November 2, 2014

ROKU Streaming TV: How Great Can It Can Be? Pretty Darn Fabulous

This month marks the third year that I’ve lived happily and well without a cable TV connection. I’ve opted for a ROKU streaming device.

Cost me around $50 for a cute little box that connects to my television and a spiffy little remote control. Works off my WiFi.

My internet bill is fifty bucks each month. That’s right: $50.00. It was three times that amount when I stopped using cable television (actually, a bit higher); Lord only knows what I’d be paying now.

And for what? Lots of junk like reality TV shows that I would never watch, along with all those strange channels that I skipped. Not to mention the commercials.

(Now, I do pay a bit each month for subscription services, but my total is under $15.00.  Add that to the cable bill (which also includes my WiFi access for my computers, etc.) and the whopping total is around $75.00/month.)

Commercials: Less is More with Streaming TV

Ye Gads, how I DON’T miss all those commercials. In fact, it becomes very, very clear how many commercials some of these channels stick into their programming when you aren’t used to watching cable television.

You’re at a friend’s house, watching their cable channel, and you realize that there’s an average of 10 minutes of commercials for every commercial break. Viewers don’t realize how many advertisements get shoved into their programming until they get the option of watching a television show that has limited interruption.

Try counting your commercials within the program breaks. For some channels, it’s almost like the chosen entertainment is a break between advertising spots.

Some channels on ROKU have NO commercials. Netflix, Amazon Video: there are no commercials here. Others do contain advertising, but it’s not the same as cable TV. For example, Hulu (I have Hulu Plus) or Cracker both have commercials inserted into their programs, but it’s just one or two quick ones; a couple of minutes and you’re back to your show.

Frankly, I think this is the better way to sell stuff. I remember the Capital One Venture card commercials as well as the GEICO insurance ad much clearer from watching this week’s TV shows on Hulu Plus than I ever remember noticing any advertising on a cable network offering.

Maybe it’s because the same commercial tends to reappear during the course of the Hulu or Cracker show. Watch old Seinfeld offerings on Cracker, and you’re going to see the same product being touted time and again as you go through the episodes. (Gotta love Soup Nazi, right?) Maybe having less commercials is a better way to advertise….

 What I Get To Watch on ROKU Streaming TV

People with cable television assume that I’m losing so much stuff by opting out of paying for cable. It’s been a long while now, and I’m confident that I’m not feeling the loss.

If there is a show that isn’t on Roku that I really, really want to see, I can usually see it for free on my computer. Like the Big Bang Theory, for instance. CBS isn’t on ROKU (yet).

I don’t watch shows on the computer very often, however. I’ve just got so much to choose from with ROKU. Plus,  Hulu Plus offers lots of current TV shows the day after they air.

If you’re a Revenge fan (ABC), no problemo. If you love Law & Order SUV (NBC), ditto. Amazon has FX's Justified (I love Justified) and lots of other cable shows for $1.99/episode so you can pick and choose other cable series as they are being shown for the current season.

I just watch them the next day.  I don't care that I'm not first in line here.  I watched Longmire on A&E the day after it aired for free every season, until A&E was shockingly stupid and axed the series.

Another benefit to ROKU streaming TV is the shows that I’ve discovered: shows that I would never have watched without it. Scott & Bailey; Call the Midwife; Poirot; Miranda; IQ — lots of great British shows that I’ve binge-watched because streaming TV introduced me to them. Great stuff.

Then there are all the free, great movies and the classic TV shows for you to watch as well. From lots of different channels, both free and subscription (Crackle is free, for example).

When I Get To Watch TV Shows and Movies 

 Best of all, I chose when I watch this stuff. If I want to watch Criminal Minds every night at 8, I can. If I want to watch all the episodes of Magnum PI over the course of a weekend, I can. If I’m cooking and in the middle of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, I just stop the show and return to it later.

Sure, I may miss some stuff. Live local news? Gotta go to the computer to see the local stuff (I usually just read the news the next day on the web). Live sports? Never watch it. The latest reality TV? If I never have the chance to see another episode of the Kardashians, or any of those Housewife shows, I haven’t lost a thing.

Why I Watch Streaming TV Instead of Cable 

 I watch television to be entertained; sometimes to be educated (I love to learn from chefs who cook on TV). Using the ROKU device has returned control back to me; I decide when I want to be entertained and for how long and by what program.

The way that streaming television works, it stops after the show is over (though Hulu can segue directly into the next episode of a series, etc.). You have to decide after 22 minutes or 44 minutes or 1 hour and 15 minutes if you are going to keep staring at a screen or if you’re going to do something else with your time.

You become more aware of the time that you’re spending on televised entertainment. It may mean you watch less TV and do something else. Which is good, too.

Streaming TV via Roku? I highly recommend it.

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