Trapped inside during the hurricane? If you still have power, you should check out Roku’s new search functionality. How much time have you wasted searching for content across the different premium streaming services? To tackle that problem, Roku today introduced a new unified search feature for its latest generation of Roku boxes (Roku 2, LT, HD and the Stick). The new search feature appears as a Roku channel. It lets you search “movies, TV shows, actors and directors across Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, VUDU and HBO GO”. Wow! All of the major streaming services are included. I already thought the Roku was a compelling streaming box given it had the best selection of premium video streaming services.
When you select a particular TV season or movie to watch, the Search Channel jumps directly to the selected content in the appropriate streaming service’s channel. It will be interesting to see if third party Roku developers can also access this functionality. As far as I know, the API hooks have not been available to do it.
TiVo has similar search functionality on its Premiere line of DVRs. It has the added advantage that it can also search two weeks of TV listings for content. However, when the new version of Netflix came out for the TiVo Premiere, it lost its ability to directly jump from a selected title in its search results to playing it in Netflix (it prefills the search screen instead requiring some more remote clicks). The folks at Roku negoiated this ability with Netflix as well as the other streaming providers. The convenience factor is a big win for Roku users.
Another interesting find is how the Roku search channel displays results. For example, when you select a movie, Roku’s search will indicate if it’s available in HD from a service. However, TV seasons do not indicate if they are in HD or not. Perhaps, we’ll see that functionality in a future release.
To take advantage of the new functionality, you will have to update to the latest version of the Roku software (version 4.8 Build 3250 on the Roku 2). Also, you will need to follow this link to add the Search channel to your line-up. After that, you will need to enter and exit the Channel Store on your Roku device. Once you are in the search app, you can use keyboard from the Roku iOS or Android apps to enter text.
To learn more, go to the Roku blog.