A noob's question about Roku

I’m considering dumping Dish Network and going to Roku 3. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’m concerned about being able to access those shows I do like.

I realize that some premium content requires a monthly subscription, but browsing the Roku website, I see a lot of terms like “free with your cable subscription” and “with a TV provider login.”

How complicated is all this with a Roku? Do I have to login to a few/some/most of the channels every time I want to watch?

What if I want to watch The Daily Show (Comedy Central)? Or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)? Or a show from Syfy, History 2, BBCA or TCM? Chiller or America Destinations channels? Am I looking at a tangle of subscriptions and logins?

Yep, that’s pretty much how it works – a tangle of subscriptions. Roku provides the convenient platform for managing all those subscriptions and viewing them in one place.

Roku will present a long list of “channels”, some of which are free, some of which are subscription based, and some of which are free, if you’re a cable subscriber.

So when I first clicked on the Netflix channel, it asked me for the userid and password when I established a Netflix account; and from then on, it’s seemless.

When I clicked on the ESPN or ComedyCentral channel, it asked me for the userid and password that I used from my cable account – I entered my daughter’s, since I cut the cord and don’t have cable anymore. Don’t tell anyone.

Unless they’ve changed recently, Roku doesn’t have a TCM channel, which is annoying.

Sling is a nice option available on Roku, but it is subscription-based. $20 a month gets you live cable channels, including AMC, TBS, ESPN, Food Network, TNT, Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney. It’s basically a cable subscription boiled down to about 45 channels-- 20 or less of which you’ll actually probably use.

There are a few worthwhile free options on Roku that I’ve found. CBS News streams live 24/7, and other news outlets let you watch an archive of news stories (NBC, FOX, ABC, etc).

There are a few free episodes on Comedy Central.

Crackle offers a number of free shows and movies with a good rotation month-to-month.

PBS offers your local channel’s shows archived.

Then of course, there’s Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix, all of which would cost about $25/month, but offer some super programming options.

Channels that authenticate with a cable provider will require you to re-authenticate monthly to ensure you are still paying for the cable package.

From a practical standpoint, the only two channels I use are Netflix and Youtube. It’s well worth using it simply to easily stream those on a regular TV. The only crappy thing is that the Roku has no control mechanism on it, so you NEED the remote or a smartphone on the same wifi. I like to lose things that are the size of a remote or phone. It’s always a hunt for those before we can watch anything.

If you have a friend with Vudu, you can use their login to watch movies in their library (I do this with my son’s account). I think there is a maximum of three people logged in at once to the same account. Some of the ‘free’ channels will make you watch commercials for the free programs. They usually have a premium service that is commercial free.

Thanks for your replies, everyone. I’m learning a lot. There’s a lot here about cable accounts and subscriptions, though. I don’t have a literal “cable” account, unless Dish Network is considered cable. Is that an issue?

I think for this purpose, Dish Network works. They just want to know how you’re currently paying for ESPN, ComedyCentral, HBO, etc. so they know you’re not a freeloader.

Yes, Dish should count as a “cable” account for you to be able to access stuff like ESPN Go or whatever sort of app on Roku would be asking for your cable account.

However…if you drop Dish to start using Roku, you will no longer have a cable account to log in with. So if you want to save money by dropping Dish in favor of Roku, get it out of your mind that you will have access to any Roku app that requires a cable subscription…

UNLESS you have a friend or relative who is still paying for cable/dish and is happy to let you use their cable TV login to access whatever. Most people don’t use their cable login and it doesn’t do them much good unless they want to stream stuff while away from home. So if they are ok with you using their $150/mo cable service so you can save some dough then you have some super good friends (you could, in return, let them use your Netflix and Hulu logins and stuff!)

I can address a couple of your questions. The following is all free (no cable subscription required) content I currently enjoy.

[li]CBSN gives me my 24/7 news fix. Watching live coverage of the Baltimore mistrial as I type this.[/li][li]Episodes of The Daily Show, The Nightly Show and South Park I watch on Comedy Central the day after they air.[/li][li]Last Week Tonight can be found via their official YouTube channel.[/li][li]One pleasant surprise for me was the NASA channel. I didn’t have that even when I had cable.[/li][li]Another channel I enjoy (and others will not) is Poker Central.[/li][/ul]
You pick the channels you will be watching frequently. I have about twenty out of a list of hundreds. Once that is set up then you can quickly move from channel to channel. With the exception of some streams (CBSN, NASA, Poker Central) It’s on-demand for the most part so you have to navigate and select the episode you want to watch. A minor inconvenience for the ability to tell the cable to stick it. :smiley:

(sorry, double post)

I think for HBO, I can subscribe directly from HBO’s website, without the go-between of a cable company. Is that correct? Is that also the case for other channels, for example, Comedy Central? (If not, it should be!) :slight_smile:

You can subscribe to HBO NOW via Roku (or online) for 14.99/mo. They have a 30-day free trial.

What I don’t get is why the networks want a cable/satellite subscription to view a show that is free over-the-air. I normally watch network (NBC, CBS, etc.) shows in free HD from my antenna, but sometimes the weather is bad and that week’s episode is so blocky it is unwatchable. I don’t get why they don’t just let me view it online after it is broadcast, including commercials. The technology is there but something is stopping them.

Because if it comes over a cable, then it’s ‘cable’, and someone’s got to pay for it. Cable companies are charged a fee by the networks to rebroadcast their network feeds. The networks aren’t going to build an online cable infrastructure to distribute their stuff for free, nor are they going to allow someone else to. A third party company, Aereo, tried this and was shut down by the courts. What NBC, CBS etc. are doing is buying/partnering with internet companies like YouTube and Hulu and using their network.

I’ll tread lightly here, but you can ask a friend to use their sign-on if they subscribe to a cable source that you don’t. Netflix actually allows multiple streaming users thru only one account in their user agreement. Some other providers may or may not…

Retransmission fees are now a large portion of the broadcast network’s revenue. It used to be much smaller. Aereo had nerve with the claim they tried to make - that they were simply leasing each user their own individual antenna, and not retransmitting anything. Unsurprisingly, the courts said “Yeah, right.”.

Have you found that the ESPN feed on Sling is much worse than any of the other channels?

Yeah, it was really glitchy. In fact, the whole Sling interface was pretty awful – I could never figure out which button on the remote to press to change channels.

I got Sling primarily for ESPN, but when I found an alternative I dumped Sling.

That’s why I got Sling, too. What did you find as an alternative?

I have Sling, but never use the Sling (Roku) app because it’s terrible. Fortunately, my Sling account credentials work for logging into the ESPN (Roku) app, which is pretty good.

ETA: shouldn’t say never. I had to use the Sling app during the MLB playoffs for TBS/TNT. That’s how I know it’s terrible.