I talked about maybe getting a Roku some time ago in this column. At the time I was talking about a Roku HD, if I remember correctly. Well since then, Roku came out with a newer model, the Roku 3, so I bought one and installed it in my home.
What is Roku? Well, I am sure that many of you reading this either already know, or already may even have one. But for those who don't... a Roku is a streaming media box that is attached to your television, and then picks up a WiFi signal so that you can view programming that is streaming from the Internet. You must have an Internet connection and a router which beams the WiFi signal in order to pick up programming on the Roku. The Roku 3 is about the same size as, and looks very much like, a hockey puck.
Roku advertises that they will stream 750 channels to your television. For some of them you must have a paid subscription, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, MLB.com and a number of others. Many of them are free channels, such as Crackle, the Smithsonian Institute, Fox News, Popcorn Flix, etc. And many of the free channels have ads. Some are music channels, such as Spotify and Slacker. You don't watch programs at scheduled times, as many of us have been used to doing for years. Instead, you search for any program that you would like to view and start it whenever you want to start it. So it is a different way of watching programs, old TV shows (such as Seinfeld, Leave It To Beaver, and many others) and movies. I am now a subscriber to Netflix, which costs $8 a month, and shows many many movies, either from the recent or distant past.
The Roku 3 costs $100, but that is all you ever pay. There are no monthly fees unless, as I mentioned before, you subscribe to some of the pay channels, such as Netflix. The shows are streamed (not downloaded) from the Internet. I have heard that some people are using Roku, or one of its competitors (Apple TV, WD TV Play, etc.) and dropping their cable service. I pay about $130 a month for two services from my local cable company: cable television and Internet access. Watching streaming video costs much less, and it probably has the cable companies a little worried. I feel that the cable companies have been overcharging us for years, and this trend toward streaming may force them to lower their prices, due to the increased competition from a different type of media. My understanding is that the cable companies show a lot of live sports programming, and that this is what sets it apart from the streaming video. I read a review of the Roku 3 on cnet.com that says it is the best yet of all the streaming devices available, including Apple TV.
So anyway, I am still getting used to Roku 3. I don't really watch a lot of television to begin with, mostly news, sports, an occasional movie, and a few good shows. I think I really prefer reading to watching video, but both have their place. I will probably watch a few more movies now that it will be so easy to get with Netflix. The Roku will take some getting used to.
How about you? Have you been using streaming video, or the Roku, for any length of time? If so I would like to hear from you. I like the Roku 3.
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