Spring Streaming Update 2014
Spring snowflakes are flying in Colorado, as are the news headlines surrounding some of our favorite devices and services. So today, we bring you a sampling of the latest news items to sprout in the world of OTT technology.
Roku’s Streaming Stick is refreshed and ready to compete with Chromecast
Roku announced an update to its Streaming Stick on March 4th (to be released in April; yes we’ve pre-ordered) with a few changes that position it nicely as a backatchya to Google’s Chromecast. Starting with the happy fact that the Roku stick works on all HDTVs. Previously, it required HDTVs plumbed with an MHL (Multi High-Definition Link) HDMI port, so as to power the device. The price is also peppy, down from $100 to $50. Still not as low as Chromecast’s $35 price tag, but hey. Roku owns the category.
In terms of content and user experience, Roku’s Streaming Stick comes with the standard Roku remote and 1200+ channels, while Chromecast is controlled entirely from your mobile device (no physical remote) and has around 20 compatible apps. The two devices have DIAL functionality in common; Roku’s YouTube and Netflix apps allow you to browse and control the content from your mobile device, while all Chromecast-compatible apps are controlled solely from your mobile device.
We expect Roku to release a new version of its mobile app in April, integrating its Universal Search feature – meaning you’ll be able to search across services using your mobile device, then tune to your content without drilling down into the individual service to find it.
We’ll keep you posted on Roku Stick v. Chromecast as soon as the thing arrives.
Apple TV Moves Up
At the annual Apple Shareholders’ Meeting at the end of February, CEO Tim Cook revealed that Apple TV device sales grew by about 80% in 2013, reaching about 10 million units for the year. (What!) Total worldwide sales of Apple TV since 2007 sit at about 28 million units (compared with about 8 million Roku devices sold in the U.S. since 2008. Ouch.).
We’ve heard a lot of buzz about new Apple TV hardware for over a year now, but nothing’s been confirmed, yet again. What has changed is the amount of content available on Apple TV. Once the most limited in terms of content, Apple TV’s app lineup improved dramatically in 2013 with the addition of Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and a whole host of other payTV apps from A&E, Lifetime, History, Disney, Smithsonian Channel, and more. While Apple TV doesn’t have nearly as much content as Roku, it’s no longer just a Netflix-and-iTunes player.
Aereo Goes Dark in Denver
After ongoing court battles with broadcasters, on February 19th Aereo got slapped with a six-state injunction (covering Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.) U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball granted Aereo a temporary reprieve on the 25th, allowing it to continue normal operations for 14 days.
Alas. Earlier today, March 7, Federal Court Judges Briscoe, Hartz, and Bacharach overturned the temporary 14 day stay. We kept Aereo streaming all day in the lab, wondering if it would suddenly go dark. It’s 7 p.m. as I post this, and I’ve still got the local news streaming on my computer. According to an email that hit my inbox about an hour ago, from Aereo founder Chet Kanojia, service in Denver and Salt Lake City will cease tomorrow at 10:00 AM MST (and we’ll be getting a full refund for the month).
It’s not over yet. Aereo and the broadcasters are expected to face off before the Supreme Court on April 22, so time will tell how all of this shakes out in the end. As Aereo has become a well-used service at the “farm lab,” where antenna reception is ridiculously bad, I’m hoping this injunction will be temporary.