Roku issues major Netflix channel feature upgrades

Roku issues major Netflix channel feature upgrades

Summary: Set-top appliance manufacturer Roku has released a new software update that significantly improves its Netflix capabilities as well as provide for two new streaming media channels.

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Set-top appliance manufacturer Roku has released a new software update that significantly improves its Netflix capabilities as well as provide for two new streaming media channels.

Today, Roku announced that it would immediately begin issuing a remote update to all of their customers devices which improves the device's Netflix functionality and adds support for two new channels, Ultimate Fighting Championship and Radiotime.

The popular set-top Roku device, which sells for $99.00 is primarily used to play Instant View content from Netflix.

In November of 2009, Roku added the Channel Store, which allows customers to view pay-per-view content from Amazon Video on Demand, as well as the ability to display/play streaming content from other online sources, such as Major League Baseball, Pandora Radio, FaceBook and the Flickr photo-sharing service.

The Roku player has been a popular device for content-addicts everywhere, especially considering that for only $9.99 a month, you have unlimited access to Netflix's entire on-demand content library.

But what I didn't like about it is that in order to select content from that library, you needed a full browser-capable device to be able to add new movies/shows to your Instant Queue.

With the June 2010 software update for Roku, that's all changed. The all-new Netflix channel has a browse and search capability, so you no longer need to "Queue" movies, you can just thumb through categories of newly available content or search for content you are interested in, and then play it instantly.

[Note: The re-registration process I mention during the video is apparently a bug that was resolved during testing prior to general rollout of the software update.]

Specifically, the new software update, which rolls out this week, adds the following features:

  • The ability to search the entire Netflix Instant Streaming Library from your TV screen
  • Browse and Play Movies and TV shows on your TV via using a new immersive user interface
  • Add Movies and TV shows to your Instant Queue for watching later
  • Change your screen saver settings to display a clock instead of just the Roku logo
  • A specific icon in Settings for Netflix, which allows you to disable the browsing feature of the Netflix channel and only display the instant queue.

In addition to the new Netflix features, the company is rolling out two new channels, Ultimate Fighting Championship (which has its big UFC 114 fight this weekend on Saturday, May 29 via Pay-Per-View) as well as RadioTime, a music and radio station streaming service, the very same that powers the Logitech Squeezebox radio-streaming device.

UFC was rolled out to existing Roku devices last week, and RadioTime will become available on June 1st.

Netflix will be providing the software update to customers today.

Do you own a Roku device? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Browser, Hardware, Mobility, Software Development

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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5 comments
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  • RE: Roku issues major Netflix channel feature upgrades

    Yes, I do own one and so far it has been very limited but slowly and surely the Roku people are getting there but still a long way to go. I have had mine now for over a year.
    techinsane
  • Availble for other Netflix players?

    I wonder if this is a Roku update or a Netflix update? While it has obviously been tailored for a Roku box, if the software originated at Netflix we could see it elsewhere. Given that Roku is a Netflix offshoot where the Netflix CEO holds a large stake, Netflix might simply have decided to release their software on the Roku box first.
    zackers
  • Love what they are doing!

    Roku was my savior from Comcast, I am a Fanboy of their efforts. So that being said I really dig how they (Roku/Netflix/et al) are really trying to alter what the Cable companies say couldn't be done: offering al la carte to the viewing public. Guess what? It's starting to click, and work. Every six months or so the service gets better, more choices and a wider selection of new stations.
    I applaud their efforts, and will be buying my FOURTH Roku soon!
    lastham
  • Upgrade Breaks Netflix Channel for Many

    I just upgraded my Roku box to the latest version, and it immediately made it impossible for me to the use the Neflix channel at all. Clicking on it just gives me a "retrieving" screen, then it just goes back to the channel menu.

    I've checked Roku's user forums and there are about twenty pages of similar complaints. To be fair, it seems that the vast majority of users do not have this problem, but for those who do, we're just plain stuck. There's no downgrade option, and no response from Roku about this complaint. We need a fix for this fast. Since I only use the Roku box for Netflix, I effectively have a $99 brick.
    billca42
    • 99 Dollar Brick....Anyone able to solve this?

      @billca42 Has anyone figured this out yet? I have the same exact issue. Bought 2 brand new in the box roku xd/s and both of them have this issue so it's not a bad cable or my Tv, because when I first got the Roku it played fine. Now it goes to the retrieving screen and no quality dots show up and it reverts back to the play screen. this is ridiculous. Please I've tried everything including buying a top of the line Netgear Router with dual band. Please if you fixed this let us know, Roku blames netflix and netflix blames roku, i've spent hours talking to both of them.
      gypsyangel777