Tag Archives: money

PlayOn Discount Time

In a previous post, I had looked at the merits of buying annual and lifetime PlayOn memberships. My wife and I continue to love the service, but we never purchased the annual. Well, now’s the time to do it. The PlayOn folks are running a discount that’s about 50% off. Annual memberships are now $19.99 (instead of $40) and lifetime memberships are $49.99 instead of $80. You can get to the sale prices from the PlayOn webpage. The sale runs until Jan 1, 2012.

I’m a PlayOn lover – it got around the annoying aspects of Hulu and allows me to get a Daily Show fix – and want to pass on a great chance for readers to get it on the cheap.

Are Roku’s Accessory Prices Really A Good Deal?

I now have my Roku 2 XS on order. During the ordering process, Roku offered “Great Deals” on some accessories for the Roku 2 box, specifically HDMI cables and MicroSD memory cards. I’m a firm advocate of getting everything possible for a buck. Let’s take a quick look at whether it’s the great deal that Roku is pitching.

Roku’s Accessory Pricing

Roku’s is selling HDMI cables for $9.99 and 2 GB MicroSD cards for $4.99. The gold standard for internet comparison shopping has been Amazon.com. Let’s see what Amazon has to say about this.

First, HDMI cables. These are a pet peeve of mine since many vendors will charge much more than the $25 listed in the Roku ad and its a rip-off. Roku is being fair at $9.99, but can we do better? Amazon has two types of cables. Those thrown off the back of a truck from China (metaphorically, of course) and those with an identifiable manufacturer with published specs. I prefer the ones with a standard, but found both types on Amazon anyway. With the Roku box either would work.

For the 2 GB MicroSD cards, the best on Amazon that I found was $4.49 for a Kingston 2 GB MicroSD card.

They’re A Reasonable Price, But…

When it’s all stacked up, Roku’s prices are pretty reasonable. Buying the accessories from Amazon would save you five to ten bucks IF you’re already ordering from Amazon and qualify for super-saver shipping already.

Accessory Roku Amazon
6ft HDMI Cable $9.99 $5.95 or $2.10
2 GB MicroSD $4.99 $4.49

Shipping’s a killer. So, if you’re trying to squeeze every last penny out of the purchase, what I recommend is:

  • If you’re already ordering something from Amazon and have free super-saver shipping, buy from Amazon
  • If you’re just ordering from Roku, buy from Roku.

Happy shopping.

PlayOn Thoughts Four Weeks Later

It’s been about 4 weeks since I used PlayOn to get my Daily Show fix. Since then, I’ve signed up for a month more of PlayOn service to keep getting this and a few other shows like Burn Notice and White Collar without paying for Amazon Instant Video. My feelings about the service have shifted some in that time.

PlayOn Better With Tweaking

I’m still finding that PlayOn gets the job done. With some tweaks to the various providers, it seems to get the job done quite admirably most of the time. It’s been a delightful bridge to get Hulu on my TV via my Roku box and has brought some unexpected benefits like closed caps on the Roku box. A few tweaks that have proven quite nice:

  • Turn on Hulu closed caps: In Hulu, go to Privacy & Settings and click the “Automatically turn on closed captions if available.” checkbox
  • Use the Hulu queue: To avoid navigating the crazy-large menus, use the Hulu website to queue up shows then go directly to your Hulu queue for quick viewing

Places To Improve

It’s not all roses, however. The interface, in general, is still clunky. For channels that don’t have queues, it’s downright painful to navigate on my Roku. I’ve used the PlayOn iPad app, and that is manageable. I’m holding out hope that the upcoming Roku refresh will give PlayOn both the motivation and the technical ability to make a more robust Roku interface. I’ve also, on occasion, had playback issues. PlayOn will spontaneously reset the video feed to the beginning of the show (yes, before the first advertisement) during some Hulu viewings. I blame my increasingly erratic internet connection (AT&T, your number’s up), but I’ll still be sending in a support request to see how PlayOn responds.

PlayOn Is A Recommend

After a month of use, PlayOn has a place in my setup. I’ll finish out my current month subscription and, if we get this Hulu video reset under control, pick up a year of service for $39.99.

I do have one aside on the PlayOn pricing. I like a good deal, but I think that the annual subscription is the best deal in the package. Because of how MediaMall structured the annual service, with each extra year costing $19.99, I have a hard time recommending the lifetime subscription. Looking at the pricing:

8 Months 1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 5 Years
Monthly Rate
($4.99 / mo)
 $39.92  $59.88  $119.76  $179.64 $299.40
Annual Rate
($39.99 first year)
($19.99 second+)
 $39.99  $39.99  $59.98 $79.97 $119.95
Lifetime Rate
 $79.99  $79.99  $79.99  $79.99  $79.99

If you’re going to use the service beyond dabbling with it, the breakeven point for the annual service is around 8 months. Subscribing to the annual pass and getting 33% off after 1 year seems like a no-brainer to me when I like the service. It takes more than 3 years to break even on the lifetime rate and, in this industry, that is a lifetime. In the end, pick what works for your household budget and run with it.

Company Offers Competitor Customers Free HDMI Cable

HDMI cables continue to be a racket. Cables are way overpriced and the average user should buy the cheapest one they can find. One company has an interesting solution to this. They’re giving away free cables to their competitor’s customers:

Kogan is offering TV buyers a free HDMI cable with proof of TV purchase from one of its competitors, to prove that its £4 cable is as good as the £20, £50 and £100 alternatives on sale at rival stores. It may even extend the offer to PC buyers.

“An HDMI cable is an HDMI cable,” Kogan added. “It’s a digital cable. You either get a picture or you don’t. Don’t get conned into buying a ‘fancy’ HDMI cable because it will make no difference!”

Since HDMI cables are heavily used in streaming video setups, I’ll keep beating this drum. There is no reason to waste money on more expensive cables. If you’re doing a commercial setup with 100 feet of cable, then we’ll talk. That isn’t a living room setup.

Spotted via Slashdot, which is always good read for the comments. This one sums it up well:

There are various grades of HDMI cable for different task. If you’re running a 1920×1440 monitor or a 3D telly then you should get the high-speed flavor rather than bog-standard but you can still get those for a fiver from reputable online suppliers. The problem is not stores telling people that they need a $10 high-speed HDMI cable rather than a $5 normal speed one, they’re telling people that a $100 super-deluxe high-speed cable will give them a better picture and sound than the $10 high-speed HDMI cable. Which is BS.

…and the victims of this are usually people wanting 6′ cables to connect their BluRay to their TV, not slashdotters wanting to run 60′ cables past their homemade van-der-graff generator, in front of their Pringles-can long distance WiFi link, under the Farnsworth fuser and down to their experimental video wall.

Streaming Video Earnings Season

The success of cable alternatives (as well as the cable companies) depend on the financial might of the companies involved. With the March – June quarter closed out, earning season is upon us once again. Here’s when the various companies are planning to send out earnings announcements.

Company Earnings Date Market Expectations
The New Generation
Netflix July 25, 2011 Earnings: $1.11 / share
Revenue: $0.79 B
Apple July 19, 2011 Earnings: $5.63 / share
Revenue: $24.52 B
Amazon July 26, 2011 Earnings: $0.34 / share
Revenue: $9.36 B
The Old Guard
Comcast Aug 3, 2011 Earnings: $0.41 / share
Revenue: $13.81 B
Time Warner Cable July 28, 2011 Earnings: $1.16 / share
Revenue: $4.93 B
AT&T July 21, 2011 Earnings: $0.60 / share
Revenue: $31.33 B
Verizon July 22, 2011 Earnings: $0.55 / share
Revenue: $27.43 B

Some popular companies associated with streaming are privately held. These include:

  • Hulu – A private company joint venture of NBC-Universal (Comcast), News Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, Providence Equity Partners. They may be changing hands soon.
  • Roku – Another private company that is in private hands. Netflix is rumored to have a stake in Roku.
  • Crackle – This Hulu / Netflix follow-on is wholly owned by Sony.

Apple is rather late to the game to say when they’ll announce earnings. The last two times were January 19th and April 21st. This should place the announcement close to July 19th.

Update: Apple confirmed for July 19th.

Update 2: Netflix now 25th, Amazon the 26th, Comcast Aug 3rd.

How To Pay Less For iTunes Videos

If you’re using iTunes videos to ditch the cable company, it’s always great to pay a bit less for it. One strategy to do that is to pick up iTunes gift cards for a discount and have the credit in reserve for when you’re Jonesin’ for your next video fix. But how to do it? Say hello to Granny.

What is Gift Card Granny?

So, how does Gift Card Granny work? Well, let’s ask Granny:

Gift Card Granny is a gift card marketplace site that connects buyers and sellers of discounted gift cards. We don’t ship or sell any gift cards ourselves… instead, we do the research for you. There are literally thousands of different sites where you can buy and sell gift cards. Our staff works hard to find out which brokers have the very best deal of the day on each specific card – and we list the different deals for you to choose from. If you like the price on the card you see, you can click on a link and you’ll go directly to the broker’s site. If you decide to buy it from that broker –  they will send it to you with no taxes and no shipping fees.

So, Granny helps people locate gift cards sold online and get them at below face value. Excellent. But who are the sellers?

Gift Card Granny pulls information from different gift card resellers (Card Pool, Gift Card Castle, GiftCards.com, Plastic Jungle, and Giftah to name a few) as well as eBay. Each seller has different gift cards that they buy and sell, making it hard to find what you’re looking for. Granny aggregates together all the information about how much is available on various gift cards and the size of the discount. The dedicated gift-card websites have been around a while and have a loyal following. Ebay is, well, Ebay.

What Can You Save On iTunes Gift Cards?

I have now purchased iTunes gift cards from two places, Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Castle. For Plastic Jungle, it was $25 for $23.xx (7% off). The gift card arrived as an e-mail with a code in it. I logged into iTunes, entered the code, and my iTunes account was credited $25. Gift Card Castle sent me a $25 gift card for $22.50 (10% off). I had to wait for it to be mailed, but, once it arrived, I used the same process to enter the code and get iTunes account credit. Overall, it was very satisfying to get anything Apple at a discount.

One thing i did notice is that, occasionally, Granny isn’t up to date. The 10% off Gift Card Castle one was not indexed by Granny. I just happened to be wandering through and found a good deal.

What About Amazon Instant Video Discounts?

One last thing to mention is that while Granny will index Amazon gift cards, the only ones that turn up are on Ebay. This is because Amazon only sells “electronic” gift cards. I have not been brave enough to wander onto Ebay and take a chance with this. For the other dedicated sellers, they have clear methods to resolve disputes. I’m going to stick with them for now.

If you have bought gift cards on Ebay and had it work out, please leave a comment.