Friday, October 22, 2021

The Roku-Google pissing contest continues

Remember when Roku and Google got into a pissing contest over a new agreement to carry the YouTube TV app? Well, nothing has changed. Yet. It could be about to get worse, though. Roku might lose the YouTube app as well.

In a recent blog post, Roku says there has been no progress made:

​There are two primary concerns we are working to address: First, Google continues to interfere with Roku’s independent search results, requiring that we preference YouTube over other content providers. This is a concern shared by many companies who believe that customers deserve neutral and relevant results to their search queries. Second, Google discriminates against Roku by demanding search, voice, and data features that they do not insist on from other streaming platforms. ​

​While we are working to resolve our differences, we want to be transparent about these negotiations. As we shared in April, the threat remains that Google may remove YouTubeTV from the Roku platform. We continue to believe that streamers stand to benefit from Google and Roku reaching a fair agreement and we remain committed to trying to achieve that goal.

Roku refers to the threat of Google removing YouTube TV from the Google platform. Google, however, says that YouTube, not just YouTube TV, will be removed in December if negotiations don't go well:

In a statement to Variety, a Google rep said, “Since our negotiations with Roku earlier this year, we’ve continued to work with them to find a resolution that benefits our mutual users. Roku has once again chosen to make unproductive and baseless claims rather than try to work constructively with us. Since we haven’t been able to continue our conversations in good faith, our partnership for all new Roku devices will unfortunately end on December 9. We are, however, giving Roku the ability to continue distributing both YouTube and YouTube TV apps to all existing users to make sure they are not impacted.”

This ups the stakes. Current users will continue to get the service, but new users won't. And they'll be the loudest, whiniest ones.

Don't get me wrong, things should go in such a way that a platform is able to carry the apps they want to carry. However, Google has the right to ask for things. Who is right? Probably neither. But more Roku than Google.

In the NBCUniversal dustup, I thought Google was correct. In this one, I lean more towards Roku.

If YouTube and YouTube TV come off Roku in December, what will that mean for me? Nothing. I already have the apps and the apps will continue to work. But for new users of Roku, they'll be all whiny and such, and as I said, I understand that.

Should they avoid buying Roku? Between now and December, no. If you have the YouTube or YouTube TV app, the services will continue to work. After December 9, if things don't go well? I don't know. I'll think about it between now and then.

Our Streaming Lives shouldn't be this hard.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Tablo Connect

I've mentioned before that I manage the TV setup for a couple of houses. At my mother's house -- it belongs to me and two of my sisters since my mother's passing -- I bought and paid to set up a TV antenna. That house has a good location for aiming an antenna at Savannah and getting 25 stations.

My house is not in such a situation. Even though I'm a couple of miles closer to Savannah, the lay of the land means I'm not going to get a lot of channels. An antenna isn't worth the effort.

At my mother's house (I still think of it that way) I have Air TV set up for watching local channels from the antenna. At another house I manage, there's an antenna and a Tablo setup. A while back, I added Tablo to my mother's house, giving that location two different ways to pick up over the air TV. I even added a Fire TV Recast there. She had a Fire TV television set, and this would work with it. So there were three different ways to pick up TV antenna content. But that's at my mother's house, not at my house.

Enter Tablo Connect.

With Air TV and Fire TV Recast, you can only watch if you're on the same network from streaming device. You can watch on a mobile device -- phone or tablet -- but not on a dedicated streaming device.

Tablo has a feature called Tablo Connect. It lets you watch TV away from your network, not just with a mobile device, but with a dedicated streaming device. Tablo Connect lets users of Fire TV, Apple TV (new models), and Android/Google TV including Chromecast and Nvidia Shield can watch away from home.

Notice that Roku isn't a part of this. My favorite streaming device doesn't support Tablo Connect. Or Tablo Connect doesn't support Roku. Either way, they don't work together. So, if you're have Roku and only Roku user, you can't take advantage of this feature.

I have the four major platforms. Roku, of course, but also Apple TV, Fire TV, and Android/Google TV (Chromecast). That means I have three options when it comes to using Tablo Connect. And, I've decided to do just that.

I had to configure my router to work with Tablo Connect. Port forwarding was required and was actually easy to set up. Not as easy as I hoped, as I entered the ports backwards. Silly me. But, I corrected my error, and the setup completed in short order.

Next was to sync a device with the Tablo device. My Fire TV, Chromecast, and Apple TV all were set up with Tablo, and I decided to use the Chromecast device. syncing was seamless. In fact, all I had to do was check the menu to sync, but it said the device was already synced.

Taking the Chromecast to my house, I connected it to my TV and launched the Tablo app. Sure enough, the app worked just like I was at the location with the antenna. Sure, I was only a couple of miles away, but I was on a different network, meaning I could have been anywhere and it would have been the same.

Now, I can watch live TV from my TV antenna, even though I'm miles away. I always hated not being able to put up an antenna here. But, I did the next best thing: I put one up at another house and use it.

I'm limited to that one TV to watch by, however. I could add other devices with the Tablo app to other TVs, but I first need to take the device to my mother's house and sync it. I might just do that. But there's one other thing I might do.

Remember I said there's a third house I managed the TV for? It's a bit away from here, and gets local TV from a different city. That's the one that first had a Tablo. I may configure it for Tablo Connect, and put another device on my TV that gets over the air channels from there.

I love playing with these big boy tech toys. It's one of the fun parts of my Streaming Life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Freaky

When I was a teenager, there was an underground comic called The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. I don't recall if I saw the comics themselves, or if they were printed in another magazine, but I do remember reading them. Well, some of them anyway. It's possible I ended up reading them all, or all that were available at the time.

I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was a teenager.

I will admit that some of the antics of the "brothers" were funny. Some were ... let's say that while they characters weren't really brothers, they were freaks. If you really want to know the details, go look it up. I'm not going to tell any of the tales of the trio, but I will say that some of the satire was very well done, some emphasized shock value to get points across. I didn't always agree, but I did appreciate the humor. Well, some of the humor.

This bit of the 1960s and 1970s (when I discovered the trio) isn't relegated to the past, as it turns out. Streaming service Tubi has announced they'll be producing original content containing the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, with the series starting November 14:

THE FREAK BROTHERS will headline Tubi’s first foray into adult animation, as it expands its adult humor collection in the coming months. The additional episodes from Season One will drop on Sundays, one every week, through the finale, Sunday, Dec. 26. The eight-episode series chronicles the escapades of a trio of stoner anti-establishment characters and their cat who wake up from a 50-year nap after smoking a magical strain of weed in 1969, and must adjust to life with a new family in present-day San Francisco.

I'm not sure what to think about it. What was shocking in 1970 is tame today. Well, much of it is. Will this turn into The Second Hundred Years? Another second-half of It's About Time? Or, Encino Man, for you younger ones. It seems it will just be one of those tropes where someone from the past deals with the world today.

That's not what the original Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers were. They were contemporary, from today's world, but with a different outlook on the world. They weren't outsiders from out of time. They were of the time as the times were changing.

I'm not sure if I'll watch the show. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to re-read some of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and I was less than impressed. I was no longer a teenager looking for something that was rebellious. I was a grown man who had real life to deal with. I did find some part of it still funny, though. And a few things still outside the acceptable behavior of pretty much anyone civilized.

I can't say I look back fondly on The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers but I'm not sure I like what they're doing to it. But, I could be wrong. It may turn out to be funny and relevant. And, if it does, it may become a regular part of my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Frndly.TV gets friendlier II

Last week, Frndly.TV announced that they would be adding two more channels to their lineup. GAC Family and GAC Living join the lineup today.

Frndly TV, the leading affordable live TV provider for the whole family, and GAC Media, home to GAC Family and GAC Living, today announced an agreement which makes both networks available to all Frndly TV subscribers. GAC Family and GAC Living will debut on Frndly TV on Tuesday, October 19 increasing the service’s offering to 23 channels, with nine channels in total having been added since February 2021.

If you aren't sure what those channels are, you probably know them by their old names: Great American County and Ride TV.

Discovery sold Great American County off to a newly formed GAC Media, which then bought Ride TV. Great American Country is now rebranded as GAC Family and Ride TV is now GAC Living. As stated, they join the Frndly.TV lineup today.

If you are looking for a good source of family oriented programming, Frndly.TV is a bargain at $6/month. For HD and DVR capability, the $8 is required. There is also a $10/month plan that has more concurrent streams and longer DVR retention. Whichever plan you pick, I think you'll like including Frndly.TV in your Streaming Life.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Watching The Simpsons

Over the years, I've seen many episodes of The Simpsons. I remember first watching the characters when they were shorts/bumpers featured within The Tracey Ullman Show during its first couple of seasons. I don't remember watching it when it first became its own thing, but I may have. I did see many episodes over the next 30+ years, but never watched it regularly.

Now, there is the opportunity for me to catch up on all the episodes. And get paid in the process.

Platin Casino, a company with a UK Website and a Maltese incorporation, is offering to pay people to watch the show.

I'm wondering if I should try this. I'd have to allot 35½ hours a week to do this. If I spent 12 hours each on Saturday and Sunday, that would mean I'd still need to spend around 2½ hours each night, if I kept my day job.

This sounds more like something a person without a job would do.

Maybe more companies will start doing this. Then I could get paid for what I do. My Streaming Life and my real life would finally become one!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Watching NHL games

I covered this a month ago, but it's worth bringing up again, since the season is underway.

NHL games are being carries on Disney/ESPN and Turner Sports this season. Most of the games this week are on ESPN+, which is a $7 standalone service. Of the 45 games this week, two are on TNT, four are on NHL Network, one is on ESPN, four are on Hulu, 38 are on ESPN+. That doesn't add up, but it's okay. The three Hulu games are also on ESPN+, so the math is correct.

Last month, I said that you needed ESPN+ and one of these services to watch NHL games:

  • Sling TV Orange ($35/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

That is not correct. I didn't take into consideration that some games were only on NHL Network. Only two of those services carry NHL Network: Sling TV and DirecTV Stream. With Sling TV, you have to add the Sports Extra to the Orange package. With DirecTV Stream, you have to upgrade to the Ultimate plan, which is $95/month.

To watch all NHL games, you need ESPN+ and one of these services:

  • Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra ($46/month)
  • DirecTV Stream Ultimate ($95/month)

That means to watch all the NHL games streaming this year, it will cost you at least $53/month (that's $46 for Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra, and $7 for ESPN+).

I expect this is the final, and finally correct, answer for how to watch NHL games streaming. If I have to correct it, I will, but I think this is actually it. Until the playoffs.

If you're wanting hock in your Streaming Life, you know know your opttions.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Who benefits from a 12-team playoff?

This is a streaming topic because I watch college football via streaming. All of the games by all of the teams mentioned are available to watch via streaming.

Before the Southeastern Conference expanded to add Oklahoma and Texas to the fold, there was movement to expand the College Football Playoffs from the current 4-team setup to 12 teams. After the announcement of the move by the two schools, movement to expand the playoffs ground to a halt. Most talking sports heads said that the other conferences thought a 12-team expansion would benefit the SEC. I disagree. And the numbers by the sports talking heads back me up.

First, under the current setup, the SEC is the only conference that has had multiple teams in the same year, when #3 Georgia and #4 Alabama made it, won their semifinal games, and played for the championship. If you count Notre Dame as an ACC team in 2020, then the ACC had two teams that both lost their semifinal games.

ESPN has an article listing where things stand midway through the season. It shows who would be the likely playoff teams right now under the current 4-team setup and under the proposed 12-team setup.

Currently, the Allstate Playoff Predictor has:

  1. Georgia
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Alabama
  4. Cincinnati

Those would be the four teams in the playoffs, meaning two from the SEC. That's under the current setup, and has happened before, when Georgia and Alabama ended up playing for the title after the 2017 season.

But expanded to twelve teams, you have:

  1. Georgia
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Michigan
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Ohio State
  7. Iowa
  8. Michigan State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Pittsburgh
  11. Penn State
  12. Coastal Carolina

That means two from the SEC; one each from the Big 12, ACC, American, and Sun Belt; one independent; and five from the Big Ten. Not much of a bump for the SEC, going from two teams to ... two teams. The Big Ten goes from none to five.

Maybe the Alliance has the wrong conference as their target?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Watching the WNBA Finals

I've not been watching the WNBA finals. I don't follow the sport. That's causing me to kick myself because of my bad timing. You see, even though I don't follow the sport, I should be posting how to watch the games for those who are fans of the sport. I've done this for some racing events, golf, and other sports I don't watch. So, why not the WNBA? Exactly. Why not? I should have. I totally missed that the finals were underway.

The series between Chicago and Phoenix is tied at one game apiece. It's a best of five series, so there are at least two more games, possibly three.

Game 3 is tonight on ESPN2.

Game 4 is Sunday afternoon on ESPN.

If a Game 5 is required, it will be Tuesday night on ESPN2.

So, for fans of the game, how do you watch without cable? You need a live streaming service that carries ESPN.

Of the eight major cable alternatives, Philo and Frndly.TV won't do, as they don't carry sports. But the other six do offer ESPN in their package.

  • Sling Orange ($35) or Sling Orange+Blue ($50)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70)

Some people think that ESPN+ gets you ESPN content. It gets you some, but it's mostly a supplement to ESPN, although ESPN isn't required to get ESPN+. However, it won't do you any good for watching WNBA games, since those are on the two big channels, ESPN and ESPN2. I say this a lot, but a lot of people still don't get it: ESPN+ subscription does not get you the standard ESPN service.

All of the services listed above will get you ESPN and ESPN2. They will also get you a lot more than those channels, so if you want a live streaming service, you may want to consider that. Or not.

While some services offer a free trial, not alldo:

  • Sling TV and Vidgo offer the first month for $10, but no free trial.
  • Hulu+Live TV offers a 7-day free trial, then a $10 discount for three months.
  • YouTube TV offers $10 off for six months, but no free trial.
  • Fubo TV offers a 7-day free trial.
  • DirecTV Stream offers no free trial nor a discount.

If want some some WNBA action in your Streaming Life, any of these services will fill the bill.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

More Plex server plans thwarted

I've been running a Plex server for some time. I recently purchased a new computer to function as the Plex server, but had some issues copying my content over.

My hard drive couldn't be read by the new device. It recognized the drive was there, but wasn't reading it. Rather than troubleshoot it and risk losing data if I made an error in the process -- who wants to lose nearly 8 TB of data, after all -- I simply pulled out my USB hard drive docking station and connected it.

When it wouldn't read it either, I was very concerned. Had I already damaged my media drive? Had I lost 8 TB of moves and TV shows?

Well, no, I hadn't, as it turns out. When I put the drive back in the old computer, it read it just fine. So, was my hard drive docking station bad? I hadn't used it in some time. I had taken it with me on several service calls, so it was jostled about for months but never used. Maybe it had been damaged. Perhaps it was bad. So, even though I don't use one a lot, when I need one, I need one. So I ordered a new one, and it was supposed to arrive earlier this week. It didn't.

Two days ago, it was due. The post office was delivering, so when I got the notice on my phone that it was delivered, I went to the mailbox. No package. Researching that, I found that the post office Website says that if it is marked as delivered, but isn't there, you shouldn't worry about it. Really.

In rare cases, package may show as 'delivered' but could take additional 24 hours.

Yes, they accept that their employees will mark an item as delivered, but not deliver it. And they're okay with that. But after a day or so, they'll listen to what you have to say.

If it has been over 24 hours from the 'delivered' status, to save time a  service request may be sent by email to your local Post Office™ facility for follow-up. You will receive a confirmation number and a contact within 2-3 business days.

That's right. They'll mark an item as delivered, not deliver it, but you can't ask about it for over a day. But after that additional delay, you can email them. Within 2 or 3 business days, they'll let you know they got your email.

So, if say, Monday, you expected a package, and it was marked as delivered, but you didn't get it, don't bother them until Tuesday. Then, you can send them an email. By Thursday or Friday, you'll get confirmation that your email was received.

This happened to me before, a year or so ago, and I did speak with the fellow who said he was in charge at the local post office. He told me he would call me back and let me know the results.

How long before he called me back? Well, as I said, it's been over a year. That delivery issue was settled outside of post office help, since there was no post office help.

So, I'm now in that situation. And that's unexpected. The regular letter carrier that serves my location is not the problem. She's done this job for some time, and is very conscientious about her work. She's good. And she didn't do the delivery, as I've found out. Had she been doing the delivery that day, it would have arrived. I'm convinced of that. Whoever filled in for her that day simply marked the package as delivered, and didn't deliver it.

So, I'm having to deal with copying my Plex content without a direct connection.

I mapped a drive to the old computer and began copying some content over. That was intended to be a test, just to confirm it worked. And it worked well, to a large degree.

The movies I copied showed up as expected. Better as expected, in fact. The data that Plex found, including the posters and movie data, was much improved over the older computer's data. I was very happy with that.

The test copy worked well enough for the basic moves, that I could copy a few hundred at a time and would probably be good.

It's been a lot more trouble than I expected, but when I get the hard drive docking station -- it will either show up or be replaced due to being lost in shipping -- it may be an easier and quicker process. That would be a welcome relief.

The updated movie information will be good. But the better computer for the behind the scenes work -- ripping moves I've purchased so they can be added to my Plex library -- will be a better process. It's just that I didn't really expect this much work to make it happen. I hope it's worth it. My Streaming Life better improve from this much work. (It won't.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Do you like scary movies?

I think I'm a fan of horror movies. The reason I say "I think" rather than "I am" is that different people have different ideas of what a horror movie is. To me, many movies that are called horror movies are simply gore fests. Yes, that's horrible, but is it a true horror movie? It depends on what you think.

Maybe I'm a fan of some types of horror films. Even then, it's not all that clear. For example, I really like the movie "The Thing" by John Carpenter. Is it a science fiction movie or a horror movie? Yes. Yes it is.

It crosses genre. The 1951 Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks film "The Thing from Another World," also based on the John W. Campbell story "Who Goes There?" is more science fiction than horror. Carpenter's is more horror than science fiction.

"Friday the 13th" (1980) is a horror film. Yes, it has some gore, as does "The Thing," but it's more about the story. And there is one. Plus, the killer -- SPOILERS -- isn't Jason. There's no doubt "Friday the 13th" is a horror film. And while it does have some gore, it's not like the sequels, which seem to me to be primarily gore movies.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying those other films aren't horror films. I'm saying those aren't the kind of horror films I like.

If the fact that I've mentioned moves that are older makes you think that I like older films, you'd be right. But I do like some horror films that are even older. Yes, I'm talking "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi, "Frankenstein" with Boris Karloff as the Monster, "The Mummy" with Karloff, and others from that era. Let's go back even longer and throw in the F. W. Murnau film "Nosferatu" and the Lon Chaney film "Phantom of the Opera" for good measure.

If you like classic horror films, like I do, then you'll be happy to know that many of them are available for streaming during this month, the month that ends with Hallowe'en.

  • "Nosferatu" (1922) is available free on Tubi and Plex.
  • "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) is free on Plex.
  • "Dracula" (1931) is available on Peacock, as you would expect, since it's a Universal classic horror film.
  • "Frankenstein" (1931) isn't isn't free, but can be rented or purchased. However, "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) is on Peacock TV.
  • "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1932) is free on Vudu and The Roku Channel.
  • "The Mummy" (1932) is free on Tubi and Peacock TV.
  • "The Invisible Man" (1933) is free on Peacock TV.
  • "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954) is on Peacock TV.
  • "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) is on Prime Video and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978) is on Pluto TV.
  • "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957) is free on Peacock TV.
  • "The Blob" (1958) is free on Plex and Crackle, and included with HBO Max subscription. "The Blob" (1988) is free on Peacock TV.
  • "Friday the 13th" (1980) is on Peacock TV.
  • "The Fly" (1958) is free on Peacock TV, while "The Fly" (1986) isn't free, but can be rented or purchased.
  • "The Thing from Another World" (1951) is free from Vudu, and "The Thing" (1982) is on Starz with subscription.

Of course we can't forget "Halloween" (1978) which is free on Redbox and The Roku Channel.

Some classics that are not free include:

  • "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931).
  • "The Black Cat" (1934).
  • "The Wolf Man" (1941).
  • "House of Wax" (1953).

These can all be rented or purchased.

Of course, this just scratches the surface of available horror movies. I focused on the ones I like, but left off several that aren't available for streaming.

If you're a fan of horror movies, perhaps this list will help. Or you can always search your favorite streaming services, or streaming platform, and find the movies you want that are available. Maybe some of yours will be free. Free is good. I like to have more free stuff in my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Problems with new Plex server

I upgraded my Windows machine recently. Well, I tried to. It's complicated.

When I decided to change my local streaming server from iTunes to Plex, I used a Windows device. It was a rather robust Windows machine that was more than capable of handling the job. But, it wasn't a new machine. It was a few years old. It's seven years old now, and while it's more than capable as a Plex server, it has some drawbacks when it comes to doing other stuff. When I sat down and thought about all the things I needed to do, I decided to get a new computer. So, I did.

The problems began immediately. The device experienced high disk usage. Windows Task Manager showed 100% disk usage. That caused the device to be sluggish, which was the exact opposite of what I wanted. I was less than thrilled. I began researching all the different causes for this, with me wondering if I had a lemon, or if I had erred somewhere in the initial setup. Then, a huge coincidence happened.

In my day job, I do tech support for a local agency. They purchased some new computers recently, and one of my tasks was to set it up. As it turned out, two of the devices purchased were the very same brand and model I had purchased. And they too experienced the high disk drive usage, performing poorly in the process.

That actually became an opportunity. I had a personal computer issue that was driving me nuts. But then work had the very same issue. I could work the issue while at work, because I needed to work the issue for work, and perhaps find the cause and develop a solution. I could also work the issue at home, and anything I learned, apply to work. Finally, I stumbled across information about Killer Network Service. It's supposed to help network performance. Maybe it does. But for the first several hours after it starts running for a user, it slows the machine down to a crawl.

For home use, it's not quite as big of a deal, as I'm the only user. Once it settled down, it didn't act all sluggish. But at work, that was another story. When a new user logs on to the computer on the domain -- they use shared computers -- the whole mess starts over. And, when Windows sends an update that causes setup to repeat or partially repeat, I don't want the users to have do deal with that.

So, I killed Killer. Removed it. Everything seems to be working fine now. But there was another issue on my personal computer.

When I put the 10 TB hard drive into the machine, it wouldn't read it. That was scary, as I was concerned that the new computer, or a poor physical install on my part, had fried it. But that wasn't the case. The hard drive was fine.

So, no easy transfer of data from one drive to another. Oh, did I mention I had a new 14 TB drive in the new computer? No? Well, I did. So all the files needed to be moved over.

Installing the old data hard drive didn't work, so I broke out my USB drive docking station to connect it that way. No luck. The device seemed to acknowledge that something was connected, but it couldn't find the drive enough to read it. I had to use some utilities to confirm it was seeing it, just that it didn't recognize it.

Was my docking station bad? I don't know. But I ordered a new one just in case. It's arriving today, and I'll find out soon enough.

If it's not the docking station, my next task is to put the old computer back together, add it to the network, map some drives across the network, and do the data transfer that way.

My Streaming Life should be a lot easier. I suppose it's my own fault.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Waiting on subscriptions to end

When I did a large cutback on my streaming services recently -- I unsubscribed to services that I didn't really watch -- I had a few that didn't end just then. You see, in the past, I had subscribed to some services on an annual basis rather than monthly. So, when I canceled subscriptions, those services continued to be available until the subscription ends.

That bothers me a little.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm in no way suggesting that the service end immediately. After all, if I paid for 12 months service, and I decide to not renew after eight months, I should still get the remaining four months. I'm not suggesting they end  the service immediately. It's something else that bothers me.

What's bothering me is that I decided I didn't want to continue the service because I didn't watch it, right? But now it's no longer in the back of my mind. I've brought it to the front. Now I'm thinking about that app/service. And I'm more likely to watch it.

Let's take Discovery+ for instance. They offered a good price for a yearly subscription, and I took it. But, I discovered I didn't watch it. During my purge, I canceled. But, with time left on the subscription, I didn't remove the app from my device. I mean, I had time left to watch, so why not keep it, right?

Well, the reason is I might actually watch it. And I might enjoy it. And I might want to keep my subscription.

Is that a bad thing? No, not really. But, if I renew my subscription, I've then undone my cutback, and risk going over budget on my streaming.

So, cancel something else, right? After all, if I'm watching one service more, then at least one service has to suffer from lack of watching, right? Yes, that's true. But then the cycle starts again. I cancel my subscription, then that service comes to the front of my mind. I start watching it, then decide I like it, and renew.

And so on and so on and ... well, you get the idea.

I need a plan for canceling subscriptions. A better plan. Right now, it's simply "I plan to cancel that." And that's really not much of a plan. I need a strategy and I need to stick with it.

Maybe no more annual subscriptions. That way, when I cancel, then if I don't watch in 29 days or less, I don't watch.

Maybe I just need to cancel everything, then if I launch an app and discover I'm not subscribed, then I know I've not been watching it.

I'll figure something out, I'm sure. My Streaming Life shouldn't be this hard. Maybe I'm just making it hard. Easy is the goal. And I'll get there.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The problem with Sling TV

I really like Sling TV. It was my first live streaming service, and it's my go-to service for when I want one. I don't do live streaming year round. Most of the year, I watch on-demand, but during college football season, I subscribe to a live streaming service to watch the games.

For my purposes, Sling TV has one big drawback. ESPN is on Sling Orange, and that plan has a single stream. That means only one person in the family can watch a stream at a time. If someone in the living room is watching Sling TV, no other TV (Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, etc.) can watch Sling TV. The Sling Blue plan offers three simultaneous streams, but that plan doesn't include ESPN, which has most of the college games.

For other purposes, such as regular live streaming usage -- not how I use it, but how many do -- the problem is that there are no local channels. That's not an issue for me, as I have an antenna, and an Air TV device that integrates the live TV (and DVR) into the Sling TV app. But, for those that don't have an antenna, and where an antenna isn't feasible, Sling TV misses a large part of the content people want.

Now, I don't blame Sling TV for forgoing local channels, since the broadcast fees they would have to pay -- and that the other more expensive live streaming services pay -- would mean higher costs to Sling, and higher prices for their product.

It's the same way with the single stream. ESPN costs a lot of money for Sling to carry. That's why they have two plans. Sling Blue doesn't have the six Disney owned channels, including ESPN, that are on the Sling Orange package, but has more channel 17 other channels, giving it 11 more channels net. Sling Blue also has three simultaneous streams, as opposed to the single stream Sling Orange has.

Those are the main problems I see with Sling TV, but there's one other that some people have. That's the number of channels Sling TV offers. Cheaper services, such as Philo, carry more channels. Of course, more expensive ones carry more channels too. But the selection of channels Sling TV carries is actually fine, as far as I'm concerned.

While there are some things about Sling TV that I don't like, overall it's still my go-to live streaming service. It could be better, but the tradeoff is something I'm okay with. Sling TV is a good part of my Streaming Life. Not perfect, but close enough.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Baseball playoffs

I've been a baseball fan for years. However, I've not watched as much in the last few years. But I still love baseball, and am always excited about the playoffs. But, being a streamer, it's not always easy to watch live sports.

Live sports was not available in the early days of streaming, and some sports have been slower than others to be available for streamers. Baseball has been more available than some other sports, but it still has blackouts that keep streamers from being able to watch their nearest team.

The playoffs is a different situation, though. The only thing you have to worry about is finding a streaming service carrying the games.

Today's games are on TBS. You can stream TBS on:

  • Sling TV (Orange, Blue, Orange+Blue)
  • Hulu+Live TV
  • YouTube TV
  • DirecTV Stream

Note that Fubo, the streaming service that touts itself as the app for sports, doesn't carry TBS.

Tomorrow's games are on MLB Network and Fox Sports 1. The services that carry FS1 are:

  • Sling TV (Blue, Orange+Blue)
  • Vidgo
  • Hulu+Live TV
  • YouTube TV
  • Fubo TV
  • DirecTV Stream

MLB Network is on:

  • Sling TV (Blue, Orange+Blue) with Sports Extra
  • YouTube TV
  • Fubo TV
  • DirecTV Stream (Choice)

So, what one service carries it all? There are three, actually.

  • Sling TV (Blue) with Sports Extra
  • YouTube TV
  • DirecTV Stream (Choice)

With any of those three services, you can watch the baseball divisional series. What about the league championships? Those are on Fox, Fox Sports 1, and TBS. To watch those games you'll need one of these:

  • Sling TV (Blue, Orange+Blue) if you have an antenna for Fox.
  • Hulu+Live TV
  • YouTube TV
  • DirecTV Stream

For the World Series, you'll need Fox, which is on:

  • Hulu+Live TV
  • YouTube TV
  • Fubo TV
  • DirecTV Stream

Or, an antenna.

To watch everything, all the baseball playoffs, what services have that?

  • Sling TV (Blue) with Sports Extra, if you have an antenna for Fox.
  • YouTube TV
  • DirecTV Stream (Choice)

So, if you are ready for some baseball, you have some decisions to make, if that's to be a part of your Streaming Life this year.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Redbox

I saw an article online yesterday about Redbox now being available on some PlayStation devices. I knew that Redbox had a streaming service, and I think I had tried it before, but I didn't have the password saved in my password manager app, so I wasn't really sure. I've tried a lot of apps over the years, so there was the possibility that I was thinking of something else.

Anyway, I went to the Redbox Website, requested a password reset, and sure enough, there was already an account set up. Since I had used Redbox DVD service in the past, I had figured there was an account. But I am certain I had used a Roku streaming app for Redbox in the past. I don't remember anything about it apart from the fact I had it, but removed it, probably for lack of use.

I downloaded the app, launched it, and logged in. What did I find? Xumo. Or something like it.

It defaulted to live streaming, such as you'll find on Xumo or Pluto TV. Redbox had 105 live streaming channels plus another 10 music channels. Compare to Xumo's 228 live streaming channels (counting 13 music channels), and it looks like a lesser service. And I suppose it is when it comes to live streaming channels.

For movies, it became apparent the difference between Redbox and others. Redbox rents movies. But you knew that, if you ever visited one of their kiosks outside the grocery store of the drug store. The movie library appears large and you can rent or buy most of the movies. No, I didn't county them, because they're arranged by genre, and many movies are in multiple categories. It would take a while to county the unique film titles, and I'm not gonna do that.

There was a section of free ad-supported movies, and it's what you would expect. Maybe not the same films you'll find in Filmrise, Xumo, Tubi, and other similar services, but many of the same, and all similar.

This isn't a negative review of the Redbox service. It's not even a review of the Redbox service. It's simply me telling you my first impressions of it. If things went no further, I'd probably delete the app. But, I'm not going to. Not just yet.

I'm going to give Redbox a try. The live TV service, the free on-demand movies, and such, I will try. Not sure if I'll actually spend money to purchase a film, but I may rent one if it's not available on another service for free. I'll include Redbox in my Steaming Life for now. I'll report back later if it stays there.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Buying movies on the cheap

I've talked about this a little bit before, as part of another topic, but it deserves its own focus.

Being a movie fan, I'm always looking to add to my growing movie collection. I currently have 1,679 movies in my collection, all of which are available for streaming from my personal Plex server. I can watch them on my streaming devices, wherever I am. All I need is an Internet connection, and I can watch one of my movies.

My movie collection is bigger than most people's collection. One of the drawbacks is how much it costs. For all of these movies, I either own the DVD or purchased the streaming version. For the 200-300 or so movies on DVD, I used utilities to rip and place them on my Plex server. For some of the streaming purchases, I downloaded, ran through a utility where necessary, and put the resulting file on my Plex server.

Today, I'm not talking about how to save money on DVDs. Rather, it's about how to save money on streaming purchases.

I subscribe to Movies Anywhere. The big deal about Movies Anywhere is that if you buy a movie through one participating video service, you have it through all of those services. The participating services are:

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

This means that if you buy a movie from Amazon, you can watch it on iTunes.

What that also means is if Amazon has a movie on sale, you can buy it on sale, and still get it from another service, even if that services has a higher price for that movie.

Some of these services are always putting movies on sale. Sometimes, the movie is only $5 from, say, iTunes, and $15 from Google Play/YouTube Movies. For $5, you can get it from all of the services.

Suppose though, that you don't have iTunes. Suppose you're an Android user, and never had a reason to have an iTunes account. Or, suppose you're all in on Apple. You don't have a Google account, or a Microsoft account. Or, suppose you don't have a Vudu account. What then?

It doesn't matter. You can get one of those account. For instance, I was an iPhone user. I didn't have any reason to have an account with the Google Play Store. It didn't matter. I signed up for an account. When Google put a movie on sale, I got it for the sale price, and it was added to my iTunes library.

The only services that you can't really use are the TV subscribers -- Xfinity, Verizon Fios, DirecTV -- if you don't have their service. For example, I don't have DirecTV, so I can't buy movies from DirecTV.

There's one other catch. Not every movie is eligible. Many are. The studios participating in Movies Anywhere are listed on the Movies Anywhere Website:

Movies Anywhere features a wide range of films from 

  • 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

At this time, movies from non-participating studios such as 

  • Paramount
  • Lionsgate
  • MGM

are not eligible and will not migrate to your movie collection. As Movies Anywhere evolves, we will continue to add more content partners.

That translates to over half -- around 57% -- of my purchased streaming movies are eligible. I was able to buy most of my movies on sale.

This savings is the best reason to have Movies Anywhere. When the service first launched, they promoted it as "buy it on one service and watch it on any service." And that's great. But the better thing is "buy it cheaper from one service and get it on a more expensive service."

How do you find out which movies are on sale? From the Movies Anywhere Website. The movies where at least one service has a title on sale is marked. They're easy to find. Just look for the sale tag, click the movie, and it will show you how much each service charges for it. Buy it from the cheapest, and you own it on all. It's really easy.

Saving money is what I'm after, and Movies Anywhere is a way to do that. That's why Movies Anywhere is part of my Streaming Life, and should be part of yours.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Maybe it's not the saving money...

When I cut the cord in early 2011, it was after looking over two years of data. I looked at my viewing habits form 2009 and calculated if I could have saved money by streaming content instead. That mean watching current season TV shows on-demand from Hulu (free at the time), Hulu Plus (the paid version that had a different content library), TV antenna (live and recorded), and purchasing content from Amazon, iTunes, or other sources.

My numbers showed I would not have saved money in 2009, but when I ran the numbers again covering 2010, I would have saved money. So, I cut the cord and began relying on streaming TV.

But now that I've been streaming for over a decade, what would I miss the most? The money? Sure, that would be something I'd miss. But that would only be on the days I paid the bill.

What I'd miss the most, that is, on most days, is the control over my TV viewing. That would be every day I watched TV, no just on the days I paid the bill.

I began controlling my TV when I got a TiVo in 2006. It allowed me to watch TV when I wanted. I rarely watched anything live. And, during 2010, apart from sports programming, I didn't watch anything live. Well, some news shows, but that was it.

The live news shows were lost when I cut the cord, but the truth is I didn't really miss them. Sports, particularly college football, was another matter, so after live streaming services began, I started doing them in the fall.

Apart from that, I don't watch live TV. I watch stuff on demand, because I prefer it to fit my schedule. TiVo allowed that, and I've enjoyed it greatly since then. So, if I stopped streaming, I'd miss the ability to watch what I wanted when I wanted. I'd miss on-demand. I'd miss the control.

I suppose that's a flaw of mine, liking control. But I don't need to control others' lives. Just my life. And that includes my Streaming Life. And I would miss that, if I couldn't stream. I'd miss the money too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

HBO Max

I've mentioned many times that I dropped cable in 2011. And that's true. It's also not exactly completely true.

You see, while I did drop cable in 2011, a couple of times since then, the cable company offered specials where it was actually cheaper to have Internet and local cable service than Internet alone. When that was the case, I would subscribe to Internet and local channels because it was cheaper. Yes, that sounds strange, but the cable company was running specials that actually worked out that way.

I still considered myself a cord cutter, because I did drop cable, but I wasn't going to pay more money just to say I was a cord cutter. I didn't watch cable, I just had the service.

Well, that's not completely true. I had a TiVo device with lifetime subscription from years prior. And, to complete the process of securing the special price to have Internet with local cable, I had to have a device that picked up cable. They wanted to hook me up with a cable box, but instead, I had them give me an M-Card to put in the TiVo, and I set it up. So I could use it if I wanted. And, sometimes I did watch some local news or other stuff, but most of the time I didn't.

I'd do this until the special ended, and it was cheaper to have just Internet rather than Internet and local cable. Then, of course, I'd drop local channels and go back to Internet only.

One time, though, they had a really special deal. I got Internet, local cable, and HBO for a lower price than Internet alone. Yeah, surprised me too.

During that time, I did try HBO. Now, I had subscribed to HBO or to Showtime in years past, many years past, but hadn't watched it in years. I did get the chance to watch some of the shows using the HBO GO app, since it let me authenticate. I didn't watch a lot, but did watch Westworld and Silicon Valley. And I did watch some movies.

Maybe I watched and liked HBO more than I realized.

Which brings me to the topic for now: HBO Max.

I never subscribed to HBO Now, which was the standalone HBO service. I only had HBO when it was part of a TV package that was cheaper than Internet alone. But then, HBO Max came about. It was a much better deal than HBO alone. It included the HBO library, and a lot more. But like HBO Go and HBO Now, it doesn't have live HBO.

Recently, I cut back on many of the services I use. I don't do live streaming (except during football season) so I'm very used to on-demand. I cut everything except Amazon Prime, which I keep for reasons apart from Prime Video. and PBS Passport. I did that by reviewing the services I had. What I didn't do is look at services I didn't have.

I'm not wanting to spend a bunch of money, or any money, on another service. However, if I were to spend money on a service, I think it would be HBO Max. And, in fact, I will.

My plan is to subscribe and give it a shot for a month. Maybe two. If I really like it, at least two.

I have some preconceptions about the service, since I've subscribed to HBO Go in the past. I think I'll like it. True, I didn't think enough of the HBO catalog to subscribe to HBO Now in the past, but HBO Max has more than that. Maybe even enough for me to keep a subscription.

I'll figure out when I can squeeze trying HBO Max into my Streaming Life. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe I'll catch up on Westworld. Maybe I'll find some new show that I'll like. I'm looking forward to finding out.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Streamers are turning streaming into cable

This might hurt some feelings. If so, too bad. I'm not intending to hurt anyone's feelings, but this is how I feel about it, and I'm going to share it. If I step on your toes, take a moment and consider if your toes should have been there.

The recent dustup between Google and NBCUniversal over the latter's channels continuing to be included in the former's YouTube TV service emphasizes that the troubles we, the consumers, had with cable and satellite services and TV channels.

Think about how many times there would be a scroll across the bottom of the screen where the service would tell you to contact the channel or channel's parent company to let them know you want them to keep the channel on your cable or satellite service.

That was how the cable or satellite service conducted a public part of their negotiations with the channel or the channel's parent company.

Sometimes, the channel would be lost for a period fo time, but many times there would be no interruption. It would be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Only I wonder if we were the idiots.

For those that don't know their Shakespeare, according to the play Macbeth, about the play itself:

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The cable, satellite, and TV companies were the ones telling the tale. And we were the ones paying for it, We didn't fight back. We didn't tell them that we would just put up an antenna and watch the channels for free.

No, we let them fight it out, sometimes even taking up their cause and fighting for them, and then paying more in cable and satellite subscription packages.

But, hey, we're streaming now, right? We don't have those issues, right?

Wrong.

The NBCUniversal dispute with YouTube TV shows us that the disputes we left behind ... they have found us. And both sides of that dispute did the same thing the cable, satellite, and TV station companies did. They sent emails, set up Websites, wrote blog posts, and posted on Twitter, urging us, the consumers, to take up their cause. And some did.

I didn't. I blame both of them.

I don't subscribe to YouTube TV, so if the channels were lost, no big deal. I already don't watch them live. And, the only NBCUniversal channels in the lineup that I do watch, I can either watch on Hulu ($6/month) or live via antenna. None of the other channels are on my radar. Neither really matters.

I do like the way Google handled it. They said if the channels were lost, they'd reduce the price. So, props to them for taking that approach. And, for now anyway, it looks like nothing came of it.

A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Told by an idiot. To a bunch of idiots, who put up with it.

I'm not excluding myself from that, by the way.

You see, the live streaming services have simply brought the cable experience to streaming. That includes the disputes and outages and such. Anyone who subscribes to a live streaming service has contributed to this. And while I am quick to say that I don't subscribe to a live streaming service, right now, during football season, I do. And I'm a part of the problem.

I want to be able to subscribe to sports and not have to finance the rest of the channels. But, that's not what we have. In order to watch the football games I want, I play along with the live streaming services, and help support the system that contains all the problems.

I want a simple Streaming Life. But it's not. Not really. And it's your fault. And mine.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Frndly.TV adds Hallmark Movies Now

I've been a fan of Frndly.TV for a while. I used to subscribe to Feeln, later Hallmark Movies Now, when that was the only streaming way to get Hallmark Channel content. I dropped the service when Frndly.TV came along because the live streaming was more in line with what other family members wanted. It also has more current content, while Hallmark Movies Now/Feeln had older content.

I actually had both for a while, because I subscribed to Hallmark Movies Now on the yearly plan, so when I tried Frndly.TV, I wasn't sure if I wanted it. I did. So, when Hallmark Movies Now reached the end of that year's subscription, I canceled it. I thought about keeping it, since it was different content, though of the same type.

Well, now if I want to get Hallmark Movies Now, it's available as an add-on to Frndly.TV:

Hallmark Movies Now will be accessible to those Frndly TV customers who desire even more of the beloved and famous Hallmark content. The price of Frndly TV’s core live service – including Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama -- will remain the same.  Hallmark Movies Now will be available as a $5.99 per month add-on.

“We are pleased to make Hallmark Movies Now an option for all of our customers just in time for the Holiday season,” said Michael McKenna, Chief Programming Officer of Frndly TV.  “Those customers that want even more Hallmark on-demand content can elect to purchase the add-on service, while we still keep our current affordable price structure in place for everyone.”

If you already subscribe to Frndly.TV and to Hallmark Movies Now, why would you care? You probably wouldn't. Unless the idea of combining the services into a single app makes you happy.

I currently don't subscribe to Frndly.TV. It was trimmed during my most recent review of subscription services, but I will probably subscribe during Christmas season. And, the thought of expanding the catalog with classic Hallmark movies and other content, is one I like.

Perhaps this winter, Frndly.TV, and Hallmark Movies Now, will return to be a part of my Streaming Life.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Trying Fubo. Again

While I've been quite clear that I don't normally use a live streaming service, I've also been clear that during college football season, I will subscribe. When there's something that I want to watch live, a live streaming service is of course the way to go. Most of the year, I don't care. During football season, I do care.

To start the season, I went with Sling TV, which is my go-to service, because of the price. It's a lot cheaper than most of the other live streaming services, because it doesn't have to pay the broadcast fee that local channels require. You don't get local channels, but having an antenna makes that a non-issue. I subscribed for 30 days, and that took me through five weekends. Look at a calendar if that doesn't make sense.

I canceled the service, so it wouldn't automatically renew. That way, I could subscribe again when the games started for the weekend. I didn't watch the game Thursday night because my schedule didn't allow for it, but Friday night was football night. And it was time to resubscribe.

I wasn't sure if I would resubscribe to Sling TV or Fubo. The Google-NBCUniversal dispute and the chance of YouTube TV dropping its price made that another option. So Friday night, it was time to decide and subscribe.

When the extension of NBCUniversal channels on YouTube TV was announced, that meant no price reduction, so YouTube TV was out of the mix. For the same price, Fubo has more sports channels. But Sling TV is still cheaper. So, who would get my money on Friday night?

Nobody.

Oh, I subscribed alright. But something unexpected happened.

A while back, I had subscribed to Fubo TV and gave it a try. I thought it was a good live streaming service, but I didn't need a live streaming service, so after a full month of service, I canceled. That meant I wasn't expecting a free trial for a future subscription. But, for some reason, I got a week free. I fully expected to pay $65 on Friday night, but I didn't. I got a week free.

That gives me another week to change my mind. If, during the next few days, I decide on a different service -- Sling TV most likely, unless YouTube TV ends up dropping NBCUniversal channels and their price -- then I'll subscribe then. Otherwise, I'll let Fubo TV charge my card next week and use them for six weekends, rather than five.

This slight quandary is actually a good thing. It means there are enough options to make me have to think about it. Options are good. That means there's competition, and that keeps prices under control, at least to a degree.

My Streaming Life is good. It's got college football, and that's my focus on weekends until the middle of January.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Streaming a better deal than cable?

I started streaming in 2010 and dropped cable in 2011. I did it because it was cheaper. Also, I thought the technology was fascinating.

There weren't a lot of people that felt that way in 2011, mostly because it was a new thing and people simply weren't aware. Well, more and more are aware, and more and more are cutting the cord. And liking the money their saving.

TVTech reports that a study by Criteo reveals that nearly 70% of streamers think they're getting a better deal than with cable:

A large majority also highlighted how much they value these services, with 69% saying streaming was a better value for their money than cable TV and 64% saying that the content was more entertaining.

"The State of Video & Connected TV Survey” from Criteo found that viewing of streaming services were growing, with 63% of respondents saying they were spending more time streaming since the start of the pandemic and one in three Americans (36%) saying they spent more than 10 hours a week watching streaming services.

Welcome to your Streaming Life, where you save money and are more entertained.