I’ve finally sneaked my way into the 2010s with a new purchase: yes, I have this tiny little box with the strange little name sitting next to my television: a Roku.
I’ve Googled the word Roku and find that it apparently has four meanings in Japanese. One meaning is “good.” Another is “satisfactory.” A third is “worthy.” The last one is “six.”
I think I’ll toss that last one.
When one talks about legacy brands that introduce new products, one often refers at some point to whether the new product lives up to the name.
In this case, since Roku is fairly new, I’ll say that it at least lives up to the first two translations of its name.
I’d call Roku “good” and “satisfactory” so far.
I’m not overjoyed with it the way I was when I bought my first Tivo many years ago. That box lasted more than a decade if memory serves and when it finally bit the dust, I rushed right out to get another one, only to find out that the newer models required a credit-card size adapter from your cable company to see the channels you have access to, and after multiple attempts to Comcast, they could not provide me with a working adapter that would last for more than a couple of days before it would just stop working. With a great deal of disappointment, I returned the Tivo and gave up on it.
When this little Roku thing eventually dies — and I expect it to last longer since there’s no “hard drive” involved — I may or may not replace it with another Roku.
Here’s the thing: I don’t hate it at all.
In fact, for the most part, I really like it.
In some ways, it’s a major improvement over what I had: a “smart” Blu-Ray player that could never quite keep its Wifi connection, prompting movies and TV shows I was streaming from Netflix to just stop in the middle. I’d then have to relaunch Netflix, navigate back to the title and resume. When that option didn’t stop productions in the middle, I’d have periods of digital breakup and static interruptions.
Lesson: Don’t buy a “smart” Blu-Ray player. When a Blu-Ray player has one job, it can handle it. When it has two, apparently, that’s too much to ask.
Roku gives me Netflix, of course, and so far, I’ve not had a single episode of interruption or interference. An A+ there.
Roku also gives me the OTT app option I didn’t have before. OTT is an industry term that stands for “Over the top,” and refers to “boxes” like Roku (that supposedly sit atop the television) to expand viewing options. Just as television stations and others have apps that allow access on smart phones, some are rapidly rolling out OTT apps that translate into channels on OTT boxes.
There are additional channels I really like, like the CBS News streaming channel that gives me their CBSN. It’s a combination of live news coverage 24/7 and video on demand: if the current story doesn’t interest me, I can browse others. The broadcaster in me worries about such options, of course, but the newsie in me likes the control I have as a viewer.
I like the option of being able to access free TV station apps — particularly in places where I know various people I’ve worked with over the years and can see what they’re up to. I also, purely out of curiosity, like to see how other stations, particularly in larger cities, cover news.
The problem, the part that underwhelms me about streaming services in general is the subscription issue. I pay for Netflix. I have no choice but to pay for cable because of an agreement my apartment complex worked out with the cable provider. I’m just not willing to keep adding on additional monthly commitments for more content.
Most of the better channels, from what I’ve seen so far, require some level of subscription. So I don’t even bother opening them.
On the other hand, there are free streaming services promising great movies and TV shows. Most of the titles, however, are films and TV shows I’ve never even heard of that I wish I had never heard of. The selection, it turns out, isn’t as grand as the channels advertise.
Then there are the ads. Just this morning, I started the playing of the great film 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda. Before the film started, I had to watch three commercials. Okay, that’s fine; it is free, after all. But shortly into the film, there was another commercial break. This one happened to hit just about on a scene change. A short time later, there was yet another commercial break that hit in mid-sentence.
Enough of that foolishness. I don’t fault a free channel for displaying ads. I work in digital: I get it. However, I do fault it for interrupting the proceedings often enough and randomly enough to spoil the rest of the viewing experience.
So, yes…Roku is “good” and “satisfactory.” “Worthy?” Sure. It’s a definite improvement over what I had, so I suppose that makes it “very good.” If you’re in the market for an OTT box, I’d certainly recommend it.
I just wish there were more channels with better content that didn’t always come at you with their hand out.