08 March 2012

the wild west of content delivery

in a flurry of activity this week, i signed up for Amazon Prime and hulu+, and bought a Roku and a new cable modem.

the ultimate goal is to cut down the monthly and outrageous Comcast bill, through which we currently get internet and tv.

the small part of the savings will be the cable modem, which we've been renting for $7/mo. replaced that with a Motorola SURFboard SB6121, which has proven to be about 15-20% faster on the downloads.

the larger savings will be eliminating the cable tv and getting our content via streaming. today started an experiment to see if the $79/year amazon prime and $8/month hulu+ covers enough ground.

i think the difficult transition for me will be going from a "what's on" model to "let's narrow down this incredible catalog to something we both want to watch now" model.

i've had the roku hooked up for less than 24 hours, but here are my initial impressions:

1. hulu+ shouldn't bother me with commercials
2. it's disappointing that i'm not allowed to stream certain shows through the roku (e.g. Good Eats), but am allowed to do so in a browser. wtf?
3. Top Gear (via Amazon VOD) has the full show, including the news! BBC America chopped it all to hell
4. there's an incredible disparity of what's paid content and what's free. i can see Top Gear series 15 and older for free, but Prime Suspect all the way from 1991 is $5/episode
5. interaction is embarrassingly primitive. browsing isn't well organized, and i'd like a way to indicate interest in items, e.g. Arrested Development, then have it organize my viewing history so i can easily tell what i've seen and what's left to see. Bonus points for putting together a single place to go to see what i should logically view next.
6. so far, the streaming has been high quality with no hiccups or sync issues. nice job that.
7. the roku box is actually *too* small and light -- it's in danger of being dragged off the shelf by the weight of the cables
8. some content we currently enjoy, like HBO shows and AMC shows, will probably be inaccessible to us for a couple years unless we feel like paying extra for them (which i don't). Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, the Killing -- might be hard to basically give them up for a couple years.

despite the impressive libraries available, not to mention the impressive tech to make all this possible, i do wish the content providers would be just a little more consumer friendly and not make the licensing so absurd. being able to stream on one device but not another, despite paying for it, just seems anti-consumer to me. and needlessly confusing.