 for the cheapest streaming service that carries it.

Now, what about ESPN+ you say? Well, it's a standalone service, but it doesn't include ESPN. You can't subscribe to ESPN+ and watch what's playing on ESPN right now. It's a supplemental service, adding additional content but not including basic ESPN.

That's not to say that ESPN+ isn't a good service. It is actually, but it's not ESPN. Still, you can get a lot of good content. Maybe that's why the price is going up.

Starting on Aug. 13, the price of an ESPN Plus subscription will rise to $6.99 a month and $69.99 a year, up from $5.99 a month and $59.99 per year.

Today is the last day at the old price. Am I recommending you get it? No, but I'm not saying wait either. If I get it for college football -- lots of games will be on ESPN+ -- it'll be cheaper to get the service now. But, in order to watch the games, I'll have to subscribe longer. So, is it a good deal for me? Actually, no. It'll be cheaper to subscribe for one less month at the higher price. Only about a dollar cheaper, but still cheaper. And I'm a cheapskate.

The other thing is that ESPN is putting more and more content on ESPN+. Maybe they'll eventually have a standalone service for ESPN, similar to the HBO Max standalone service, or any of the other services.

When that day comes, and I think it will, just not soon enough for me, it will make my Streaming Life so much better.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Fox News app and streaming services

The most watched news network is Fox News. I don't care if you are a lover of Fox News, or a hater of Fox News, the fact is that it is the most watched network. That means there are a lot of streamers that want to watch Fox News. And there's the problem.

Fox News is available as part of six live streaming packages:

  • Sling TV (Blue) $35/month
  • Vidgo $55/month
  • Hulu+Live TV $65/month
  • YouTube TV $65/month
  • Fubo $65/month
  • AT&T TV $76/month

If you subscribe to one of those services, you get Fox News in the streaming package. To watch it, just go to that channel, like you would any other channel.

Fox News also has an app for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Android/Google TV, and other platforms. However, the app requires authentication against a TV provider. That means a cable service, a satellite service, or a streaming service.

There are 582 different services that can be used to subscribe:

  • 575 cable services, too many to list here.
  • Two satellite services
    • DirecTV
    • Dish
  • Five streaming services
    • AT&T TV
    • Fubo
    • Hulu+Live TV
    • Vidgo
    • YouTube TV

Note that Sling TV is not one of the streaming services. I'm a little surprised, since Sling TV is owned by Dish, and Dish is one of the authenticating services. DirecTV satellite service is also an authenticating service, as is their streaming service AT&T TV. So, I don't know why Sling TV isn't, but it isn't.

That's unfortunate since Sling TV is the cheapest live streaming service that carries news services, including Fox News.

There is one thing about the app that bothers me, and I don't really know how to resolve the issue. A lot of Roku users report that they have to constantly authenticate against the service. There are not a lot of reports about this with other news service apps. Perhaps that's because Fox News is the most watched news service, and therefore more are using the app than are using the other services' apps.

There's also another possibility. Many, actually.

One is that the account used to authenticate is being shared. That is, users from different locations are logging in with the same app. Some services don't approve of user account sharing, and when a login form a different IP address is detected, or if a login from a distant IP address is detected, Fox or the provider requires the timeout to be much shorter. In other words, it's an anti-account sharing function.

Another is that the app is poorly coded. All of the major streaming platforms use different operating systems, and the code for one Fox News app won't run on another platform. They have to code a different app to work the same. Poor coding can be the issue.

Another is that the device has a bug in it. This is related to the poorly coded app reason in that the reason for the bug could be software related. Removing and reinstalling the app may fix it. Note that is the device is a Roku, you should remove the app, then reboot the Roku, then reinstall the app. Skipping that second step is common, and wrong.

Another is that the service provider simply requires a shorter timeout. It's not a bug, it's an intentional function.

And then there's the other reason. It's not really happening. You see, all apps that require authentication will time out. This is so that they can confirm that you still subscribe to a service that carries Fox News. This can be monthly. People may have to re-authenticate on a monthly basis, and it just seems like it happens a lot.

It may be that different users are impacted by different reasons. One could be using a "borrowed" account (which isn't allowed). Another could have a service provider with a short timeout. Another could have a corrupt installation requiring a remove/reboot/reinstall. And, another may simply think he's having to re-authenticate more often than the really is. Different reasons all, but they all have the same complaint. That makes it hard to troubleshoot.

I think the primary reason is the coding of the app. The language used to code Roku apps is not as common as the language to code other apps, so the app developers may not be a savvy in regards to that platform.

Most of the issues I've seen relate to cable authentication. And, if what I'm seeing is actually widespread -- it's cable subscribers that have the issue, not live streaming service users -- then cord cutters really don't have the problem.

I don't subscribe to a live streaming service that carries Fox News, or any news for that matter, so I don't have this issue. I'm not a fan of any cable news service. If I wanted to hear idiots yelling at each other, I don't have to turn on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, or any other news service. I have crazy relatives. I can contact them. But I won't. I'll just not watch those talking head channels, and enjoy my Streaming Life without them.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

My streaming channel lineup (no sports edition)

It's nearly college football season, and that's when I expand my streaming lineup. But it's not college football season yet. I've been a cord cutter since January 2011 when I dropped cable. In those early days, we didn't have as many options as we have today. In a way, that was a good thing. Let me explain.

I learned the hard way how to handle, adapt, and overcome with the limited options we had. I learned how to look at options I hadn't previously considered, and think outside the box (if you'll pardon the buzzwords). I found out that I really had more options that I hadn't considered, if I was willing to work for it. I was, and I saved money. I figured out what I could do without, and decide what things were worth it to me.

When live streaming services came along, I didn't go all in year round. I already knew I had plenty of options to watch what I wanted apart from sports. And I didn't want to pay for sports year-round, only during college football season. I realize this isn't necessarily how you'd want to do it, but the point is you can find a way to do it like you want to also.

Right now, here are my streaming services.

Paid Services


Hulu ($6/month) is my "cable company." I was used to recording shows on TiVo for years before cutting the cord, so watching stuff later was normal for me. Hulu lets me watch current seasons of many shows. Yes, it has commercials, but so did cable, and so did the recordings from cable. It's not a big deal. Heck, I might even see something I want.


Paramount+ ($10/month for you, $6/month for me) is the old CBS All Access. I had CBS All Access, so my pricing is under the old tier. I'm listing the current pricing for the service I have. Mine included the local CBS affiliate, but had commercials. That combination isn't available now. To get local CBS you have to have the no-commercial plan. For that reason, I'm listing the no-commercial plan for you.

The service gets me live CBS (which I only used during football season) and a shipload of other content.  Last time I counted, the service had 2,730 movies in its library. Some were great. Some were lame. Just like any movie service. Paramount+ and Hulu covered most of the current TV I wanted to watch.

Peacock TV

Peacock TV ($5/month, free to Xfinity Internet users) is the one I might not have if I wasn't an Xfinity Internet subscriber. For $5/month, it's a good service, but I don't use it that much. Of course, right now, I'm not using Hulu that much right now. Still, I do have it, and I do watch it on occasion. The movie library isn't as large as you might think, considering the overall Universal Studios catalog. Peacock TV had 1,182 movies the last time I counted. It's worth considering, at least as a rotating service, if not full time.

Oh, and since I am an Xfinity subscriber and this service is free, it would still be on the list, but in the Free Services section.


Frndly.TV ($6/month) has been something I've subscribed to for some time. It started when family members wanted to watch Hallmark Channel content. I wrote more about it a while back. I found Frndly.TV to be a good little service. I'm not a huge fan of the interface, but it works well enough. The on-demand library isn't as large as other services, but it's good family content.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video ($10/month based on $119/year) is in the list because I do have it. I don't actually use it that much. I've had Amazon Prime since before there was a Prime Video service. I didn't subscribe to watch the content, but I do watch it on occasion, so I'm listing it here. While I don't watch it much, it is a good service. I don't like the app's interface, and it's not easy to find, mostly because it includes content you have to pay extra for. Weeding through that to find stuff that's included with Prime or that I own makes it a pain. The other services make it easier to find something to watch, and I'd rather spend time watching than hunting for something to watch. That's why if it was only Prime Video and no other benefits, I wouldn't have the service. But I do, so I'm counting it.


PBS ($5/month for you, $10/month for me) is technically free, but to get the full library, you must be a Passport member, meaning a donation of at least $5/month. I donate to PBS anyway -- more on that here -- so I pay more that you might. I'm not paying for the purpose of watching the shows; I'd only pay the $5/month if that was the case. But, since I am paying, I do use PBS Passport.

Even without PBS Passport, there is a decent amount of content on the PBS app, and I'd have it anyway, only under the Free Services section.


Tablo ($5/month, or free) is a great DVR system for your antenna. It's technically free, because you don't need a Tablo subscription to use the service. If a 24-hour guide is okay with you, you don't need the subscription. But it does give you 14-day channel guide. I have the lifetime subscription, so it was one payment and I was done. If you use the service three years, it's better to get the lifetime subscription. I plan to use it three year. Well, more, really. That's why I'm including it in the Paid Services section.

Note: If you use Tablo, you don't really need Sling TV for Air TV. And, if you have Sling TV for Air TV, you don't need Tablo. I have both. But I'm weird.

Free Services

Sling TV (Air TV)

Sling TV (free) is free. It's not the full Sling TV Orange or Blue package. It's a free streaming package that's included with the app. I really only use it because it also integrates Air TV into the interface, and that's a service I use. I can watch TV from my antenna through the Sling TV app, as well as watch some free live streaming services, and some on-demand content. This is one worth having.

Yes, a full Sling TV live streaming package is $35/month, but I'm not talking about that. Maybe in the future.

Note: If you use Tablo, you don't really need Sling TV for Air TV. And, if you have Sling TV for Air TV, you don't need Tablo. I have both. But I'm weird.

Pluto TV

Why didn't I list Pluto TV first? I should have, I suppose, except that I wanted to keep Tablo and Sling TV (for Air TV) together. I use Pluto TV on an almost daily basis. It has a shipload of free content. It's my go-to service for live TV. Unless somebody really wants to watch something on Frndly.TV of course.

The Roku Channel

I'm counting this even though I don't use it a lot. But, as I mentioned recently, I am giving it a more in-depth look, and so far I think I may use it more than I previously had.


I got Plex to stream my local content to my streaming devices. I still use it primarily for that, but since they've added live and on-demand streaming content, the app is useful even without a local library.


This little secret has a ton of interesting stuff. I probably should list this in the Paid Services section since I do subscribe, but the $4/year price is so low, that I felt silly putting a service that averaged under 34¢/month. It's never my first choice for watching content. Well, rarely. But, I can always find something to watch.


I don't watch Crackle, Vudu, Tubi, IMDB.TV, or Stirr that much, but I do have them. There's nothing wrong with them. They're good free apps. I just don't use them that much.

Where Are These?


I've not subscribed to Netflix in years. Well, mostly. With all the other services, I realized years ago that I rarely watched Netflix. I was paying a lot of money for not a lot of viewing. So, I dropped it. And I haven't missed it. Well, almost.

Netflix did pick up the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and when the two seasons were released, I subscribed long enough to watch the shows, then dropped it again. To me, it's not worth it.

Apple TV+

Okay, I do have Apple TV+, but that's because I have an iPhone, and service came with the device. When the free service is up, will I keep it? No. There's not enough to justify the expense to me. When there is enough of a library built up to justify it, I'll subscribe, watch the stuff, then drop the service. Like with Netflix.


I have subscribed to Disney+, but I found I did not use the service. Like with Netflix and Apple TV+, I may subscribe if enough builds up to watch, then cancel when I'm done binging.


This doesn't even rise to the level of Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+. I don't see myself subscribing to Discovery+ again. I tried the service. Not just the free trial, but I paid for a month. Didn't watch it enough to justify it. And, here's the thing, Discovery+ is right up my alley. I actually thought I would watch it a lot more than I did. But I didn't. So, I canceled and may not subscribe again.

Paid Live Streaming (Cable Replacement)

I don't use them year-round. It's that simple. The stuff to which I subscribe, plus the free content, means that if I were to subscribe to a service (besides Frndly.TV) I wouldn't watch it that much. Certainly not enough to justify a $65/month price tag that most services have. Looking at you Hulu+Live TV, YouTube TV, and Fubo. Even the cheaper services, such as Vidgo ($45/month) or Sling TV ($35/month) wouldn't be worth it.

The closest, apart from Frndly.TV, which I do have, would be Philo. It's only $25/month. Even then, I wouldn't watch it enough to justify keeping it. That's not a guess, I've actually subscribed. I don't watch it.

If -- note that I'm saying "if" -- I were to subscribe year-round to a service, it would be Philo. It has a lot of the Discovery content, as I've mentioned before. And even then, I'd replace it with a service that carried sports during college football season. Apart from football, Philo would be my choice. But, it's not. I choose to not have a year-round service. I don't need one. I have plenty to watch without it, and I'm not gong to waste the money.


After seeing this list, I'm not wondering if I'll keep all of these services. I'll probably keep Frndly.TV, but may drop the yearly subscription and go to monthly during part of the year.

Hulu and Paramount+ may get dropped, and only picked up during part of the year. Tablo is already paid for (lifetime subscription) and I'll keep giving to PBS. Peacock is free to me as an Xfinity Internet user. Otherwise, it would go into the Hulu/Paramount+ rotation.

I'll review Amazon Prime service between now and renewal, and decide if to keep the service. If so, I'll also keep Prime Video, since that's included. But if it was only Prime Video? No, I'd drop it now.

My total cost for streaming is $18. That $6 for Hulu, $6 for Paramount+, and $6 for Frndly.TV. The others are services I have anyway. I donate to PBS anyway, and the Passport service is a bonus.

And, if I start swapping out Hulu and Paramount+, my cost will drop to $12/month for streaming. I am enjoying the low cost associated with my Streaming Life.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Waiting on the Sling TV update

Sling TV has released an update to their app. It's rolled out on Fire TV devices, and some Roku devices. I have it on my Ultra, but no on other Roku devices. So, I'm waiting on the Sling TV update to come to the rest of my Roku devices.

I have a Firestick -- remember, I got a new one recently that I'm trying out -- on the same TV as a Roku that doesn't have the update. That means I can actually compare the interfaces on the same TV. I need three remotes to do that properly, but I am able to use the old and the new Sling TV interfaces from the same chair.

The interfaces are very different. Well, the home page is different. I may actually like it better than the old one. Here's the new one:

And here's the old one:

I do like the new one better.

The grid is pretty much the same. It's a grid. You can't do much with a grid. But they did make a change. Here's the old grid:

Here's the new grid:

The smaller text means fewer channels can display on screen at any one time. Okay, one fewer channel. But still...

Also, while they are keeping the orange or blue dots associated with the service on which the channel is available, they did forego the designator for the OTA channels. They have no indicator, and look the same as the regular free Sling TV content items.

Overall, I do like the new interface. I haven't given it extensive use, but my first impression is good. I'm ready for it to come to all of my Roku devices. I could get used to it as part fo my Streaming Life.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Cutting the cord, but not the expense

I cut the cord to save money. However, I realize others cut the cord for other reasons. I'm not about to think everyone cut the cord for the same reason I did. But it is the reason I cut. And that colors how I look at others when it comes to how they stream.

There's a study that says a lot of people who cut the cord spend a lot of money on streaming services. Now, I don't know if it's a true reflection, or a manipulation of the data, but spending $85 on average?

Many consumers who dropped their traditional pay TV services are finding that they can still face some hefty monthly bills for OTT services, with new research from Parks Associates reporting that cord-cutters are spending $85 a month on average for OTT services. 

That is roughly $30 less than what they were paying for pay TV services, according to Park’s "Cutters, Nevers, and the Rebundling of Video" research report.

That's a lot of money.I don't understand it. Keep in mind that during most of the year, my streaming cost is $6 for Hulu and $6 for Frndly.TV, which means there is someone spending $158 for every someone spending $12.

Of course, I'm not counting Amazon Prime Video cost because I had that anyway. I've been a Prime subscriber from way back, before there was a Prime Video. So, I'm not counting an existing expense into my cost. If I didn't cut the cord, I'd still have that cost, so it's off the table when it comes to figuring things.

And that's the key to these reports, I suspect. They're counting everything as part of "the cost of cord cutting" even if the cost was unrelated to cord cutting. It's dishonest. So, my cost doesn't include something I had anyway.

And, to me, Netflix is a lot like that. If you already had Netflix before you became a cord cutter, then the cost of Netflix shouldn't be counted. I'm not counting it as an expense because I dropped Netflix some years back. But, even if I still subscribed, I wouldn't count it.

Unless, of course, they are new expenses. If I wasn't a Netflix subscriber, then became one as part of cutting the cord, then yes, it counts. Same with Amazon Prime. But, for pre-existing subscriptions? Nope, it doesn't count.

So, I'm not sure what to think of the report of the average cord cutter spending $85/month on streaming. Maybe so, but I suspect it's inflated with pre-existing subscriptions or costs. Although my motivation for cutting the cord may be clouding my judgement.

Here's the thing, though. Even if it is, so what? If it give the users what they want, and they're happy with the service and the cost, then it's a good thing. Just like if a cable subscriber is happy with the service and the cost, then they're where they need to be.

But, I still suspect the numbers are all distorted. I know my Streaming Life costs nowhere near that much. And I enjoy it immensely.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Epix on the Roku Channel

I said recently that I would be checking out The Roku Channel to see why everyone was so high on it. The Roku Channel gets a lot of love from cord cutter Websites and articles, but it's something I've not done much with. So, I'm trying it out.

Shortly after starting that, I found out this was going to take a lot longer than I thought. It turns out there's a lot to The Roku Channel. The free streaming content is what I have always focused on, and that's understandable. After all, that's one of the features that Roku most often emphasizes. But it's not the only thing they have.

Roku is really big on buying stuff. Most companies are. And Roku wants you to buy subscriptions using Roku Pay. I've already said I'm not a fan of Roku Pay, but I do understand it's a revenue stream for Roku, and that there may be valid reasons for it to be the way for you to go.

The Roku Channel offers subscriptions to premium services. I subscribed to Epix in order to try it out. And, quite honestly, it worked pretty good. But not perfect, you might note.

First, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing, is that when you subscribe to a premium service through The Roku Channel, a separate app is actually loaded on to your Roku. An app called "Epix on The Roku Channel" appeared. Again, not a bad thing. If I want to watch Epix content, it's all right there. And, it's also available within The Roku Channel.

The two problem I had with Epic on The Roku Channel were the lack of a search feature and the limited content.

The search is kind of a big deal, but then again, there's a workaround. The Epix app, the real one, with a separate subscription directly to Epix, has search capabilities, unlike Epix on The Roku Channel. The workaround is that you can still search within The Roku Channel, just not the Epix on The Roku Channel app.

The limited content is the big thing with me, and I didn't find a workaround. What I'm talking about is that not everything that's available from Epix is available through Epix on The Roku Channel. Oh, and I'll call it Epix/TRC to differentiate going forward, okay? Anyway, Epix/TRC didn't have everything. If you go to the various categories of content, say, science fiction or comedies, you'll see up to 40 titles in the category on Epix/TRC. You'll see everything on Epix on Epix.

Apart from that, the Epix/TRC app is easy to use. It worked as expected. No crashes. It's fine. Just not all the Epix content. And it's the same price as a stand-alone Epix subscription, so you're paying the same thing for less.

Of course, if the missing content isn't something you want, then they're actually doing you a favor by not cluttering things. But, you don't know if you care about that content unless you know what the content is.

The other issue with Epix/TRC is that you are limited to watching it on a Roku device. You can't watch the content through The Roku Channel on, say, a Fire stick. Yes, The Roku Channel is available for Amazon Fire TV, but Epix content -- like all premium content to which you subscribe via The Roku Channel -- isn't available on the non-Roku platforms.

One thing I really liked, and I wish more would do this, is that when I approached the end of my free trial (it comes with a 7-day free trial) Roku did email me. That allowed me the option to cancel before I was charged. Most services won't do this, and leave it entirely up to you, the consumer, to keep up with all of that, hoping you'll forget and they get to charge you for a month you really don't want. Roku isn't like that. And I found that a welcome change.

So, Epix on The Roku Channel? It works well enough. If you're all in with Roku, it's a good choice. If you want to be able to use it on a non-Roku platform, then don't subscribe to it; rather, subscribe to Epix directly and get the flexibility you want.

Oh, and it did help up my opinion of The Roku Channel a little, which is how this whole thing started. I can see more usage of The Roku Channel happening in my Streaming Life.