Recently we imported Google’s new US$35 Chromecast dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of a TV and lets you stream audio and video content from the internet, controlling it from an Android/iOS phone or tablet or a home computer.
It installed very easily and is a cinch to use. Unfortunately in New Zealand effectively there are only a couple of things we can do with it. We can play YouTube videos or listen to Google’s Play Music service.
Well…I could stream whatever is on my laptop’s Chrome browser. That doesn’t interest me.
If this was America, I’d use Chromecast to very cheaply stream video content via Netflix and Hulu Plus. Serious stuff: up-to-date films and TV series. Regrettably those services aren’t available in New Zealand, partly thanks to the blocking activities of New Zealand’s Sky TV monopoly.
It’s a rights and licensing problem. There are backdoor ways of getting Netflix here, but Sky TV recently used lawyers to prevent the National Business Review from linking to an Eric Crampton blog post that described how to do it. (Yes, I could make it work, but it’s more hassle than I can be bothered with. I’d have to bring my laptop into the TV room to operate it and spend quite a bit of money on a VPN proxy service that would make my computer appear to be American.)
Google claims to be negotiating with other organisations, including my music fave Pandora, to make their services available on Chromecast. I bet the company is in no hurry to cut such deals. Pandora, for instance, would compete with Google’s own Play Music, which must be getting a huge boost from the top-selling dongle.
At the moment I’m on a month’s free trial of the Play Music service and have yet to decide whether to pay NZ$13 a month to keep it going. It will be hard to resist though, because it is excellent – certainly as good as Spotify, currently the standard bearer for streaming music. And it sounds really good through my Sony Home Theatre.
In the meantime, just being able to stream YouTube has justified the Chromecast purchase. We’re having a lot of fun sending YouTube to our TV. It’s as easy as watching YouTube on our mobile devices. We could already get YouTube on our internet-enabled TV, but operating the internet with a TV remote is hopeless.
For the first time I’m seriously digging into YouTube’s offerings and finding some of them are better than the usual trivia links would have you believe.
Not that there’s anything wrong with cat videos in moderation. Last night we succumbed to the feline siren call and Chino watched too: