Last year as ESPN was launched on Xbox and Hulu picked up more and more shows, I did some research to figure out how to stream content to my tv. What started as looking at software packages to route content through my laptop and to the tv, ended up in me finding a Roku HD Streaming Player and ordering one for $60. It's a small device that connects to your home network via wifi, has HDMI output, and provides a UX to browse online "apps" or "channels" to watch content. Channels include Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video on Demand. You can also subscribe to channels such as NHL, MLB, and UFC (and if you're paying a subscription you'll actually get to view the content :) ).
Another perk is that Roku supports a plethora of media and photo sharing sites. So I can stream Pandora through my TV, and it also has a SmugMug plugin so I can view my photos and videos straight from my SmugMug account. It also has support for Picaso, Facebook photos, Flickr, and other photo sites.
Six months ago Amy and I decided to dump Directv (and the $1000+ we flush to them every year) and use Roku exclusively. Haven't regretted it once. It's enabled us to discover shows we wouldn't have found otherwise, and we've used the savings to fund NHL and UFC content. We were able to watch March Madness and the NHL playoffs. For sports on ESPN, we switch over to the Xbox. Admittedly, I will be SOL come NFL season since NFL Sunday Ticket isn't an option.
A few friends have made the switch as well with the same results: no regrets.
Why do I think this is the future?
- No more "record show" mentality. All content is on demand.
- Because of that, trying out new content is easy. All shows are at your fingertips.
- High quality. I had assumed that quality would suffer streaming. In fact, Amy can watch Roku and I can game online over Xbox Live and neither one of us can tell that the other is online.
- Innovation. One cool thing about Roku is that the number of channels are limitless. And there's plenty of independent content providers and developers building apps and content.
The downside is finding content across apps. I watch to watch Harry Potter. Is that in Netflix? Amazon VOD? Another video service? Don't know until you search in each one. Awaiting the aggregator to come up with cross-app search. You know, like Google, eBay, and Amazon did in their respective spaces.
Beyond Roku, we're Hulu Plus subscribers. Love watching TV on my Roku, iPhone, iPad, or Xbox. And it being smart enough to know if I start watching something on my iPhone and I stop, it will pick it up on the next device I fire up HuluPlus on.