Netflix + Roku = HBO Killer?

Posted by Steve on Thu, 08/12/2010 - 12:43am

I've been very happy with DirecTV's service here but the monthly bill is like a car loan.  Or at least mine is thanks to my soup-to-nuts Platinum HD DVR package.

Over the past year I've been on a mission to trim the monthly nut.  Quitting tobacco products in May 2009 was a great start.  So was dumping my $119/month aDSL service with in December, moving this server to and installing Roadrunner at home.  Okay, I didn't really save anything with that but I got a lot more bang for the buck.

Next on the plate was my crippling monthly satellite bill.  By my reckoning, I could save at least $51/month if I dumped all my movie channels -- HBO, Cinemax, Encore, the works.  I don't watch a lot of TV but when I do it's usually a movie.  However even with ALL the movie channels it's not as though I feast on a cornucopia of video variety.  Like bad oldies radio, it seems to be the same hundred-plus movies broadcast over and over again.  Just how many times CAN you watch Step Brothers anyway?

A lot of my friends are long-time Netflix fans and many tried to convert me to their wicked ways.  But the process of logging into a web site to search for a movie, make a selection, wait a couple of days for the DVD to arrive, watch it, put it back in the envelope and drop it in a mailbox was just too freakin' much work!  I'm the kind of guy who walks around with three month old uncashed checks in my wallet.

But when I heard about Netflix On Demand, that caught my attention.  How do I bridge that movie feed to my TV?   My Sharp Aquos in the master bedroom has an ethernet port and, using a powerline LAN, I had successfully downloaded many DirecTV video-on-demand titles over the internet.

Let's hit PAUSE for a second to note that, yes, I did wire every floor in the house with CAT5 the month I moved in and, yes, I did completely gut and renovate the master bedroom and, yes, I did pull two runs of coax inside those walls for the dish.  Guess what I forgot to run?  The CAT5.   Duh.

So, it was on to Google to see what I needed to do to get Netflix on my TV.   One solution was based on an inexpensive piece of Windows software called PlayOn. It bridges the Netflix video queue as well as several other popular sites like Hulu to your local LAN and makes them compatible with  DLNA-compliant devices, like the Aquos.  But PlayOn's performance was shaky at best.   I would have to select something several times to get it to "stick" and Netflix movies were even more problematic.

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