The Wonderfully Weird Channels of the Roku

IMG_0096I’m starting a new category that could be considered for cord-cutters or folks looking to save some serious cash by giving cable TV the heave-ho. I could be considered a cord-cutter in a way although I never had a cord to cut in my current residence. Back when the city of Philadelphia finally got cable in the late 1980s, a roommate and I signed up for it, but I haven’t had it since the roommate and I parted ways in the early 1990s. I was buying a house and I could not come up with a compelling reason to add another bill to my pile particularly an ever-growing bill for notoriously poor service.

If you’re a sports fan, quit reading this now. There are sports packages available for the Roku, but I’m not a fan and am not interested in chasing them down. Sorry. When I’ve suggested losing cable television to sports fans, I’m usually greeted with a look of abject terror as if I was asking for the human sacrifice of an immediate family member. But what about the ________ season?! Cable companies have sports fans by the short hairs. It’s sort of like a junkie/pusher relationship only pushers have better customer service than cable companies.

I’ve written about the Roku before, but it’s a tale that bears retelling. Instead of signing up for cable, I did without struggling with rabbit ears, the meager offerings of a local Hollywood Video and the superlative DVD by mail service offered by Netflix. Eventually my frugal instincts won out as streaming technology improved and Netflix rolled out it’s streaming service. I never really bothered with it until the streaming service became available for the Wii gaming system. I tried it as a lark figuring my DSL internet service wasn’t going to have enough “horsepower” to stream a movie in a watchable fashion. I did have a standard definition, tube television, but I figured the image would be degraded or the video would be spotty due to rebuffering. That wasn’t the case. It was entirely watchable. I watched more and more. Soon I was hooked, and I started to watch streamed movies more and more rather than videos on disk.Roku

I soon purchased my first Roku. I knew that major channels like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon’s Instant Video were available through the Roku, but I was curious about those other channels that their advertising hinted at. What were these channels?

That’s what these articles will be about. Whereas Netflix and Hulu may be like the big broadcast networks or the premium channels on cable, the other channels are sort of like UHF channels or public access stations. A lot of these alternative stations seemed to be cobbled together by little dreamers selling a product or spreading a religion or hoping to make a buck running public domain celluloid with the occasional, usually incongruous ads interspersed throughout. A lot of them have zero production values and run the same movies that you can find in dollar or drug stores. Some of them actually have some thought put into them and are curiously curated. The quality of some of these free movies is terrible even on my old standard definition set, but I used to watch and enjoy VHS tapes that looked worse. We weren’t all born yesterday.

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My go-to channel for all sorts of offbeat channel is the port of The Internet Archive available as a private channel. Private channels can’t be found on the Roku’s channel store, but they are readily available. As the Roku’s FAQ page states:

A “Private Channel” is a channel or application that a Roku channel developer distributes outside the Roku Channel Store. A developer may decide to create a private channel if they want to reach a specific audience (for example, a corporate audience) without making their channel available to all Roku customers.

They are added to the Roku by entering various codes. Information on adding the channels can be found here.  The Internet Archive Channel can be added via the developers site along with a number of other private channels.

The advantage of these videos unlike the ones I used to chase down on UHF television in the wee hours of the morning is that they are uncut for the most part. Tons of T&A, gore and cheese on demand and generally free (aside from whatever you’re paying for internet access.) That beats the pants off of The Movie Channel/Cinemax package that I used to get in the late ’80s.

Of course this could all change now that the FCC has reclassified the internet and will probably attempt to protect consumers from themselves. The Roku is an internet enabled device. Remember nipple-gate? The FCC swooped in to save the day and will now probably protect us from future wardrobe malfunctions. Oh, boy wait ’til they have a gander at Tumblr.

roku-3Stay tuned. In addition to talking about my favorite cord-cutting solution, I’ll review the occasional rare movie and oddity I discover on that wonderful little box.

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3 Responses to The Wonderfully Weird Channels of the Roku

  1. Old NFO says:

    I may do that when I retire… $$ will be quite a bit more scarce.

  2. Joe_Williams says:

    It’s the way to go. An antenna and digital tuner will get you a surprising number of free broadcast channels. I doubt if you’ll get rid of your internet so get yourself a Roku for a plethora of entertainment choices a lot cheaper than cable, and you get the channels you choose!

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