So, my most recent post was reblogged by someone, and they (in their reblog) asked how one watches YouTube channels on Roku. That made me realize that maybe I need to point out a few of the awesome things one can do with a Roku and a couple of channels (and a few things I wish I could do).
First off, despite the lack of an official YouTube channel, there is a channel available (through the official channel store, I believe) that lets you watch YouTube videos. It’s called “RateRix”, and it’s free. It’s also a bit on the broken side (I usually have trouble searching for individual videos), but it works great for looking at YouTube channels. It’s not the most intuitive interface given the partial lack of functionality, but it’s pretty simple to search for a channel. Of course, once you find the channel you’re looking for, it’s also pretty easy to find which show you want to watch.
There’s been a great addition to the official channel store in the form of Plex. This is a terrific app that streams content from a local server to your Roku. I’d tried using this when Plex was still in beta form (and a private channel), but had difficulty setting up the server, so I gave up on it. Luckily, having noticed it was in the public store, I tried it again. Server set up is ridiculously easy (I already had a media server that I was streaming content from for other devices), and the channel works beautifully. The only issue I’ve had is server-side (I have a memory leak somewhere that winds up requiring a full reboot every couple of days), but aside from that, it’s a super-easy-to-use channel. I have a few shows which (let’s just say through the use of torrents of black magic) appear on my media server shortly after airing, and the Plex Media Server updates my media library every hour or so (I forget what I’ve got it set on), so new shows are fairly quickly available via my Roku box. (For the record, if I lived in an area with even a marginally decent over-the-air signal, I’d be getting those shows via broadcast, and possibly recording them via MythTV or some other Roku-based DVR solution).
I also highly recommend the Pandora channel. For so many years, cable companies have tried to use digital music channels as a lure for bringing customers to their digital packages. Pandora offers the same sort of service (only customized based on your preferences) for free. (I’m sure a lot of people already know of the awesomeness of Pandora, but it’s just amazing to me that there’s such a terrific free alternative to what cable companies have been trying to charge for forever.)
So, what do I wish I could do on Roku? Mostly, I wish I had access to the free offerings on Hulu (or, I’d be more than willing to pay for Hulu Plus if it meant I could get all the content Hulu offers). I kind of wish all of these YouTube channels had their own channels on Roku, though that’s not really necessary at all. There’s a few shows on TV that post their show online (but outside of Hulu)- I’d love to have access to Conan via Roku. Frankly, in a few more years, I can see Conan and The Daily Show having dedicated Roku channels (even if they’re unofficial). But for now, I’m finding most of the content I want in ways that, even if it’s not exactly the way I want, it’s in ways that work for me.