Internet TV: Better, but still pretty sucky

Earlier this year, tired of paying $65 a month for 500 channels of garbage, I cancelled my Dish TV. For a while we went without TV altogether and that was actually pretty nice. However, there’s a few shows that I really like and I ran across a device called Roku which lets you stream shows from the internet directly to your TV. No computer involved. This was appealing to me so I bought one.

The Roku is a pretty cool device. It’s nothing fancy, just a small black box with a simple remote control. The interface is basic and not very fast, but it works. I immediately connected to Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand. There are something like 100 channels for the Roku but honestly, other than the two I just mentioned, they are all garbage.

So I was pretty excited to hear about Hulu+ coming to the Roku. Hulu has a lot of content, including my two favorite shows, Community and Saturday Night Live and at $8 a month, it’s not expensive. Unfortunately I was severely let down. Here are the problems I see with Hulu+ and internet streaming TV in general.

1. Many of the programs watchable on Hulu online are not available for streaming on my Roku device due to some kind of licensing issue. You can search and find the shows but when you press play it says you can only watch them on your computer. WHAT?? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I thought the idea of TV was to have people watch your programs?? And hey man, I’m PAYING for your channel!!!

2. The Roku interface for Hulu+ is so hard to navigate and the text is so small, it’s almost unusable. I dont’ know who designs these interfaces, but they must all have 65″ HDTV’s and perfect eyesight. Oh, and I love how the description is cut off on almost every show so you can’t tell what it’s about unless you watch 20 minutes of it. That is, if they let you watch it at all (see #1).

3. There’s so much junk on the Roku that it’s very hard to get to the good stuff. Junk meaning shows from the 70’s, amateur hour stuff, and clips. Sorry man, Adam 12 and the Howdy Doody show do NOTHING for me. That crap my be interesting for about 10 minutes when I’m feeling nostalgic, but then I want something current. And the YouTube style stuff? Steve Jobs said it right; “People don’t want amateur hour on their TV’s”. Amateur video is cool when you’re at your desk and you see something funny and you want to send it to a friend, but when I’m on the couch with a glass of wine, I could care less about read headed kids throwing tantrums or cats playing piano. And clips of TV shows… Dude, I DON’T HAVE CABLE. I bought this stupid box so I could watch your shows. Why on earth would I want to watch a clip and then have to go find your stupid show on live TV? I’m already here, let me watch the entire show, RIGHT NOW.

4. Episodes are not available long enough. I watch TV in bunches. I’ll watch a whole season in a week or two, but the shows on Hulu expire so quickly that if I miss shows early in the season, it’s just not worth watching the show at all because it’s too hard coming into a show in mid-season. So why expire the shows? Again, I though the goal of producing television shows was to get people to watch them (actually, watch the commercials).

So I’m just perplexed at the media industry. They produce all this content and then refuse to fully embrace the new channels of distribution. If it were me, I’d have “channels” for each network. No amateur crap. I’d include current commercials in all programs so the service could be free, just like over the air TV. I’d have an interface that you could sort by date (which nobody seems to provide) so you could filter out (or find) older shows, and I’d watch the rating for all shows and dump the ones that people don’t watch so my viewers wouldn’t have to wade through 100 shows that everyone hates just to find the good stuff.

Come on media industry. Get it together.