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’:

TV Apps Kickoff – 3 Things You Need to Know

TV Guide TV app available through YahooThe 2010 Superbowl officially kicked off the Age of TV Apps. The technology has been around for a few years and is already available to many people. But Vizio’s TV app Superbowl commercial was the kickoff heard ’round the world.

So what are TV apps? In a most basic sense, TV apps are like the applications you download for your iPhone. Small, limited-use software that allows you to personalize your hardware.

New stuff that was once only available for your computer — and then for your iPhone — is now available for your television. If you have Direct TV or Verizon FiOS, some of this is already baked into your cable box. Obviously you can get TV apps on the Vizio TV, but also on many Samsung and Sony televisions as well.

You can already use things like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook on your TV.

Here are three things you should know about TV Apps

1. The technical field is relatively open.
Sure, there are some key players like Yahoo who have already set themselves as leaders, but that can change.  Currently, Yahoo controls the application and administers the software development kit (SDK). Note: From our personal experience, Yahoo was somewhat slow in distributing the SDKs to developers. That’s unfortunate because that could irritate programmers who could create an open-source system that could render Yahoo’s TV Apps technology obsolete. If you have the desire to create apps (or even a completely new OS), the time is now. The tech is in place for you to build the next great widget, gadget, social network, or living room app.

2. TV apps will present design challenges.

Weather TV app available through DirectTV

TV apps will face several user interface challenges. The most notable is that most people don’t have a keyboard on their television remote control. Sure, you can pull one up on the screen, but as you can imagine, typing with a little remote-control button is a pretty poor user experience. If you’ve used a Wii remote to create a Mii character, you know how tedious it can be to type out a long name. Designers will clearly make the difference between apps that succeed or fail. The old design rules will need to evolve to take advantage and address the limitations of a 10-foot interface.

3. Content & marketing opportunities will need to evolve.
The iPhone and other smart phones forced content developers and marketers to rethink the way we package messages. Long-form had to give way to shorter, more relevant messages. If not for mobile communications limitations, Twitter would have never gained a foothold in society. Face it, a 140 character message fits better on a cell phone screen than, say, a PowerPoint presentation. People who mastered the Twitter format (including URL shorteners) emerged pretty quickly as masters of the medium. And the marketers quickly caught on with brand messages. That’s a long way of saying that the new language of TV apps is still in flux. If you want to create content or marketing messages for TV apps, try to figure out what works with this new interface.

If you’re already exploring TV apps, congratulations. You’re probably going to have a head start on this unique and exciting new communications channel. I look forward to seeing what you create.

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Facebook Status Off Video

Y’know, sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. This video captures the geeky goodness of our obsession with Facebook status updates.

Lots of us in this age online celebrity are obsessed with self-marketing and Brand You to the point of silliness.  I’m certainly guilty of trying too hard to be entertaining in my posts.

Anyway, watch this little viral video and have a laugh.

Of course, I’ll be posting this video to Twitter and Facebook.

Google Search Stories – 53 Seconds to Message

As a marketer, I am always trying to provide the best possible message in the shortest possible time. People are busy, so you need to give them the information they need to decide if they want to learn more about your product. Give them the right message in the right place at the right time, and you’ve got their attention.

Loosely translated: You get to tell your story.

Check out the video below from Google Search Stories. In 53 seconds, Google and YouTube reinforce the motivational power of storytelling.

And just for fun, check out the Batman Search Story.

McCloud Talks Tech on TED

Scott McCloud is a comic book creator who wrote a brilliant book called “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,” which is an amazing read, even if you don’t like comics. He masterfully breaks down the medium so that it becomes clear why comics connect with the brain to communicate stories.

A few years back, McCloud gave a talk at TED (Technology Entertainment Design), which is an annual conference in California. Not only is McCloud a smart guy who knows a lot about comics, technology, and science…he’s a terrific presenter.

Check out this video as he discusses how comic books and computers are evolving to leverage new technology. Good stuff. It’s especially compelling considering the implosion of traditional print publishing.

Scary Mary Movie Trailer

One of the most effective forms of promotion is the movie trailer. It’s played to the target audience (moviegoers) in the perfect arena (the theater) to tease and excite them to return next week for more fun.

Most trailers are pretty clear, right? Music and visuals pull together a one to two minute preview of the kind of flick opening next week.

Some creative folks have taken a slightly different approach. They’ve remixed classic movies to appear like totally different films…all based on the trailer.

My favorite is this remix of “Mary Poppins” called, you guessed it, “Scary Mary.” Check it out and see how small changes to text and music completely change this G-rated Disney classic into something ominous and tense.

Creative mashups like this are all over YouTube. If you’re a professional marketer, check ’em out and see how little tweaks to your campaign can have a major effect.

Interesting Links….Not Necessarily Endorsements: