Saturday, April 30, 2022

Fire Cube now supports hearing aids

This week, Amazon announced that the Fire TV Cube 2nd Generation devices -- that's the ones they've been selling since 2019 -- now support hearing aids.

I don't have a Fire TV Cube to check it -- I may add that to my streaming arsenal -- and it isn't functionality of the Fire TV Stick devices.

A post on the Fire TV Blog does not mention an update that contains the new functionality, so I'm not sure when it rolled out. But, as the post uses present tense, I think it pushed Thursday or before. And, since it doesn't mention anything about an update at all, it could be that rollout is complete.

This makes Fire TV the first-ever streaming media player to support ASHA and allow customers to directly connect compatible Bluetooth hearing aids. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that Fifteen percent (37.5 million) of Americans over the age of 18 report some hearing loss and nearly 29 million US adults could benefit from using hearing aids. Through research, we’ve learned that improving TV sound quality was one of the most requested features among hearing aid users.

With this feature, your hearing aids connect with Fire TV at the system level, so you can not only enjoy audio from your favorite apps but also Alexa, music, navigational sounds, and more.

I'm glad to see this. I don't have need of hearing aids, so it's not for me. But I do understand and appreciate the difficulty those with hearing loss to the point of needing mechanical assistance have.

Amazon's Fire TV Cube is the first device to actually have this feature. And the other features for those with hearing or visual impairments speaks well of their devices. If you have need of these features, choosing Amazon as a platform to run your Streaming Life seems like a good decision.

Friday, April 29, 2022

A new streaming platform from Comcast & Spectrum

From reports I'm seeing online, two cable giants, Comcast/Xfinity and Charter/Spectrum are teaming up to become a fifth major streaming platform.

A story in the New York Times from this week said the two cable giants are calling themselves equal partners in the venture, which will feature Comcast content and Charter money.

Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal and operates the Xfinity cable brand, has made strides in the field over the last decade, developing X1, a set-top box system that allows customers to stream video, and the XClass TV, a connected TV sold by Walmart with an operating system developed by the cable giant. Comcast also operates Xumo, an ad-supported streaming app available on connected TVs that allows customers to watch some live TV in addition to on-demand shows.

The partnership between Comcast and Charter, which owns the Spectrum cable brand, is structured as a 50-50 joint venture, in which Charter will distribute streaming devices based on Comcast’s technology, the companies said. Charter will contribute $900 million over several years to the venture, which doesn’t yet have a name.

From the way I'm reading it, it's essentially a way of promoting Comcast's Xfinity Flex. And if that's the case, this won't be a good thing.

Don't get me wrong, I think Xfinity Flex is okay. If you're a Comcast cable customer, and you cut the cord, Xfinity Flex is a good starter platform. That's because it's oh so close to Xfinity X1 in how it operates. And it includes a decent lineup of apps. That they select.

Under Xfinity Flex, you don't have an app store. You have the apps they say you get. They control what's available. And that's what it's all about: control.

It looks to me like they realize their customers are going to continue to move to streaming, and this is a way to keep a lot of the control they have.

Now do I want to rant on about cable companies and how they control their customers? Yes, I do. But not right now. I want to sit and ponder this for a while. I don't think I like where I think this is going. In fact, I'm sure I don't like where I think this is going. Because it will be about someone else controlling your Streaming Life. I want control of mine, and I want you to have control of yours.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Side effects include Linux

Recently, I had some projects involving Raspberry Pi devices. I built a streaming device running a version of Android TV. It worked pretty well on one of my Raspberry Pi devices. A newer one has a firmware update that isn't compatible, so I'm limited to the older version, but it works.

I also build a Plex server for streaming local content at a location I manage. It works well. So well that I'm planning to replace a Windows Plex server I manage with a Raspberry Pi. I've acquired the stuff, I just need the time to do it. And time is a premium.

There were some hiccups along the way. My first attempt was a fabulous disaster. I even switch plans and tried out an Nvidia Shield device. However, before I deployed that, I tried Raspberry Pi running Plex one more time. It worked great.

If you're not aware, the Raspberry Pi OS is a version of Linux. I haven't dealt with a Linux device in years. Years and years. I was rusty. I wasn't exactly proficient with Linux, but had run a Linux desktop for a while, and a Linux Web server once, but like I said, it's been a while. So I was very rusty, and wasn't exactly a power user, as I am with Windows and Mac OS.

But the Linux bug is back. I've set up some Linux virtual machines, taking up precious time, and think I do want to spend more time using Linux as a computer operating system, both desktop and laptop. Most of the older laptops I have don't have 1080 resolution; most are 768, which isn't what I prefer, particularly on a 15-inch laptop.

Anyway, I'd like to use a Linux laptop, but I'm not going to replace Windows on my Surface laptop. With none of my retired laptops up to speed, I'll delay a decision on that. For now, I'll use Linux in a virtual machine, or on a Raspberry Pi.

But I'm keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open to other ways to run Linux. I don't know that I could or even should switch my primary operating system, but then, I probably don't need to. I switch back and forth between Windows and Mac OS today. Adding Linux to the mix should be fine. Only my primary desktop is a Windows device, and my primary laptop is a Mac. And my primary travel device is a Chromebook. Where would Linux fit in?

It may not. My Streaming Life got me back in touch with Linux. I'm not ready to say "goodbye" to that old reliable OS again. Not just yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Using Roku outside the USA

Roku launched in the USA back in 2008. It was a Netflix streaming box. In 2009, it became more that a Netflix streamer, and allowed other apps and services. Then Roku expanded outside the USA, partnering with NowTV in the UK, as well as with other companies. Roku is now sold directly in a number of countries. But not all. Not by a long shot.

Roku is sold and supported in:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru

That's it. Seventeen countries.

What happens in those countries? Well, the device works, but many apps don't. And, since the purpose is generally to run apps, then severely limits the use of the device for most people outside the supported 17.

How is it determined which apps are supported and which aren't? Roku leaves it up to the app developer. For example, Netflix supports their Roku app everywhere. But Amazon won't support its app outside the Supported 17 countries. While you can use Amazon in, say, Spain, you can't use the Amazon app for Roku in Spain.

Why would a country limit their apps? Netflix doesn't, so why do Amazon, Disney, and others? I don't know for certain, but probably because people are jerks. Let me explain.

First, people are jerks. You've met people, so you know what I'm talking about. And how that figures in is this way. If Roku isn't supported, but a service supports their app, they may worry about being held responsible for supporting the entire device. The way to avoid some jerk trying to hold them accountable for a device they didn't build is to not offer the app where the device itself isn't supported.

Roku isn't alone in this regard. Other platforms have certain apps that are only available in certain areas. So, if you do travel with your Roku or other streaming platform, you may encounter some issues that impact your Streaming Life when you travel out of country.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Antenna usage is up in the USA

Once upon a time, the way to watch TV was with an antenna. Then along came cable. And satellite. And now streaming.

The thing about streaming is that it plays well with antenna. Well, satellite does too, to a degree. Cable, not so much.

Cable essentially did away with the need for antenna, because cable systems carried the local channels. And cable was how many of us watched TV.

Satellite worked better with an antenna, because local channels weren't on satellite -- well, unless local was New York or Los Angeles.

With streaming, there is the option to watch locals from some live streaming services, but a streamer can save money with a cheaper service if local channels are available via antenna.

Even people who don't stream can watch a lot of content with an antenna, and may find that there is a lot to watch over the air.

According to Neilsen, the number of people watching TV over the air has continued to increase, and is 18.6 million households, abut 15% of the country.

Now, 15% is a lot less than nearly 100%, as it used to be before cable, but it's an increase over a year ago, and up from 10% a decade ago. That goes along with a drop in cable subscribers.

While over-the-air homes have grown, the share of homes with cable, satellite or telco pay-TV services -- what Nielsen calls Cable Plus has shrunk to 57% in the fourth quarter from 76% in 2018. Broadband only homes increase to 27% from 9% over the same interval.

I've been happy with my antenna, and continue to use it. For me, I don't subscribe to a live streaming service, as I can find enough live TV from my antenna or from free services with my streaming device.

If you don't have an antenna supplementing your Streaming Life, it may be worth considering.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Roku "What to Watch" finally debuts

When Roku announced OS 11 a little over a month ago, they mentioned some features that would "roll out in the coming weeks."

Many people -- I'd say most people -- took this to mean that Roku OS 11 would roll out soon and would include the listed features. Only, that's not what it meant.

What happened was that OS 11 began rolling out -- one of my Roku devices updated the same day as the announcement, another a week or so ago, another this week, and others soon, I expect -- but the rollout did not have the features mentioned.

I asked Roku about that and was told that the features would be rolling out separately. That would have been good to know. Well, now the features have arrived. Well, the feature, not features. Because there is only one visible on the Roku screen. And that's the "What to Watch" function.

The Roku Blog listed two features that would show on the Home Screen. Only one of them, Live TV, had actually rolled out with 10.5 some time earlier. What to Watch was new for OS 11.

What to Watch on Home Screen Menu –What to Watch is a new destination added to the Home Screen Menu, leading to movies and TV shows from a variety of streaming channels, including those you most frequently interact with. What to Watch provides easy access to a personalized selection of new titles that were recently added, recommendations for users based on popular and trending content, and so much more.

After more than a month, it finally showed up this weekend on my Roku devices. At least, the devices with OS 11 running.

What to Watch has content from various apps I have installed, which I like. And from apps I don't have, which I don't like.

I actually thought at first that Roku was only listing content from apps I had installed. The first few categories I checked -- Popular for You, Trending Now, Sitcoms -- all had content from app I had installed, and only from apps I had installed. That was something I liked. Sure, I have apps installed that don't have an active subscription, but at least limiting the content to apps I have was a good thing.

Except that's not really what's going on. When I got down to Suspense, some content was from apps I didn't have. Well, one item. And on some other categories as well. Digging down I found that most of the content offered that wasn't on apps I had installed were available on Roku Channel via subscription. But not all. There was some content suggested that weren't part of Roku Channel in any way, and were only available in apps I didn't have installed. Specifically, it listed Kolchak: The Night Stalker for me to watch, offering a service I'm not using or have an app installed.

That's disappointing. I understand the desire to push content that requires a subscription, or even to install other apps that don't require a subscription (Kolchak was free on the app that I don't have, ). But I prefer to only see content to which I actually have access.

The new Plex Discover feature connects to my other apps, but also offers content that is outside of those parameters. However, those items are on a separate listing, and not mixed in with other content. I prefer that approach.

Still, it's an overall improvement for Roku, though one I won't use a lot. But it's good to know it's there if I do want to try it. If you're a Roku user, check it out. That is, if Roku OS 11 has worked its way into your Streaming Life.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Going to the movies

I used to go to the movies a lot. When I worked in Jacksonville back in the 1980s, I would go at least once a week to Orange Park, just south of Jacksonville, and go to the movies. There were theaters in Jacksonville, of course, but at Orange Park, there were three theaters, and around 15 different movies playing, within a couple of blocks of each other, meaning I could find something to watch.

Over the years, I stopped doing that, and now rarely go out to the movies. The last couple of years haven't really had that much of an impact on me, as the movie experience isn't what it used to be. I can watch a movie on my big screen TV in the comfort of my own home. If I have to step to the bathroom, I can pause the movie and miss not one minute. Watching movies at home is a more comfortable experience.

However, I do miss going to the movies. Locally, there's a theater with a very nice setup, where I can sit in a recliner and have snacks and drinks brought to me. It's nice. And, being in Georgia, we've been acting normal for some time. Going to the movies is, and has been, a thing nearly the whole time. I haven't gone, but that's only because there's not been anything I wanted to watch.

There are areas where theaters haven't been open, or local ordinances or decrees have made going to the movies difficult. That's true in Georgia as well, though normally in larger cities. But that's changing. And, not just here, but everywhere it seems.

Fandango released a survey recently that shows 19 out of 20 people in the USA plan to see multiple movies in theaters this summer, according to USA Today.

Now that moviegoers are returning, it doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere: According to the survey, 96% of ticket buyers plan to see multiple movies in theaters this summer (64% specify they will see five or more). And even though some major movies, like this weekend's "Cruella," are releasing theatrically and on streaming services the same day, 87% say the moviegoing experience can’t be duplicated at home.

None of the top ten movies in the report are movies I have any interest in seeing, but lots of people will want to see them. I'm glad they'll have the opportunity. I've had the opportunity for some time, but haven't gone just to go. There's nothing I want to see.

But, if something I want to see does hit theaters, I'll be there. Until then, I'll be sitting at home, enjoying my Streaming Life.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Triple Crown on Peacock

It's a little early for this, as the Kentucky Derby isn't for a couple of weeks. Still, if you're a fan of thoroughbred racing, or just someone who watches certain races, it may be time to start planning how you're going to watch.

NBC has the Triple Crown races again, as is normal, and will broadcast the races. If you have an antenna, you can watch your local NBC affiliate and see the races.

This year, though, those three races are also being carried by Peacock. Subscribers to the Premium plan will be able to stream the races.


And, of course, this is an opportunity for me to show my favorite horse racing video. I watched it live when it happened in 1973.

It's not likely that we'll see anything like that this year, but you never know. Secretariat's Triple Crown races were all record time wins, and the record still holds.

If you want to watch this year's races streaming, Peacock has you covered. You can have the Triple Crown racing in your Streaming Life.

Friday, April 22, 2022

CNN+ we hardly knew ye

Yesterday, I wrote about CNN+ and how it wasn't really necessary to me. I didn't find out until later Thursday that CNN had announced that the platform was shutting down.

I'm not really surprised to learn that. Rumors began almost as soon as it launched that the platform was a bust. I wanted to wait and see how things really shook out, and it turns out that the rumors were right.

As you would expect, CNN is putting a bit of a spin on it. They're not admitting a failure, but rather taking the approach that the new management want's everything under a single brand.

The prior management team's vision for CNN+ runs counter to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav's plan to house all of the company's brands under one streaming service. Some CNN+ programming may eventually live on through that service. Other programming will shift to CNN's main television network.

And while there will be layoffs, the severance package isn't too bad.

Hundreds of CNN+ staffers may lose their jobs. Licht said in an internal memo that "all CNN+ employees will continue to be paid and receive benefits for the next 90 days to explore opportunities at CNN, CNN Digital and elsewhere in the Warner Bros. Discovery family."

Staffers who aren't absorbed elsewhere in the company will receive a minimum of six months of severance, he added.

So, now what? What do you do if you want to watch TV news?

Well, like I said yesterday, there are a shipload of options, free options, available. If you want to watch news on your streaming device, just look at the menu. Or, in case of a Roku, go to the Roku Channel or the Channel Store. It's easy to have news as a part of your Streaming Life. And the shutdown of CNN+ won't make much of dent.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Streaming the news

I posted recently about CNN+ finally launching, and then arriving on Roku three weeks later. If I came across as not really excited about it, there's a reason. I'm not really excited about it. TV news channels were one of the last things holding me back from cutting cable back in 2011. And after a week of not watching TV news, I came to like not watching TV news. Oh, I still stay up on things, but I don't need the commentary from the talking heads telling me what to think. I can find the facts online. I subscribe to Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, and will rotate around dropping those and picking up New York Times, and so on. That's just the subscription, to get the entire Website content for those. But I also read other news Websites and stay informed from a variety of sources.

But, if I do want to watch TV news, I have options. In addition to CNN+, which is a subscription service, I also have access to a lot of other news sources. Clicking on my Fire TV device just now, I see news apps and streams from ABC News, CBS News, Fox Live Now, Newsmax TV, USA Today, Bloomberg TV, Reuters Now, Cheddar News, Newsy, i24 News, and more.

Switching to Roku, most of those are easy to find, as well as NBC News Now, Sky News, Haystack News, Stirr, Local Now, Real America's Voice, CNBC, OAN, and a bunch of local TV news apps.

I won't go on and on, because what I've listed so far are some news apps and services that I found without even doing any heavy searching. These are the easy to find ones. There are more.

In addition to this, if you have or put up an antenna, you may be able to get local TV news from your local stations. It's really easy to add TV news to your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

IMDB TV no more

Have you ever made a silly decision? A stupid decision? A really bad decision?

Have you ever wanted to take it back?

Have you ever thought of something so clever that you came up with and then told everybody and they just looked at you like you had lobsters crawling out of your ears? (Bonus points if  you get the reference.)

Well, that's what Amazon is going through. Or should be going through. They may be still in the phase where they don't realize what a silly thing they've done.

Amazon has rebranded IMDB TV as Freevee.

IMDb TV will rebrand to Amazon Freevee, beginning April 27, in addition to growing its content lineup to include Original movies and expanding internationally into Germany later this year.

The ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) service has grown immensely in the last two years—tripling monthly active users—driven by rapid distribution across living room devices and mobile, an increasing slate of Originals, an always updating library of highly sought movies and TV shows, and over 60 FAST channels.

Yes, I checked the date on the news release. It was April 13th, not April Fools Day. This is for real.

That's a really silly name. They could have gone with Prime Video Free. Or Prime Video with Special Offers -- to copy the name they gave ad-supported Kindle devices. Or just about anything. Heck, IMDB TV was actually a good name. They bought MGM so MGM TV would have been good.

Freevee is just kinda silly.

I'm not really getting all worked up over it. I'm just pointing and laughing. It's silly. I don't know if it's to the point of taking the app off my devices because the name is just too silly, but that's a possibility. I refused to upgrade my TiVo to the Bolt because of how stupid the device looked. So, yeah, removing the app is something I'd do.

I want to enjoy my Streaming Life, not cringe when I open an app.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Plex Web shows and podcasts bite the dust

I enjoy using my Plex server for watching local content, and am still slowly checking out the new Discover feature, a content aggregator that works with a whole slew of apps and services.

In all of that, I totally missed that Plex did away with Web shows and podcasts.

As part of our ongoing effort to make sure we’re spending our time and energy in ways that best serve our awesome user community, we’ve made the decision to end support for Podcasts and Web Shows within Plex. We recognize this decision will impact several of you greatly, and we apologize for the inconvenience it will cause. You can continue to access these features within Plex until Friday, April 15th, 2022, at which point they will no longer be available.

Honestly, I didn't notice. I never used them. And that's the problem. Most users were like me. Whether or not they removed them from the menu, I don't know. I always did when I set up an app on a device, so they didn't junk up my interface.

They didn't disappear from my interface, because I had removed them already. And if it wasn't for my reading an article on The Streaming Advisor the other day, it would have been quite some time before I noticed.

If you lost a couple of features from Plex that you liked, then I'm to blame for the disruption in your Streaming Life. Well, one of those to blame. There are a lot of us to blame. And while I understand the decision by Plex to drop a seldom used feature, I know what it's like to lose a feature you enjoy. I'm sure there are alternatives, and perhaps even some that Plex will be able to integrate into the Discover feature. We can keep our fingers crossed.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Tablo delays ATSC 3.0 devices

I'm a fan of Tablo TV. Since I cut the cord in 2011, I've used several antenna DVR setups, and I like Tablo the best.

I actually had a DVR before I cut the cord. I got my first TiVo device in 2006, and really liked it. I used it to record cable TV shows, and over the air antenna after cutting the cord. At the time, TiVo devices could do both cable and OTA. Today, TiVo DVRs can't do both. There's a cable model, and an antenna model. When I cut the cord, mine did both.

I used TiVo DVR, Air TV, Fire TV Recast, and Tablo. I like Tablo best, although all of them do very good jobs. For me, it comes down to the interface, and Tablo is my preference. However, all have very good, though different, interfaces.

In January, Tablo announced new ATSC 3.0 DVRs for what's been dubbed "Next Gen TV." However, there is a problem. Well, two actually. The first was known up front.

First, due to technical limitations, including lack of Dolby AC-4 audio support on most streaming devices and Smart TVs, this is the first Tablo OTA DVR which can not stream content inside or outside the home. Viewing is limited to a single connected television.

The ATSC 3.0 DVRs are single-TV devices, not network devices. I prefer the network devices, so I can watch on any TV on my network. That's a deal breaker for me. I have no intention of buying a Tablo device that can't work over my network. Still, for many, it's not a big deal.

I said there were two problem. The new one appeared this past week. I didn't receive the email, but those that have pre-ordered the new ATSC 3.0 DVRs got one, according to Cord Cutters News, announcing a delay.

... broadcast station ownership groups have indicated their intent to encrypt ATSC 3.0 signals using Digital Rights Management (DRM) beginning as early as this summer. 

...

DRM decryption keys MUST be installed on the Tablo during manufacturing and cannot be added via later firmware updates. 

Because of this, we anticipate a manufacturing delay of several months while we confirm the certification requirements, add DRM capabilities to the product, and obtain certification from the ATSC 3.0 Security Authority (A3SA).

As I said, I'm not impacted, but those that are looking to purchase the new set-connected DVRs are.

I think Tablo is doing the right thing, of course. Had the announcement of encryption been delayed, Tablo may have shipped devices and then been forced to do a recall, which would have been a very bad thing for them and their customers.

And don't get me started on the whole DRM encryption of broadcast signals. Over the air pay TV has all kind of implications that I don't want to think about this early in the morning.

For now, if Tablo ATSC 3.0 devices are in your future Streaming Life, you have a delay. And nobody knows for how ling.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Bashing baseball

It's been, gosh, days since I bashed Major League Baseball. So here goes again.

If you have been following along at home, I have posted three times in the last few weeks about what I don't like about baseball and their streaming setup. Last month, I whined about how Major League Baseball doesn't want my money, because they blackout the Braves, since I'm in one of the five states in the Braves market. I'd subscribe to MLB.TV if they'd let me watch the Braves live. But they don't, so I don't.

I then posted about how Amazon was providing some live in-market games to one team (not my team, though). I also talked about how there are some options for streamers, but not a full season's worth.

What am I complaining about today? Well, more of the same. I saw an example of where another Website was complaining about Major League Baseball's blackout policy.

Phillip Swann, The TV Answer Man (a daily read for me; see the link in the sidebar), was trying to answer a question about a U.S. location being blacked out despite being 5,798 miles from the teams. Yes, that's correct. Nearly 6,000 miles away, there's a place where residents there can't watch two certain teams that are seven time zones away.

MLB.TV, the online package of out-of-market regular-season games, does not allow subscribers in Guam to watch the San Francisco Giants or Oakland Athletics games. They are blacked out there.

That may sound impossible. After all, Guam is 5,798 miles away from the San Francisco/Oakland area. And as you note, NBC Sports Bay Area, which has the local rights to most Giants games, and NBC Sports California, which has the A’s games, are not available in Guam. So there’s no way for a MLB TV subscriber in Guam to watch the two teams without MLB TV. Except MLB TV doesn’t allow it!

“All live San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games will be blacked out in the U.S. territory of Guam,” states the MLB.TV site.

Now, if that sounds crazy, that's because it is. The article goes on to say that MLB hasn't responded to repeated requests about that situation. Mr. Swann makes his best guess about why that is, and it's a reasonable one, insofar as trying to understand the mindset of Major League Baseball. Mr. Swann doesn't defend MLB's decision, just tries to figure out what is going on in their heads.

That's just one example of how messed up the blackout rules are. Sure, they're in place to protect certain parties, and I get that. I really don't like it, and think they're making a bad business decision, but they're the ones sitting in a big office and I'm typing away on my laptop, eating Cheezy-Poofs.

Still, I'd really like to have more baseball in my Streaming Life. But that won't happen while blackouts are in place.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Streaming USFL games

The USFL opens play this weekend. I must admit, nostalgia has hold because I had attended some USFL games in Jacksonville in the 1980s. Now, this is not the same league, but this new league owns the names and logos from the old league. And though nearly 40 years separate them, just hearing the names of the teams playing brings back memories of that old league.

A lot of players started their US professional football careers in the USFL, including some Hall of Fame players. I don't know if the new league will have the same quality players, but we'll find out starting tonight. The USFL kicks of its 2022 season this evening. And you can watch the games with your favorite streaming device.

Fox and NBC are carrying tonight's game between the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions. Tomorrow's game between the Houston Gamblers and Michigan Panthers will be on NBC and Peacock (Premium), Philadelphia Stars vs New Orleans Breakers is on USA, and Tampa Bay Bandits vs Pittsburgh Maulers is on FS1.

Games in future weeks will be on those networks, as well. That means that if you are able to watch all of the games this weekend, you'll be able to watch all of the games all season long, since every network carrying the league has at least one game this weekend.

Fox

  • Antenna (free)
  • Vidgo TV ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

NBC

  • Antenna (free)
  • Vidgo TV ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

FS1

  • Sling TV (Blue) ($35/month)
  • Vidgo TV ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

USA

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

Peacock

  • Peacock (Premium) ($5/month) (Free to Xfinity Internet customers)

If spring football is what you want in your Streaming Life, you get your wish starting tonight.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Cable lies

Now, to be clear up front, I'm not calling all cable TV companies liars. And the one I'm talking about today is one that I have never used. In fact, I'm not calling the company in question liars at all. But I think the person who is, is right.

Ryan Downey is host of The Streaming Advisor, it's a daily read for me. Enough to the point where The Streaming Advisor is one of the Websites I have listed as a resource in the sidebar here.

In a recent article, he took Spectrum to task for statements the company made in advertisements that attacked DirecTV Stream.

The claims were misleading at best and outright wrong at the worse, which should not come as a big surprise to those who have paid attention to cable advertising or their bills over the years.

The biggest false claim, being that consumers would not be able to see the “biggest game of the year” AKA the Super Bowl is not even a stretch of the truth, it’s a lie. While Spectrum could say that it never said the Super Bowl was not on DirecTV Stream we all know what the biggest game of the year is. The company just lets viewers make the erroneous connection. Sort of like threatening someone by saying “I would hate to see you get hurt somehow if you didn’t pay me”.

It's worth a read. If you wonder if a cable company would try to mislead you, this might help you make up your mind.

My TV watching life became a Streaming Life when I wanted more for my dollar. I don't miss paying big bucks for small return. And I certainly don't miss dealing with companies like that.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

CNN+ on Roku

There has been some coverage this week about CNN+, the subscription service that launched last month. Some of the news is good, and some of the news is bad. Maybe "bad" isn't the correct word. Perhaps "horrible" is a better word.

First, the good news for CNN+. The app finally launched on Roku. For the first two weeks following the service launch, the app was not available for the largest streaming platform. But that has been remedied. The app launched this week, according to Roku Blog.

The CNN channel (available now in the Roku Channel Store) will offer access to both CNN+ and live TV experiences, with easy navigation between the two. Existing pay TV customers can also enjoy the live TV experience that they’ve known for years, including access to CNN, CNN International, and HLN.

The service is $6/month or $60/year.

So, why did it take so long to get an app on Roku? Roku doesn't say. And CNN doesn't say. But you must remember that the four major streaming platforms all have different operating systems. That means you can't just take an app from one and expect it to work on another. And some of the other platforms have an advantage.

For Apple TV, for instance, tvOS is based on iOS and is similar to iPadOS, meaning they may be able to code the same app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. And if not, the differences would be relatively minor.

With Fire TV, it's different. It's a different OS. But, as it's similar to Android, there isn't quite the learning curve necessary switching between coding for Android and Fire OS. They did manage to get an app out there for Fire OS, but interestingly enough, not for Android TV.

Roku is also different. It is totally different, and anything coded for Roku is pretty much limited to Roku. So, it may have taken the coding teams longer to complete.

And, of course, there are the agreements needed to have an app in the Channel Store. There is a process. And now that process is complete, and CNN+ is on Roku. That's the good news.

The bad news? Besides still not being available for Android TV? Well, it seems not many people are subscribing to the service, according to CNBC.

Fewer than 10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis two weeks into its existence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The people spoke with CNBC on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss nonpublic data.

There were reports within days of launch about layoffs being planned. I didn't link those because I'm not certain how accurate those might be. The new head of CNN isn't even on the job yet, so I think talk like that is premature. That doesn't mean they won't happen after the new boss is in place, just that talk is premature.

I don't plan to subscribe to the service. I don't plan to even do a free trial. When I cut cable back in January 2011, TV news was one of the reasons I held out as long as I did. But after a few days, I found I didn't miss it. So any report of a news service being launched doesn't mean much to me. I can do without them. If I want to watch a bunch of noisy clowns on TV, I'll subscribe to the Circus Channel, not CNN+, Fox News, NBC-anything, or whatever. I'm so over TV news and the whole culture they exhibit.

I'm not saying I hope CNN+ fails. If someone wants it in their Streaming Life, they now have another option with the Roku app launch. But I won't be helping it survive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Time to try YouTube TV again

I'm going to start with stuff I say all the time. I don't need a year-round live streaming service. I'll subscribe to live streaming services during college football season in order to get the sports channels I want, and use that time to also catch up with anything else on the live-streaming service. While I'll often use Sling TV, I may switch to another service for a month if there is some content with which I want to play catchup on that other service. But, I don't always have time to do a proper evaluation of the service, since I'm really focusing on something specific, and that's my priority.

The rest of the year, I'll drop the live streaming services and rotate on-demand services. Paramount+ one month, Disney+ another, HBO Max another, and so on. But, I'll occasionally subscribe to a live streaming service just to check it out. And I'm doing that with YouTube TV.

For the next four weeks, I'll have a subscription to YouTube TV, simply to check out the service. It's been a while since I used the service, and I want to see if it's gotten better, worse, or about the same. And the only way to know is to actually try. Plus, it helps me get an better understanding of why people think they need a live streaming service. I think I know why they think that, but actually doing it for a month helps me stay connected to their mindset, at least a little.

Will I keep YouTube TV for more than a month? Nope. No way. I've been doing this long enough to know that I absolutely do not need a live streaming service. I know what it brings to the table -- it's like having cable -- and it's not that important to me. If I want to watch something specific, I am already able to do that. I can buy the shows cheaper than spending $65/month or $744/year. I can buy a lot of TV for $744, and keep it more than a year. And if I want to just put the TV on and let it play, there's Pluto TV, Xumo, Roku Channel, and others. Those are free. And so is over the air TV. I've already purchased the antenna, and can stream live over the air TV to any device in the house. Or one of my 1,748 movies I have on Plex.

And if I wasn't happy with the older content as background noise, there are cheaper ways to get live streaming content that is okay to be on in the background. Frndly.TV is only $7/month.

All that to say I won't keep YouTube TV for more than a month. But I'm going to give it another look, just to keep myself up to speed on what it offers and how well it works. While it won't be a regular part of my Streaming Life, I'll better understand why you might want it as part of yours.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

More thoughts on HBO Max

I saw an article this week stating that HBO Max was now the third place streaming service, behind only Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The service had moved past Disney+ and Hulu (all forms) and taken hold of the number three spot. This is according to data from JustWatch.

This doesn't really surprise me. HBO Max is a good streaming service. I don't like the fact that I can't turn off autoplay, but that's an app thing, not really a service thing. The content of HBO Max is really good.

But here is what it all boils down to. I will subscribe to it. I'll spend my money on it. That is the way that any of us can say we like it or don't like it. I like it.

Now, you may recall that I won't subscribe to services year-round. I don't need a live TV service year-round, so I don't keep a subscription 12 months out of the year. I'll subscribe to Sling TV (or another service that's running a special price) during college football season, but apart from that, I won't subscribe to a live streaming service.

For on-demand services such as HBO Max, I'll subscribe to one a month, cancel, then subscribe to a different one. I don't need any service year-round, and with the amount of time I watch TV, I can focus on content from one service a month. Maybe two if they are really cheap.

HBO Max is one of those on-demand services I subscribe to during the year. It is one I'll watch, binge a few things, then cancel at the end of a month, but will come back to later.

That may not sound like a ringing endorsement for HBO Max, but it really is. There are services I won't use at all, or if I do, once every year or two for a month. HBO Max gets on regular rotation since it's one of the best services.

So, no I'm not surprised that HBO Max has climbed to the number three spot.


I actually watch it more than I do Netflix (because I don't subscribe to Netflix). And Amazon Prime Video too. It may be my most-watched service of those in rotation. It's that good, to me at least.

HBO Max will continue to be a part of my Streaming Life -- on a rotational basis -- for some time to come. And if it's not part of yours, I'd suggest giving it a try for a month. Who knows? You may like it. You may also find the idea of subscribing to a single service each month saves you some money, and keep you entertained.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Even more hope for baseball

I mentioned recently that some services are streaming games in areas that MLB.TV would black out the team. Specifically, I mentioned that Amazon will be carrying some Yankees games in market. I only mentioned that service, as it specifically targets a team whose fans can't otherwise watch in-market games via MLB.TV.

All teams are blacked out in market by MLB.TV. This gives Yankees fans some relief. But there are other ways of watching games, though not specifically for a specific team.

For example, ESPN+ is carrying one game a day this month. Well, nearly every day.

Nearly every MLB Club – 24 out of 30 – will be in action on ESPN+ during April, including two appearances by the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves and appearances by expected season contenders including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros.

As you can see, many clubs will get streaming time during the month.

Peacock TV will carry several Sunday games this season, starting next month.

The first game on Peacock will feature a match-up between the Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox from Fenway Park on May 8 at 11:30 a.m. ET. The game will also be available on the NBC broadcast network. However, the remaining 17 games will be available exclusively on Peacock’s premium service.

The service will have other baseball related content, but it's the live games that excites me. I'm an Xfinity Internet customer and get Peacock TV Premium free with my service. For others, it's $5/month, which isn't a bad deal. And no, games won't be on the free tier.

Apple TV+ will also carry games on Friday nights.

Fans will be able to watch marquee games on Friday nights, free from local broadcast restrictions, across devices where Apple TV+ can be found, including on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV 4K and HD, and on tv.apple.com, along with select smart TVs, gaming consoles, and cable set-top boxes. “Friday Night Baseball” will be available on Apple TV+ — and, for a limited time, without the need for a subscription.

So, there's more than just Amazon carrying games. These are "game of the week" or "game of the day" schedules and cover the entire lineup of teams. Amazon's in-market schedule is just for the Yankees, and just in-market.

If more in-market options are available, perhaps MLB.TV will relent once that dam is breached. But in the meantime, there are some streaming options. Just not 162 of any team. Still, that's better than nothing. And if you're wanting baseball in your Streaming Life, you can get some baseball, just not all baseball. Not yet.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Baseball's streaming issue: Amazon provides an opening

I've spoken many times about how Major League Baseball isn't very streamer friendly, despite being involved in streaming for over a decade. MLB.TV won't stream in-market games live. I'm a Braves fan, and can't watch live Braves games through MLB.TV. Nobody can watch the live games of any team in which they are in-market via the MLB.TV app.

However, this past week, we got a glimmer of hope. Amazon is going to be live streaming games for Yankees fans in that market.

Now, I'm not a Yankees fan, so this doesn't impact me. But if they did this for the Braves, or other teams, then I and others would be in a better situation.

It's not a perfect solution to that team from the Bronx. The Yankees have 162 games, and Amazon will be carrying 25. That still leaves 137 games not able to be streamed live by in-market fans, but it's a start.

Will this lead to more games available live streaming for teams in market? I have no idea, but I certainly want that to happen. I would really like live baseball for my team as a part of my Streaming Life. Maybe one day this will come to pass.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

True Crime TV

I've never watched True Crime TV. That's not a cable channel -- I don't think it's a cable channel, and I'm too lazy to check -- but a genre, a type of show. There are comedies, mysteries, drama, "reality" (which is as real as professional wrestling), westerns, teen, romance, and a whole slew of others. And of of those others is True Crime.

Why have I never watched it? Because I have no interest in it. I remember how popular Unsolved Mysteries was, and how popular many other shows such as 48 Hours, America's Most Wanted, The People vs. O. J. Simpson, Forensic Files, New Detectives, and so many more were and are. But I don't get it.

Some of the shows actually served a good purpose. America's Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries did bring some crimes to the attention of the public, and some led to arrests. So good for them. But, and I could be wrong, my impression is that many of the shows today are simply sensational versions of the truth. The truth may not be front and center. The truth may not even be in the room. The truth may not even be in the same state. TV networks lie about news, so I have no doubt they lie about "true" crime shows.

And maybe "lie" is a strong word. Perhaps exaggeration, omissions, and such aren't really lies. But here's the secret. They are. A lie is a lie no matter how it's executed.

So, True Crime isn't something I've cared about watching. If they fictionalized the stories -- which I just said they already do -- then maybe I'd watch it. Like professional wrestling, they aren't fully straight and truthful, but use their talents in storytelling to be entertaining. If they get it right, it's totally by accident. Oh, and I'm not talking about wrestling with that last sentence. I suspect wrestling is closer to the truth than most True Crime TV.

Some people really love it. They are True Crime junkies. And I am not going to criticize them for that. I was a TV news junkie at one time. And like True Crime junkies, I believed a lot of what I saw on TV. But now I know better. It's not real, and I'm not going to pretend it is.

If you're a True Crime TV junkie, that's fine. You have lots of options when it comes to watching those kind of shows. But keep in mind that it's entertainment first, and truth when it's convenient. And if you enjoy those shows and make them a part of your Streaming Life, then you're living in the right era.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Too many streaming services

A study by a group called Interpret says that one in five streaming subscribers think they subscribe to too many services. The main focus of the report is actually talking about something we touched on this week: aggregation of content.

We touched on OneFlix and Plex promoting aggregation with new apps or updates to apps. In that article, I thought that the Plex offering is better for streamers, because it's available on streaming devices, while OneFlix is limited to mobile devices, at least for now.

Well, this study by Interpret says that one in three streamers want better aggregation.

Among subscribers to streaming services, fully one-third express an interest in being able to manage and search for their available content from one place. Consumers want aggregation services to help remove pain points from the subscription process. They also expect bundled offerings to deliver greater value, as well as to improve account management, discovery, and content recommendation functionality.

And while I understand that, and how that would be the focus because anyone that can do that can get more eyeballs, and more ad revenue. But the thing that is of interest to me is that one in five think they are already spending too much money on too many streaming services.

Interpret’s study, The Future of OTT Aggregation, reveals that US viewers subscribe to an average of 4-5 SVOD services, and the majority also access multiple ad-supported or ad-funded on-demand services. That’s a lot of content to navigate and manage, and over 20% of US consumers agree that they “subscribe to too many video streaming services.”

I think that simply means that 20% realize it, and that up to 80% are doing it but not yet realizing it. I truly think most people can do better with how they subscribe to services.

And this isn't new. There have been studies in past years about the same thing, with similar results.

For a while, I've said streamers need to question if they really need a live streaming service, and if they really want one, if they are getting the best value for their money.

Now, to be sure, a number of streamers are getting exactly what they want, whether they spend a little, like me, or if they spend a lot, like I used to. I'm fully aware that what works for me doesn't mean it works for someone else. But the study does show that a good number think they spend too much.

If you want to spend less, check and see if that live streaming service is really providing you the content you want. Can you get the same or similar content cheaper?

And these smaller on-demand packages? Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max -- all the Plus and Max services -- may have what you want, but do you really need to subscribe all year to all services? Can you skip around? Can you get by subscribing to just one this month, and another one next month, and a still different one the following month, and so on? I have settled on doing it that way, and still get to watch what I want, but pay a fraction of what others pay for the same services. I just don't have them all at the same time.

If you have too many streaming services, you are not alone. More people think they have too many, and if you can find a way to save some money, that's a very good thing. I enjoy my Streaming Life better knowing I'm saving money. And you can too.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Streaming The Masters

I'm not into golf. My son is. And I have a grandson that is as well. One of his grandmothers posted a picture on Facebook of him at a driving range this week. They went to Jacksonville, and he had a blast.

So, while I would post what I am today anyway, it's a little extra fun for me knowing my son and at least one grandson would have an interest in this topic.

The Masters is this week. Starts today, in fact. And if you're a streamer, you have some options for watching one of the premiere gold tournaments.

The first two rounds will be on ESPN with additional coverage on ESPN+. The final two rounds will be on CBS.

If you're a streamer, you're in luck.

ESPN, ESPN+

  • Sling TV (Orange) ($35/month)
  • Vidgo TV ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

ESPN+ is an standalone service that is $7/month. It does not include the standard ESPN content.

CBS

  • Antenna (Free)
  • Paramount+ ($10/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

If golf is something you want in your Streaming Life, you have plenty of options to watch one of the most prestigious tournaments, starting today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Finding what to watch

For a while, streaming platforms have been implementing ways to find what it is you want to watch. If you're like me, you don't really care what service and app carries certain content, just that the content you want is available ... and it's easy to find. It's that "easy to find" part that is hard.

Roku search was one of the best early ways to find content. Roku was service independent. They didn't care where it was, if their database had the content you wanted, it pointed you to it, or the multiple apps/services that had your content. Then Roku began doing what the others did and started featuring content from their streaming service, the Roku Channel.

Of course it makes sense to feature your carrying of the content. If a movie you want is on Roku Channel and on Xumo, for instance, Roku would rather you watch it on their service so they get the ad hits and more ad revenue.

Amazon did this a lot right out of the chute. Fire TV is essentially the Amazon Prime Video app with all the other apps being available, but not really featured. And Google did the same thing with Android/Google TV. They featured their content above other services and apps carrying the same content.

Now, to be sure, Amazon didn't hide other services/apps that carried the content you wanted. Neither did Google. And, when Roku began doing that -- to a lesser degree, but still doing it -- there was no truly independent way of finding content.

This week, a couple of Websites had articles on a couple of services that are taking another stab at being an independent resource of finding streaming content. One is called OneFlix, and it has information from some of the major streaming services.

Citing the need to help users find content instead of spending their time searching for it Oneflix pulls together the content from Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount+ into one interface that puts the content from the most well-known streaming services in one place.

The big drawback is that this is for tablets, not set top streaming devices or sticks.

Also, another service says they're going some of the same thing. But this is available on streaming devices. Because it's Plex that is doing it.

And with our unified Watchlist, now you can keep a single, central list that covers what you might want to watch on any service. So, instead of a watchlist on your HBO Max account and your Amazon Prime service and your FXNow service, you just add it all to your Plex Watchlist. And what’s better, when you add Beavis and Butt-Head Do America to your list, we’ll always know where you can watch it when you’re ready—because it was on Hulu when you added it but who knows what service(s) it’s on now (oh that’s right, we do!).

Since Plex has is own content with ads, will they focus on theirs, as other services have? Will they actually present others with the same emphasis? They say they will.

Yep. We will tell you that too. Even if it means sending you to one of our many well-funded competitors. Because again, our mission is to serve you and your needs. While we have a great amount of free movies, shows and other content (over 50,000, titles last we counted) and over 250 free Live TV channels that we think you’ll love, we’re smart enough to realize that it’s a big universe out there, and the heart wants to watch what the heart wants to watch. So again, our goal is to support your viewing experience, no matter where it takes you. You can trust that the results we are providing you with are the most accurate ones around.

If they mean it, and follow through on this, we may have found our Holy Grail. So now I'll update my Plex app then search for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and see if I have indeed found it, in both respects.

If Plex follows through, or if OneFlix develops an app for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, etc., then we'll have a couple of good options in our Streaming Lives.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Fubo TV price changes aren't actually price changes

If you currently subscribe to Fubo TV on the $65/month plan, your price is going up on May 1. But there is not a price change. Let me say that again. If you're on the $65/month Fubo TV plan, you'll be paying more after May 1st, but Fubo TV is not raising prices.

How in the world are they managing that? Well, it's quite simple, really. They're doing away with the $65/month Starter plan, and moving all those subscribers to the $70/month Pro plan.

The Pro plan is already $70/month, and has been for a little while. But they're doing away with the smaller plan, and moving you to the higher plan. The Starter plan, the $65/month plan, is going away.

Now, you don't have to accept the move. You can simply cancel Fubo TV and pay nothing.

The bottom line is that if you're on the Starter ($65/month) plan, you'll pay more, because you get moved to an existing, and more expensive, plan.

That leaves YouTube TV as the final $65/month live streaming subscription service, the cheapest one with the four major network local channels.

Vidgo is still $55/month, but it only carries ABC and Fox locals. No NBC or CBS.

Sling TV is still $35/month, but no local channels, except in limited markets. Probably not yours. Certainly not mine.

Philo is still $25/month, but no locals.

Frndly.TV is still $7/month, and no locals.

So you certainly have options. If local channels are a must, and if  you don't have an antenna, within a month, YouTube TV will be the cheapest option.

If you do have an antenna, or can put one up, then you have even cheaper options.

Streaming is getting more expensive. Everything is getting more expensive. I'll blame much of the high inflation on the policies of the government. Of course, elections have consequences. This is one of them. But I do not blame the rise in streaming services on the government. I think that'll come, but this isn't it.

Your Streaming Life is getting more expensive, and it's more and more important that you look at what you're spending your money on and why. I'm staying on top of my expenses. I want to keep as much of my hard earned money as I can.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Beatles Rarities

This isn't really about streaming, but it came up because of streaming. Specifically, my Plex server setup, which not only includes my movie, TV, and video shorts collections, but also includes my music collection.

I don't have all of my music in Plex just yet. That's not really a priority, but I have some artists collections in Plex. Only three at the moment, two of which are complete: the Beatles, Elton John, and Eagles.  Elton John isn't complete, as I don't own all of his releases. But, most of what I own, at least the full albums, are there. But it's not Elton John I'm talking about today. It's the Beatles.

My collection is rather extensive. I own all of their music that's available via download, mostly iTunes, and all of their CDs. I used to own all of their albums. Okay, most of their albums. Via purchase, I owned all of their US releases except Introducing the Beatles, from Vee Jay records in 1964. Via CD, I own all of their Capital US releases, and their official catalog which is mostly UK releases.

I owned the stereo versions of their US albums, except Meet The Beatles; I had the mono release. I later bought the Beatles In Mono CD collection, which contained the UK official version of their albums in mono, which were the versions the Beatles considered official. They didn't care about stereo releases until the late 1960s. All of this to bring up that I had a version of all of their releases in some format or another.

When I began moving the content into Plex, I first moved the official catalog CDs. But I grew up in the US. To me, Meet the Beatles is a better album than With the Beatles, the UK counterpart. There's a whole story behind why they are different, and that could take days to explain. Essentially, the US label, Capitol Records, had a different philosophy about releasing music, and part of that was driven by the US standards vs the UK standards. I may talk about all that one day. Or not. Bottom line was most of the US releases were different from the UK releases.

Remember when I mentioned Introducing the Beatles on Vee Jay? There's a whole 'nuther story around that for another day (if at all). Oh, and a movie deal meant that United Artist Records got some tracks that Capitol Records didn't.

The end result of this is that when the Beatles broke up in 1970, there were 13 songs that had not been released on Capitol Records. Eight of them had never been released in any form at all on a Capitol album, though . Three were tracks that were in versions only available on singles in the US, one was on a charity album, and one was a B-side from a single.

In 1978, the UK label released a collection of non-album tracks called Rarities. In 1980, the US label (Capitol) released their version. Some of the UK Rarities had been released on albums in the US, but, as I mentioned, 13 songs were not available on any album. So, the easy thing would be to put those 13 on an album and release it, finalizing the Beatles catalog on album.

Here's how that would have looked:

  1. Love Me Do - Original single version, different from the version on The Early Beatles.
  2. Misery - Had been on Vee Jay's Introducing the Beatles, but was left off The Early Beatles.
  3. There's a Place - Had been on Vee Jay's Introducing the Beatles, but was left off The Early Beatles.
  4. From Me to You - Early single. Not included on other Capitol collections that included other early singles.
  5. Sie Liebt Dich - German language version of She Loves You. The German language version of I Want to Hold Your Hand had been released on Something New.
  6. A Hard Day's Night - Only US album release was on United Artists Records soundtrack to the movie.
  7. Help! - Original single version. The version on the US Help! album included a James Bond style intro.
  8. I'm Down - B-side of Help!
  9. The Inner Light - B-side to Lady Madonna. Left off the Hey Jude album, which was a singles collection and included Lady Madonna.
  10. Get Back (single) - Single version left off Hey Jude compilation. Different from the version on the Let it Be album.
  11. Across the Universe (Wildlife) - Released on a charity album. Different from the version on the Let it Be album.
  12. Let It Be (single) - Single version. Different from the version on the Let it Be album.
  13. You Know My Name (Look up the Number) - B-side to Let it Be single.

Note that I said "would have" because this is not what Capitol did. Rather, they left off:

  • From Me to You
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • I'm Down
  • Get Back (single)
  • Let It Be (single)

They added 

  • And I Love Her - The German mix.
  • I'm Only Sleeping - The UK mix; the US version was an early mix.
  • I Am the Walrus - A combination of two separate mixes, creating a new mix.
  • Penny Lane - A version that included a portion of a promotional mix (the trumpet version), creating a new mix.
  • Helter Skelter - The mono mix that actually had been released on the mono version of The Beatles (White Album)
  • Don't Pass Me By - The mono mix that actually had been released on the mono version of The Beatles (White Album)

They added the run-out from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been omitted from the US album. However, they didn't include it in the run-groove, but as a 27-second version of the intro and 2-second loop.

I disagree with creating brand new mixes and calling them rarities, so two of those are bogus right off the bat. Two had actually been released previously, so those was totally bogus. The other two were rare in the US, and I won't complain too much about them, but the five they omitted where major omissions, especially I'm Down, which had never been on any album on any label in the US.

From the time I heard of the UK Rarities album in 1978 until I heard of the release of the US Rarities album in 1980, I held out hope the Capitol LP catalog would finally include all the Beatles songs. But, it was not to be.

So, when I began putting my music into Plex, I decided to reconstitute the Rarities album, rather than transfer from vinyl to MP3. Well, as many as I could. A few had to be transferred from vinyl, but most didn't. I already had them on MP3 and simply edited the tags appropriately. That saved a lot of time. that actually led to something else which I'll cover another day.

For now, I was able to recreate my vinyl copy of Rarities and add that to Plex. And after much though, I created my own Bonus tracks. You know how re-releases of albums will include bonus track? Well, I added five bonus tracks to Rarities. The missing tracks from the Capitol album catalog.

I had actually done this before. My Rarities album was missing for a while, so I had recreated it years ago with what I had, and putting the five omitted songs in place of the six dubious ones (I didn't have the White Album on mono at the time). Finding my Rarities album allowed me to recreate an MP3 version. But the bonus tracks makes it more complete than the official one.

Thanks for taking the time to head down this side path of Beatles music. It's not streaming, but if it inspires you to add your music collection to Plex or another server setup that allows you to stream your personal music catalog from anywhere, then I've actually done a good thing. I like having my music available in my Streaming Life, and I hope you'll be able to have the same pleasure from yours.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

My strategy for saving money on streaming services

I've mentioned this before, but I had a conversation along this line this week at work, and that has put it in the front of my mind.

One of the criticisms of streaming, at least as it has developed, is that by the time you subscribe to all the services you want, you end up paying more than cable. And that can be true. But it's not for me. So why is that?

Well, I subscribe to different services, but not year round. Oh, year round, I'll have something, but not everything at the same time. I'll subscribe to one service, keep it a month, watch all I want, then cancel.

Next month, I'll subscribe to another service, keep it a month, watch all I want, then cancel.

The next month, I'll subscribe to another service, keep it a month, watch all I want, then cancel.

You see where this is going, right? Let me offer some examples of how this might work.

According to one recent survey, here are the most popular subscription streaming services:

  1. Netflix, 221.8 million worldwide, $20/month for UHD/4K.
  2. Amazon Prime Video, over 200 million. $9/month for video only.
  3. Disney+, 129.8 million. Includes Disney+ Bundle totals. $8/month, $80/year.
  4. HBO Max, 73.8 million. Includes both HBO and HBO Max. $15/month for UHD/4K, $150/year.
  5. Paramount+, 56 million. $10/month, $100/year.
  6. Hulu, 45.3 million. Includes Hulu as well as Hulu+Live TV, and Disney+ Bundle totals. $7/month for basic Hulu, $70/year.
  7. Discovery+, 22 million. $5/month.
  8. Apple TV+, over 20 million. $5/month.
  9. Peacock, over 9 million paid of 24.5 total. $5/month, $50.year.

Some of the services offer ad-free options. If the only difference is ads, I'm using the lower price. If the ad-free option has other features, I'm using the higher price. Ads alone are not driving this comparison.

Since I'm telling how I do this, I'm going to list a couple of things that may be different from your situation. I have Xfinity Internet service. That means I get Peacock Premium, which is the $5/month plan. For that reason, I'm excluding the cost of that from my comparison, as I have no cost involved.

Additionally, I subscribe to Amazon Prime, and have for years. I had Amazon Prime before they launched their video service. So, as that is a service I would have anyway, the video portion is actually a bonus, and no effective cost to me. As with Peacock, I'm excluding Prime Video for the same reason.

If you subscribed to the seven remaining services, in a year, you would pay $760/year using the annual plans where available, or $840/year if you used the monthly plans only.

However, if you used my method, you'd pay $140/year. Here's why.

As mentioned earlier, subscribe to one service for one month, then change the next month. One month, pick two of the $5/month services. Then, every service gets two subscription months a year, but over the year, I've watched all I want from the services. For $620 less. That's nearly $52/month cheaper.

The downside? Well, there are two. One is you actually have to do it. The other is for some content, you wait a month or more to watch it. Is the combined benefits from not changing subscriptions every month, and the immediacy of watching on-demand content worth $52/month?

If you'd rather pay $52/month more, go ahead. I'd rather not. And I don't. The goal is to enjoy your Streaming Life. If it costs you more to enjoy it, then it costs you more. But the $52/month savings makes it more enjoyable for me.

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