Technology

The marvellous hidden treasures of Roku’s many channels

There are, the observant will have noticed, now many ways to watch Internet TV on your TV. No more tiny laptop screens or sitting in front of your desktop – buy yourself an Amazon Fire Stick, a Google Chromecast device, an Apple TV, a Now TV box or one of the many other streaming devices on the market, connect it to your TV, connect it to your WiFi and you’ll be watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and all the rest in just a few moments.

Among these devices is the Roku, of which I have an amazing three different devices for different occasions. The basis of the Now TV box and even a Roku TV, the Roku offers all the usual streaming services, including Now TV, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+, as well as all the usual UK TV catch-up services, including iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub, My5 and UKTV. Here’s my main Roku channel list:

That doesn’t make it any different to most of the other devices. But where it does excel is in its ability for pretty much anyone, including a back bedroom developer, to create streaming channels of their own and offer vastly more channels than most other devices (Apple TV – I’m looking at you here).

Here, for example, are my mid and lower channels:

So there’s some international news services, including Al Jazeera and France 24 (English and French available, as well as Spanish, I think). GreekTV does what it says on the tin, offering just about every Greek-language streaming service out there from Greece, Cyprus and elsewhere. ANT1 I quite like, even if it always seems to be showing Γυναίκα Χωρίς ‘Ονομα (Woman without a name) whenever I tune in:

But down the bottom, yes, you saw them: channels dedicated to showing every single episode of 1960s ITC shows The Baron and The Saint.

Among all those channels is Roku’s own free TV service, The Roku Channel, and inspired by this week’s discovery that it has the UK premiere of Westside, I decided to investigate further to see what other TV it – and other channels – might secretly be harbouring.

Here’s what I found on two of them: The Roku Channel and Plex. Turns out you don’t need a separate channel for The Saint – the Roku Channel has all the episodes, too.

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Phoebe Waller Bridge
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Some nice new TV things to buy: StarzPlay and The Year of the Sex Olympics

StarzPlay on Amazon

StarzPlay streaming special-offer

So StarzPlay is quietly shaping up to have some of the best imported content in the UK. There’s Counterpart, Pennyworth, Doom Patrol, Castle Rock, Mr Mercedes, The Rook, Perpetual Grace LTD, and Four Weddings and a Funeral from the US, while from Europe, there’s the likes of Instinto, Sanctuary, Rig 45 and Monster.

And that’s just for starters – why only this very day, it became the UK home of Power and its spin-offs.

It used to have a drawback, though. Until recently, you had to have a subscription to Amazon Prime first, after which you had to take out a second subscription to StarzPlay itself, in order to watch it. That was a slight faff and not cheap, if you weren’t already an Amazon Prime member.

However, it’s now available on Apple TV(+), Android and iOS via its own app, as well as regular web browsers, so you can use any of those apps. Unfortunately, if you want to use your Roku, you’ll need to use the Amazon route in the UK, since although there’s a US Roku channel, there isn’t a UK equivalent.

Another reason to go the Amazon route, though: you can now sign up for a three-month trial at Amazon for 99p/month. Three quid for all for three months is pretty reasonable, I’d have said, wouldn’t you? And you can’t do that through any of the other usual sign-up means.

Anyway, you’ve got until March 31st to sign up for the trial, after which it’ll be back to £4.99/month as usual. What have you got to lose? Apart from £2.97.

The Year of the Sex Olympics

The Year of the Sex Olympics

Meanwhile, TMINE god Nigel Kneale‘s ground-breaking play The Year of the Sex Olympics is being reissued by the BFI, a mere 16 years after its previous release. That’s a snip at £14.99 but it won’t be available until April 20.

An anticipator of the reality TV of our own day and age, it sees Leonard Rossiter trying to find something even more interesting than the constant diet of porn with which the masses are currently being placated – and he hits upon real-life as the option. Unfortunately, real-life is actually a bit dull, so then he thinks adding a murderer to the mix might boost the ratings.

If you’re cunning, you’ll spot the esteemed Brian Cox. No not that one, the other one.

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