Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #211





Hi, everyone !!



Following on from the revelation, in a recent 'Weekly RoundUp' post, that there will soon be an "official" channel from 'TVPlayer' on UK Roku devices... further details about the Roku app came our way this week when TVPlayer confirmed (via Twitter) that there will be "...at least 20 premium channels" as part of the (optional) paid 'TVPlayer Plus' aspect of the service on UK Roku devices. Here is a screenshot of when I shared the news via the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels as to what UK Roku users can expect from the forthcoming 'TVPlayer' channel on Roku UK devices:-




HINT:- Please CLICK on the above image TO ENARGE IT for easier viewing !!


Based on current details for Channel Availability on TVPlayer, across the various existing platforms supported by the service, all of which have been published via the official website... I speculated that, of the 29 "premium" channels that are (currently) available within the (optional) paid 'TVPlayer Plus' aspect of the 'TVPlayer' service, the nine "missing" channels might well be as follows:-
  • Comedy Central
  • MTV
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • Gold
...all of which are already available on UK Roku devices, via the 'Entertainment' and 'Kids' passes that can be readily purchased for use via an official Roku app from 'NowTV' in the UK, plus;
  • Eden
  • Good Food
  • Alibi
  • W
...all of which are (currently) unavailable on devices like Apple TV and Amazon's Fire TV, so it is highly unlikely they would be made available to users of Roku streaming media players in the UK.


Again, I must stress that this is pure speculation on my part... and, when pressed for further comment, all I got from 'TVPlayer' by way of reply was: "...we will be announcing some news soon", so we'll just have to wait & see if my (reasonably) educated guess was accurate (or not) when it launches! 


Meanwhile, there was also a downside to my recent exchange of messages with 'TVPlayer' on social media... specifically in relation to users of NowTV-branded streaming devices. Curious as to whether the new 'TVPlayer' app for Roku devices would also be made available on NowTV boxes in the UK, I asked directly about it... but was surprised to learn that it will be, "Just Roku boxes!", as evidenced by the following screenshot of when I shared the news via my Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels:-




AS BEFORE:- Please CLICK on the above image TO ENLARGE IT for easier viewing !!



Unfortunately, that wasn't the only blow felt by NowTV Box users in the last seven days... and, let's not forget, many are still reeling from the news that 'NowTV' have disabled "Roku Developer Mode" on NowTV devices, with their latest software update, and (in so doing) also wiped any side-loaded third party apps (e.g. 'PLEX', plus the "unofficial" app for 'FilmOn TV' developed by Ryan Cullen) from the NowTV Boxes of those who had previously installed them. Anyway, the bad news concerns the removal of a Roku channel from the "App Store" on NowTV devices. Worse still... is the fact that this will also impact on any UK Roku users who may have wanted access to this particular app.


Some of you may already be aware... if you tried to find 'Fitness Magazine' on your Roku device or NowTV Box in recent days, and were unable to find it, assuming it had been removed... if so, you would have been right! With 57 additional channel choices under "Fitness" in the channel store on UK Roku devices, that may not be such a big deal for most users. However, the removal of this app from NowTV Boxes has seen the "Special Interest" category in the (ahem) "Roku Powered" (bit of a misnomer, perhaps?!) NowTV App Store, reduced from six channels to just five. Significantly, this means the total number of channels (or, "apps", if you prefer) that populate the built-in "App Store" on NowTV devices has fallen to just fifty… which is the same total as featured on the original white (Roku LT cloned) NowTV Box when it launched in July 2013!


So, after nearly four years plus three generations of NowTV devices, they have no more channels in the "App Store" than when they started! Couple that with the recent update that disabled "Roku Developer Mode" on NowTV devices, meaning popular third-party apps like PLEX and the "unofficial" FilmOn channel (developed by Ryan Cullen) can no longer be side-loaded onto NowTV Boxes… and you begin to wonder why anyone would choose to buy one, over a genuine Roku-branded UK device: which still has "Developer Mode" enabled, where the latest 'PLEX' app can be installed directly from the channel store (with no need for side-loading), and "private" channels (like "FilmOn" by Ryan Cullen) can be installed via your online Roku account using a simple access code (again, with no side-loading)! Then there's the not insignificant matter of some 3,600+ Roku "public" channels (i.e. those that populate the built-in "Channel Store" on UK Roku devices) over and above the 50 Roku "public" channels found in the "App Store" on NowTV Boxes… and, all things considered, the cost of a NowTV Box is not quite the bargain it once was!


Bearing all that in mind... those shopping for a streaming media player in the UK would probably do well to consider the (slight) increase in their initial outlay for one of the other devices on the market, before settling for the cheaper NowTV Box just to save a few quid… because, in the long run, Roku devices (and others) will give you more bang for your buck. Besides which, there's a 'NowTV' app in the Roku UK Channel Store that offers the same 'NowTV' experience as found on NowTV Box. Meaning, aside from not having "Sky Box Office" for PPV (Pay-Per-View) events and requiring an active "NowTV Sports" pass to gain access to the 'Sky Sports News' channel (available with any active 'NowTV' pass on NowTV Boxes) there really is very little reason not to buy a Roku streaming media player over one of the NowTV-branded device(s) in the UK!


Moving on... in another change to the existing channels available via both the "official" Roku UK Channel Store and the "Roku Powered" (but not by much) "App Store" on NowTV devices, others among you might have been wondering what happened to the "Facebook Photos and Videos" app. Well, although it has not been removed (like the "Fitness Magazine" app, mentioned above) there has been some serious tinkering, as well as a re-branding exercise, undertaken on the original channel used by Roku / NowTV Box owners with Facebook accounts. In fairness, a change was long overdue for this channel, because the original icon used for this app led many to believe that it would offer full access to Facebook (incl. news feeds)... which caused most to be left disappointed with the limited functionality. Even then, many of the functions that were present in the original app have long been plagued by problems and some haven't worked in years... so, it's hardly surprising that a re-vamp was on the cards for this Roku channel. The most obvious change to be implemented in this latest update concerns the branding used in the channel store. Consequently, both Roku and NowTV Box users will now find the former "Facebook Photos and Videos" app renamed as "Your Photo Feed" with a completely different channel icon than before, as evidenced by the image below:-






Less apparent are the changes within the channel itself - although, it has to be said, the new name is much more in keeping with what is on offer feature-wise... until, that is, you start to use it and realise that the previously already-limited functionality has now been even further reduced with the removal of access to photos and videos specific to Facebook news feeds. This new-look, "Your Photo Feed", app limits you to only those photos and/or videos which were posted by yourself, or your friends. Not being a Facebook user myself, I had to rely on comments made by 'Roku Guide' as to the experience of using this latest incarnation of the channel... to wit, they claim that: "...in testing, there were still some glitches, such as an extremely limited number of friends being listed, and no photos posted within the last six months" which, even as a non-Facebook devotee, sounds like a bit of a pain. To learn more about what to expect from the new-look, "Your Photo Feed", channel I recommend that you read the full 'Roku Guide' review which has recently been published via their website. Since it is not (strictly speaking) a "new" channel (per se) I have decided not to include it in my list of the latest additions to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store in this current 'Weekly RoundUp' post. However, I thought it best to (at least) mention it here for the benefit of those using Facebook who would like to add this channel to put their Facebook photos and videos up on the big screen via their Roku device.


In other news... those of you who read my 'Roku UK Channel Store - Weekly RoundUp #208' might recall my mentioning the new Amazon Pilot Season would be starting on 17th March 2017. However, in my post 'St Patrick's Day' haze, I forgot to remind everybody about it last week... so I felt I owed it to you to highlight the details this time around. This means you can now get involved... share your thoughts... and cast your vote(s) to determine which of these 'Amazon Originals' will be the next to get a full series, based on your experience of these FREE-TO-STREAM pilot episodes that can all be enjoyed on Roku devices through the 'Amazon Video' channel. Here, in order of their (current) star ratings from Amazon UK reviewers (ranked with the highest number of votes first), are the five new 'Amazon Original' series vying for your vote in this latest Amazon Pilot Season on 'Amazon Video':-

  1. Oasis - a near-future science-fiction thriller, which tells the story of a priest (Peter Leigh) who is called to a remote planet where a mysterious, multi-national company is building the first permanent "Off-Earth" human colony. The planet chosen, Oasis, is humanity's last chance to escape from Earth's impending collapse, but it quickly becomes apparent that it may not be as hospitable to humanity as it first seemed...
  2. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - set in 1958 Manhattan, Miriam "Midge" Maisel has everything she's ever wanted: the perfect husband, kids, and an Upper West Side apartment... but, when her life takes a sudden turn and Midge must start-over, she discovers a previously unknown talent - one that will take her all the way from the comedy clubs of Greenwich Village to a spot on Johnny Carson's couch. FYI: This one comes from the creator of "Gilmore Girls" :-)
  3. Budding Prospects - In 1983, three hapless guys from San Francisco are lured from their sex and drugs lifestyle to the countryside, with the aim of cultivating marijuana. Once there, they find themselves stuck in a run-down cabin in the middle of nowhere, with harsh and unfriendly growing conditions, nosey neighbours, dangerous locals and menacing law enforcement.
  4. The New V.I.P.’s - an animated comedy in which four low-level employees seize control of a major corporation, after accidentally murdering the CEO.
  5. The Legend of Master Legend - a dark comedy about the life of Master Legend: a real-life superhero, whose mission is the security and safety of the people of Las Vegas. He must juggle the demands of justice with the even more complicated demands of his real family who do not see him as a real hero at all.


Just remember, when you've watched any of the above Amazon pilots, to take the survey and leave your thoughts / opinions on what you've just seen plus vote for more episodes of your favourites! ;-) This is your chance to help Amazon decide which series should get picked-up for a full season, or more... so, by voting, you increase your chances of seeing something you like on 'Amazon Video' in the future - where else can you vote for a series before they've even commissioned the first season?!


Another Amazon-related "hangover" from 'St. Patrick's Day', which I neglected to mention in my previous 'Weekly RoundUp' post was the announcement, published via Business Wire on 17th March, in which Amazon PR made it known that 'Amazon Video' had just extended their exclusive content agreement with 'A24'... ensuring that 'Amazon' would remain the only premium subscription home for all upcoming A24 films, including critically-acclaimed films such as "Moonlight" (recent winner of three Academy Awards, including "Best Picture", at "The Oscars" 2017), plus; current theatrical hit "20th Century Women", and; Casey Affleck’s next film, "A Ghost Story", as well as many more highly-anticipated films from A24, like: "American Honey", starring Sasha Lane (Hunting Lila) and Shia LaBeouf (Transformers), and; "Free Fire" with Brie Larson (Room), Cillian Murphy (Inception) and Armie Hammer (Nocturnal Animals), plus; "The Lovers" featuring Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment) and Tracy Letts (Imperium), and; "It Comes at Night" starring Joel Edgerton (Warrior) and Riley Keough (The Girlfriend Experience).


In other Roku-related news, Appestry has released Android mobile apps that can combine with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home and used to control Roku devices using simple voice commands. The Alexa skill can be used with Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (for Roku owners in the UK) while the Echo Tap is also supported (together with the Echo and Echo Dot) for Roku users in the USA. Here is a demonstration video for the "Quick Remote" Android app, as it is known, showing how to set-up the app with an Amazon Echo so that it can be used to control a Roku device:-







While the "Google Home" is not yet available in the UK, I'm also going to include the demonstration video of that here... firstly, because it includes additional commands (also available for Alexa) that are not demonstrated in the above video showing "Quick Remote" for Alexa / Roku... and, secondly, because readers of this blog from North America (where "Google Home" is already available) might like to see what voice control via "Google Home" could offer them, with this app from Appestry:-






Just remember that these apps are still in their infancy... and, in the case of the Alexa Skill, not yet approved for official release. That said, you could choose to use them now... or, if not, you can always wait for the official release before trying them with your Roku. Either way, the video(s) above will give you a good indication of what to expect from each of these Android apps by Appestry! ;-)


The last item of Roku-related news I have for you this week concerns a recent article by Joe Mullin [Twitter Feed: @JoeMullin] published via 'Ars Technica' on Wednesday 22nd March 2017. The story revolves around some recent court findings in the USA which could effect the 'FOTV' channel found on Roku devices, as well as impacting Roku private channels, like 'XTV' and the unofficial 'FilmOn' channel by Ryan Cullen, that make use of these live-stream feeds from 'FilmOnTV' for providing the content found in their Roku apps. At this stage, it is unclear when (if at all) any U.S. Court ruling that relates to these findings could come into place and disrupt Roku owners who have installed any of the above channels, but I thought I'd give you a heads-up of what could happen (subject to any appeals process preventing it) so you can be prepared, if need be. Meanwhile, further reading on the subject can be found in another recent article, published via broadcastingcable.com, if you're interested. ;-)


As in other recent 'Weekly RoundUp' posts, I'm going to ask you to refer back to the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels for details of some special offers which may also be of interest. If you somehow missed it, the deal on 'Roku 2' [Model: 4205EU] which I've been sharing repeatedly for the past few weeks is still available via Maplin at only £49.99 - which is equivalent to a saving of £20.00 on this UK Roku device - and well worth a look, if you're not interested in the additional features (private listening, motion control for gaming plus "point anywhere" WiFi Direct operation) provided by the enhanced Roku remote supplied with the flagship 'Roku 3' [Model: 4200EU]. I also posted details of access codes to some more private channels (again, available in all regions) among the bits & pieces shared via Twitter... so, as always, it's worth checking my tweets for extra treats! ;-)


Before I run through the new channels... a brief reminder that UK Roku users are still subject to restrictions (imposed by Roku) and (bizarrely) remain unable to access the channel descriptions from the web store on the Roku (USA) website. That said, the majority of text in those web listings can also be found within the individual descriptions from the built-in "Channel Store" (accessed via "Streaming Channels" from the main menu) on all Roku devices and, together with the associated screenshots (where available), should give a pretty good indication of what those channels are about.


My advice to any UK-based readers of this blog is to ignore the links below (and to the left of) each channel icon shown here and (instead) rely on the link to the right (below each channel icon) which (where available) will redirect you to an 'Roku Guide' review for additional details on that channel. As it stands, the links below (and to the left of) each icon are (currently) only of use to readers of this blog from the USA. This means that Roku users from the other "supported" regions of the world (i.e. Ireland, Canada, France and Mexico) are, like those of us in the UK, unable to browse the Roku Web Channel Store - which for now (at least) remains an exclusive privilege of Roku users in the USA. :-(


Hopefully Roku will (one day) wake-up to the fact that improving the experience for users in "other" Roku "regions" is just as important as it is for those who buy & use their products in the U.S. and denying access to the Roku website does not help the end-user experience for those of us (outside the USA) who wish to browse the web channel store. Meanwhile, that which Roku (apparently) doesn't want UK Roku users to see on their website (i.e. the list of new channels) is regularly summarised on this blog in my 'Weekly RoundUp' posts. So, without further ado, here's my 'Weekly RoundUp' of the few new Roku channels which were released between 19th and 25th March 2017:-







CHINA UNCNSRD..................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "EDUCATIONAL" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN RELEASED***






BEACH VACATION SCREENSAVER..........COST: £0.69 (ONE-OFF PAYMENT) [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "SCREENSAVERS" in the Roku UK Channel Store WHEN RELEASED***






FREE CINEMA TICKET.........................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "FILM & TV" in Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***






TVCAST...................................................................................COST: FREE [Roku Guide Review]

***FILED UNDER: "FILM & TV" in Roku UK Channel Store WHEN FIRST RELEASED***

PLEASE NOTE:- That, without one of the companion apps for iOS or Android mobile devices, this 'TVCAST' channel will offer no benefits to Roku users. The reason for this is that the 'TVCAST' channel is essentially a "client", designed to work on Roku devices, which enables the streaming of any m3u playlists added to the iOS or Android app(s) for 'TVCAST' using your Roku streaming media player(s) as a conduit to watch the content on your television. For ease of reference, here are the details for adding the FREE MOBILE APPS FOR iOS PLUS ANDROID DEVICES that can be downloaded from the respective app stores, at no cost to users, via the links shown below:-


FREE DOWNLOAD:- Of iOS app for Apple mobile devices (from the 'iTunes' App Store)

PLUS

FREE DOWNLOAD:- Of Android app for mobile devices (from the 'Google Play' Store)


PLEASE ALSO NOTE:- That, while the 'TVCAST' apps for iOS plus Android mobile devices and the Roku (client) channel are all FREE-TO-ADD to their respective devices, both iOS / Android apps offer IAP's (In-App Purchases) that are associated with various use-cases built-in to the mobile apps. So, be sure to read the individual descriptions relating to the app(s) you download and be aware that there may (possibly) be some additional charges applicable to your use of these 'TVCAST' apps.


Meanwhile, if you visit the official website of developer, Guillermo Fuentes, you will find additional details for a 'TVCAST' Web Player that can also be used for streaming m3u playlists. Should you find it necessary, there are online manuals for both Android and iOS apps that will walk you through the process of adding m3u playlists, as well as editing them in order to add more streaming sources. In the event of any difficulty, you can contact the developer via his Twitter Feed: @gfuentesdev or else, his FB Page: Guillermo Fuentes (Facebook) to request further assistance with these 'TVCAST' apps. Lastly, if social media is not really your thing, there is a "Contact Form" on the developer's website.




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Anyhow, like it or not, that is your lot for this week and, although it is only equivalent to fifty percent of the eight Roku channels which made it into the "Official" Roku USA Channel Store in the same time-frame, it's better to get a choice of 4 NEW CHANNELS than none... as I'm sure you agree?!


In any event, hopefully everyone in the UK with a Roku player managed to find something they like within the four "public" channels outlined above... or else from the "private" channels, whose access codes were "gifted" to you via the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels to this blog, at various points throughout the last seven days. However, if you didn't find anything to add to your Roku channel selection from the assortment of channels on offer this week, you can always pay us a visit another time when, with any luck, there will be something more to your liking. After all, there's no point installing every channel because, like I say... when it comes to adding new channels to your Roku, IT'S YOUR CHOICE and, as with all things Roku... THE CHOICE IS ALWAYS YOURS!




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As mentioned previously, you can expect my usual summary of all the goings-on (or not) in the (severely restricted) Roku Channel Store (aka "App Store") that features on NowTV Boxes to follow in the near future. Meanwhile, whether you happen to own a Roku player, a NowTV Box, OR BOTH, as I do... be sure to check my earlier posts (as mentioned before) for all the new additions to the "Official" Roku UK Channel Store in each of the one hundred and thirty-seven preceding weeks and then come back again in seven days' time for my next 'Weekly RoundUp'. However, if you can't wait that long, remember you can always keep up with all the UK Roku action (as it happens) throughout the coming week, by following the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels where up-to-the-minute info on all things Roku-related (here in the UK) is posted on a daily basis (well, almost).



Until the next time, then...



That's all folks !!