Sunday, August 1, 2021

My problem with Roku Pay

Roku offers the ability to subscribe to services or otherwise make purchased directly through your Roku device. Here's how it works, briefly.

When you set up your Roku device, you need a Roku account. If you don't already have one, the on-screen setup will walk you through it. One of the things it wants you to do is to add a credit card to your account. 

Now, be aware that you don't really need to add a credit card to your account. If you want to set up a Roku account without a credit card, there's a special link for that:

So, why does Roku want you to add a credit card to your account? You know as well as I know that they want to make it easy for you to buy stuff. Impulse buying can be stunted by having to enter credit card information. If it's already there, clicking "buy" or "subscribe" happens quickly before you change your mind.

Sure, they're gonna say it's for your convenience. And there's truth to that. The reality is that, just like any store where there's items next to the cash register, it's for impulse buying. You see an app or a movie or a subscription service and you think, "Hey, why not?" You click the items, and you don't even need to enter any information. It's already to charge you for the purchase or rental.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. In fact, I do agree with the whole "convenience" things from the customer standpoint. It is convenient to have a single way of paying for stuff and everything right there in one place.

To me the drawback isn't the ease in impulse buying. If you don't like impulse buying, don't impulse buy. No, the drawback is the limitation of how you can use the content.

If you subscribe to a service -- Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+, anything -- via Roku Pay, you are limited to using the content on Roku. And not just on Roku, but on Roku tied to your account. Why is that a problem? Let's play Suppose.

Suppose you have a Roku on your main device, and another Roku (or more than one) on other devices for kids, or other family members.  Say there's a teenager with her own Roku account. Or a TV in a room the younger children use to watch TV.

On your device, you have your list of apps you like. But you may want a different group of apps on the teen's Roku, or on the younger kids' Roku. The way to do that is to have separate Roku accounts for the other devices. If they're all on your Roku account, they'll all have the same apps. If that's okay, then it's okay. But if it's important to have different apps, then that means different Roku accounts.

Suppose you buy something on your Roku account -- say a Netflix subscription -- you can't grant usage to the teen with a different Roku account. You'd need a separate Netflix subscription. The way around that is to subscribe to Netflix directly and use the login on all the devices you want in your household. That means NOT using Roku Pay.

Suppose you have a Fire TV device in another room. Say, a TV that came with Fire TV built in. You can use that TV as is, but if you subscribe to Netflix (or anything) through Roku Pay, you can't watch on that TV unless you add a Roku to that TV. Because it only works on your Roku devices.

Suppose you subscribe to Hulu through Roku Pay and then want to use a mobile device to watch Hulu. Too bad. It's only works on your Roku devices.

Subscribing through Roku Pay has its advantages, but there are disadvantages you don't think about until you get in that position. Then, it's too late. Well, it's never too late, but you then need to cancel and subscribe separately to each service.

I'm a fan and supporter of Roku. But I won't subscribe to anything through Roku Pay, except under extraordinary circumstances. I'm love Roku, but I'm not in love with Roku. I have room for other streaming ways in my Streaming Life.

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