Roku XDS Week 1

Roku LogoWe’re a week into it with the Roku XDS. Let’s take a moment and review a few of my initial impressions of bringing Internet video into my living room.

NetFlix experience is quite good, but I find myself playing with my Instant Queue almost as much as I watch actual movies. The NetFlix recommendation engine is amazing, and it exposed me to several movies and documentaries that were right on target. Streaming NetFlix through the Roku is a pleasure.

Hulu Plus is definitely attractive, since I am a big fan of well-produced television shows. Something about a serialized story appeals to me in both comics and TV. However, adding another $7.99 monthly subscription on top of the NetFlix sub is going to get expensive fast.  At this point, NetFlix seems to have an adequate collection of TV shows, so I’ll stick with that for a while.

Adding custom channels is pretty easy, so I have updated the Roku XDS with Blip.tv and Revision3. Here the experience is rather uneven. The connection and content are fine, but some of the programming is barely a step above cable access. It’s too bad because I like the idea of watching long-tail TV shows.

That said, I am happy to watch iFanboy on Revision3 much more than I do on my laptop. Big improvement.

NetFlix LogoIt’s worth noting that this whole Roku and NetFlix upgrade traces back to the local movie theater raising prices last year. The ticket price of a first-run movie increased one week from $9 to $11. Just to be clear, I typically went to the movies on a Tuesday and the price increase was on regular 2D films. I can understand the price increase on 3D movies because there are special projectors, glasses, and good stuff like that.

It’s not like I couldn’t afford the $2, but it was kind of annoying that they skipped over $10 and went right to $11. Product pricing and perceived value is certainly a psychological game in every industry. In this case, the price jump bummed me out, and I was in the habit of seeing a new movie just about every week.

But I still need my movie fix…and good luck trying to find a local video rental store. Okay, we have a RedBox near us, but for whatever reason, I just never remember that when I am in movie mode.

So NetFlix on the Roku has filled the void left by regular movie theaters. It’s not quite the same, but the combined depth and variety of their library of movies, TV shows, and other content is truly impressive.

I’m looking forward to exploring more channels on the Roku, just to see what’s available. There are a few premium paid channels, and if the content is good and the price is right, I may give them a try.

Well, one week in and I am pretty happy with the Roku. I haven’t really explored it fully, nor have I tried plugging anything into the USB slot. Check back again for more Roku, NetFlix and other streaming reports.

More good readin’:

Web Meets Living Room: Sofa Wars Introduction

Not long ago, the New York Times began the series “The Sofa Wars,” which chronicles the real-time battle to bring Internet — particularly video services — into the home. This may seem like a head-scratcher for many people, since most Americans already have this service. It’s just called something different: television.

Photo credit: dee from morguefile.com

Over the years, television has struggled to maintain viewership. The growing number of distractions provided by the Internet has causes dramatic declines in broadcast viewership. There are fewer people watching TV on their regular television sets and more staring into computer monitors. The content and experience have traditionally been different, but this is all changing.

Sites like Hulu have become web-based, go-to destinations for TV shows. But there are only so many shows you can watch, and although I love my TiVo, there’s only so many you can record. So Hulu has become my back-up source for catching up on television shows. The content has been strictly limited by certain networks, but Hulu Plus (a paid premium service) promises to provide more consistent television programming.

Certain cable companies are also promising to help bring television to the Net, including Verizon with their pending Verizon iPad application. This seems particularly promising, since Apple’s limitations have meant that you cannot watch Flash-based video on Hulu.com directly on your iPad (built to be HTML5 friendly). If Verizon provides this kind of app, it will clearly give many people a reason to stay with their cable service. After all, Hulu’s premium service provides a pretty compelling reason for dropping cable television, but Verizon’s service may add more overall value for iPad users. We’ll see.

The battle for the sofa (as the New York Times calls it) is just beginning to get truly interesting. For content creators, it means a distribution channel that previously did not exist. Specifically, Internet based entertainment will be available to people watching web videos in their living room. Sure, they can watch videos on their computer, but that experience is not quite the same as a nice, big HDTV. Familiar set top devices like the TiVo, game consoles, and the BluRay player offer direct connections from the Internet. Plus, new players like the Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Roku, are all trying to elbow their way into the living room.

It took me a long time to get here, so if you’re still here, thanks. If you create content or manage content marketing campaigns, it is important to understand how all of these channels work. They represent powerful new pull-marketing channels that will help you connect your content with your target audience. It is less about interruption marketing and more about putting the right content in the optimal format, so that your audience can access it when they are ready.

For example, if I am in the market to purchase a car, I am going to research my top choices online. I will almost certainly read reviews, watch videos, and explore bit of information I can find before I go to the dealership. I will happily pull your marketing messages, including iPad apps and promotional videos, if it helps me to better understand the value proposition of your product.

But after I make my purchase, I don’t want you to keep pushing messages at me. It doesn’t help me, so I am going to tune it out, which wastes your marketing dollars.

We’re in the early days of this return-to-the-living-room technological revolution. It pays to start thinking about how you can reformat your message so that it’s viable for these new channels, which will include both the big screen (TV), the computer screen, and the mobile screen. If you don’t, there’s no shortage of content creators — including competing marketers — who are actively looking to satisfy the pull-content desires of consumers.

Also check out:

Hulu & Pandora Got Me Through Book 3

Well, I finally got the “all clear” signal from my editor Amy. She told me today that all of my deliverables have been accepted and my book is moving to final production. Whoo hooo!

She gave the editorial thumbs up to the final pages and the CD-ROM on my third photo reference book “Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men & Boys.” I did this book at the same time as I was doing the last book “Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Women & Girls.”Men & Boys

It was, I now admit, a lot harder to complete two books at the same time than I’d originally thought. My day job is busy, but I managed to juggle both and keep everything going. However, I did NOT account for was how much work kids are as they get older. Sports, parties, and staying up later means less time for freelance. I do my work on the weekends and that’s when the kids need me most.

BUT…! It all got done. I am exhausted, but satisfied. I’m looking forward to a short mental break, but I am also excited about getting started again.

These things kept me sane during the last two books:

Pandora.com – The best personalized-music station ever. Wow. Make a playlist and Pandora makes it better. I discovered a bunch of new music through Pandora.

Amazon.com – There’s a good alternative for buying music. I love iTunes, but I hate the DRM restrictions. Amazon sells complete albums for under $9.00 and there are no DRM roadblocks. I can listen at home or at work. Music I discovered on Pandora I bought on Amazon….if it was available. Amazon doesn’t have nearly as many songs as iTunes, but I that’s already starting to change.

Hulu.com – While I work, I keep Hulu.com playing in the corner. They have tons of shows from NBC and their affiliates. I caught up great shows, including 30 Rock, The Office, SNL, Family Guy, and Cops. I even discovered a genuinely scary webisode show called Devil’s Trade. It’s one freaky, creepy show.

iTunes – I still love my iTunes. I can’t live without my podcasts. They keep me going as I grind through 1000+ Photoshop files. My favorites include: KCRW: The Business, CBC: Search Engine, KCRW: Martini Shot, On the Page: Screenwriting, PC Mag Radio, NYT Science Times, Secret Identity, The Grim Reader’s Screenwriting Advice, the 60 Minutes Podcast, and the awesome Vodcast Tiki Bar TV.

So, I’m excited to be done, but I’m already looking forward to taking more pictures.

Now…sleep.

Hulu & Pandora Got Me Through Book 3

Well, I finally got the “all clear” signal from my editor Amy. She told me today that all of my deliverables have been accepted and my book is moving to final production. Whoo hooo!

She gave the editorial thumbs up to the final pages and the CD-ROM on my third photo reference book “Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men & Boys.” I did this book at the same time as I was doing the last book “Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Women & Girls.”Men & Boys

It was, I now admit, a lot harder to complete two books at the same time than I’d originally thought. My day job is busy, but I managed to juggle both and keep everything going. However, I did NOT account for was how much work kids are as they get older. Sports, parties, and staying up later means less time for freelance. I do my work on the weekends and that’s when the kids need me most.

BUT…! It all got done. I am exhausted, but satisfied. I’m looking forward to a short mental break, but I am also excited about getting started again.

These things kept me sane during the last two books:

Pandora.com – The best personalized-music station ever. Wow. Make a playlist and Pandora makes it better. I discovered a bunch of new music through Pandora.

Amazon.com – There’s a good alternative for buying music. I love iTunes, but I hate the DRM restrictions. Amazon sells complete albums for under $9.00 and there are no DRM roadblocks. I can listen at home or at work. Music I discovered on Pandora I bought on Amazon….if it was available. Amazon doesn’t have nearly as many songs as iTunes, but I that’s already starting to change.

Hulu.com – While I work, I keep Hulu.com playing in the corner. They have tons of shows from NBC and their affiliates. I caught up great shows, including 30 Rock, The Office, SNL, Family Guy, and Cops. I even discovered a genuinely scary webisode show called Devil’s Trade. It’s one freaky, creepy show.

iTunes – I still love my iTunes. I can’t live without my podcasts. They keep me going as I grind through 1000+ Photoshop files. My favorites include: KCRW: The Business, CBC: Search Engine, KCRW: Martini Shot, On the Page: Screenwriting, PC Mag Radio, NYT Science Times, Secret Identity, The Grim Reader’s Screenwriting Advice, the 60 Minutes Podcast, and the awesome Vodcast Tiki Bar TV.

So, I’m excited to be done, but I’m already looking forward to taking more pictures.

Now…sleep.