Technological improvements in multimedia Internet streaming video are changing consumer viewing experiences.
The Roku Video player is one of the best examples. Once purchasing a Roku player, Netflix now offers unlimited streaming for $8 a month.
Since its introduction, Roku has added dozens of Internet programs, including major TV networks like NBC. You can even stream MobileBeyond podcasts on the Blubrry Channel.
Roku Video Player
For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with the device, let me briefly describe how Roku and similar devices could drastically change multimedia delivery and mobility.
The Roku digital media player is a network IP-based device about the size of a pocket book that streams audio and video over the Internet to computer monitors, TV sets and audio/visual systems. On the back of the device are component, S-Video, and HDMI video and composite and optical audio ports.
High Resolution Video and Dolby Stereo
The quality of video and audio is dependent on your Internet connection speed. As download speeds increases, video and audio quality improves. While testing the Roku/NetFlix service in the past month, I experienced very high quality resolution, including HD and Dolby stereo, using a Comcast broadband connection (15Mbps to 20Mbps), a wireless router, a Samsung HD TV and a Denon audio/video system, connected with HDMI and optical audio cables.
The quality of the video and audio is exceptional. In fact, audio and video clarity is better than my Directv DVR and service which I canceled many moons ago.
Why Cable and Satellite Service Providers are Worried
Similar to your “always on” service connection, content is available 24/7. Roku differs from traditional services by not storing downloads on a local hard disk, reducing your electric bill. Instead, programming is stored on servers throughout the country and pushed on demand when you request it, not when it’s available from cable and satellite providers.
Cable and satellite providers now realize the appeal of on demand programming. Even if you own a DVR, you must still wait for programs to air before watching them live or recording to your DVR. Therefore, the only advantage of a DVR is allowing you to watch TV content at a later time. Using Roku, however, you don’t need a DVR and you don’t have to wait. The Internet delivers content when desired.
On Demand MultiMedia
The online service is provided to all NetFlix customers. Although Netflix still mails DVD’s to some customers, they’re lowering their costs by encouraging customers to stream desired content.
Customers select movies and older TV shows on NetFlix’ website or while watching its channel. Want more? Order current movies and TV fare from Amazon Video On DemandI.
It’s similar to owners of Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader and other eReaders. A vast library of books, magazines, newspapers and other text is stored on computer servers waiting for you to buy and download them. With Roku, however, you pay one monthly fee for NetFlix and per view with other services.
Paying for Channels You Don’t Watch: “More is Better”
If you look at your cable or satellite TV monthly bill, you might ask yourself: “Why am I paying for channels and content I never watch or don’t watch simultaneously, making the cable and satellite providers argument silly: “Receive more HD channels” and “record two shows while you’re watching a third.” Buy several $59 Roku Video Players and watch whatever you want whenever you want.
So the “more is better” strategy seems ludicrous. No one could possibly watch 250 TV channels–HD or not. And while recording multiple programs simultaneously appears beneficial, when would you have time to watch the shows?
If you review cable and satellite pricing plans, you soon realize the only reason for the “get more” pricing strategy is to charge you higher rates regardless of your usage. If you own or rent a DVR with HD service, the monthly cost difference between the cheapest programming package and the highest is $20 or less. Cable and satellite providers may advertise $30 per month for local station “basic” service, but it costs extra for HD channel access, DVR rental and additional HD channel packages.
Mobile carriers use the same strategy with their “buckets of minutes” and “unlimited data plans.” If you don’t use your purchased minutes or download little data, you pay the same price. Would you pay your Internet service provider more if you downloaded more data by the megabyte? Clearly, you wouldn’t.
Local Television Channels
Many viewers biggest concern when canceling Directv, Comcast or other services is losing local TV stations and premium channels. Most local television channels, however, now stream their programming over the Internet.
One of the refreshing experiences using Roku channels, especially watching TV series, is no commercials. Each 45 minute episode of an hourly program is stripped of interruptions by advertising, while some of the newer movie channels pause briefly for a short commercial spot.
Is this a viable, sustainable pricing strategy? Will it keep Roku, NetFlix, Amazon On Demand and other programming services in business? I think so. While the “use all you want” strategy for less than $8 a month is low, Amazon, MLB and other program providers charge $3-$5 for each movie or television show. To me, that’s an acceptable “pay what you use” plan. A video store would charge me the same or higher.
Amazon, by the way, gives you the option to purchase and store your videos. You never have to worry about losing a DVD or having your dog destroy it playing Frisbee. Amazon keeps the video on its secure servers allowing you to view content anytime you want.
The Ultimate Mobile Multimedia Device
Because the Roku Player is so small and light, it’s portable and mobile. Disconnect the audio and video cables, stick it in your backpack or purse and view videos in your queue wherever you have an wired or wireless Internet connection and a computer display or television. Try doing that with your DVR.
Want to stream your mobile video’s on your TV? Smartphones are now available with HDMI ports to do just that.
It’s clear to me the future of Internet streaming video will only grow as multimedia content providers strike deals with Roku and other services.