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Streaming offers a wide variety of entertainment

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Various options have both positive and negative results
by Peter Vogel

The tech landscape has certainly evolved over the last decade, with streaming TV and music services becoming commonplace. Here’s a quick look at just some of the streaming services in use in one home – mine– along with some comments on how well they work.

First, a Roku Ultra streaming device is connected to a Shaw Communications router. The Roku device is plugged into an HDMI port on the primary TV, a six-year-old non-smart TV.

Among the streaming channels and services we view frequently are:

CBSN: CBS’s 24-hour news channel. It has a high-quality HD signal, however programming isn’t always live. It’s much easier to watch than many streaming channels since it’s free of panning jitter and frame dropout, which is otherwise very common. The channel is commercial-free. Available on various streaming platforms.

Sky International: The 24-hour news channel the Murdochs hope to control in short order. Makes frequent use of front-page news stories from British newspapers.

Reuters TV: A Roku app that asks how much time the viewer has – whether 10, 15, or 30 minutes – and then presents a top-stories package on demand. High-quality video clips with voiceovers. User can select U.S. or international editions.

France 24: excellent round-the-clock news coverage available on both English and French channels. The news ticker can be difficult to watch due to flicker.

Sky 24 (Milan): 24-hour Italian version of the UK operation.

Dutch TV: seven Dutch regional news channels, added through cCloudApp, which aggregates a number of news channels from around the world. CCloudApp is considered a private channel app service for Roku. It is added through the channelPEAR service. I judge it to be about 80 per cent reliable as there have been instances it would not load for me.

Netflix: we have been dismayed at the poor Italian and French content on this service. Prior to the aggressive geo-blocking implemented by Netflix we could at least use Netflix France and Netflix Italia to supplement the lack of content available to Canadian users. Want to watch an Italian comedy movie? Don’t bother trying a Netflix search. You can’t search that way. We are re-evaluating our Netflix membership as we are currently not using it often.

Every now and then I’ll spend an hour or two checking out various VPN (virtual private network) services to see if they are managing to get around the Netflix geo-blocking. Many of the better-known services now indicate right on their websites that they can no longer deliver foreign Netflix content.

Music: we subscribe to two music services: Deezer and Google Play Music. Deezer integrates nicely with the Roku player so we can easily access it through the Roku remote control. Google Play Music does not work through the Roku interface so it can only be launched off a phone or, say, Chromebook, and then directed to a Chromecast plugged into one of the TV’s HDMI ports.

We also like listening to Pandora Music, something we started doing more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, Pandora has had to implement geo-blocking at the behest of music rights holders. However, all our Pandora channels remain intact. Every so often we will activate a VPN service (our favourite is Canadian service TunnelBear) so that we can use Pandora as if we were located in the U.S.

In the car, we have become fans of SiriusXM satellite radio, particularly of the Watercolors and Real Jazz channels. However, we refuse to pay the full price for a subscription because there are several locations in our driving pattern where the satellite signal is blocked by either geography or structures. In Vancouver proper this is less of an issue as SiriusXM has installed a ground repeater in Robson Square. Without this repeater, the satellite signal would be largely unusable in the downtown core in particular.

Last minute update:

Unfortunately, the cCloudApp service that powers the Dutch TV and a few other channels we watch regularly has become unpredictable, if not unusable. This is not atypical for free streaming services; here today, gone tomorrow seems an appropriate description. Don’t expect any customer service either. After all, these are free applications.

The service has been out for several days before coming back to life just ahead of this column’s deadline.

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Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 09:17  

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