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.

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