The geek in me almost shrieked with delight when I discovered today that both The Filipino Channel (TFC) and GMA Pinoy TV are now on Roku, which means gone are the days when you had to switch between two separate TV boxes.
Before TFC entered Roku, TFC and GMA were on two different platforms in Europe, unlike in the United States when you can get them as one package on most TV services. There were three ways of subscribing to The Filipino Channel in Europe:
- TFC Direct (via satellite): with only live channels
- TFC IPTV (via a special streaming box): with the biggest range of channels and on-demand programmes
- TFC.tv: a more limited web service (and is therefore the cheapest option) which only carries programmes from the main TFC channel.
GMA Pinoy TV is now only available via Lyca TV whereas when it was first launched in Europe it was also available via satellite. However, Lyca TV can be accessed on different devices including its own TV box, Android devices, Windows computers and streaming TV sticks such as the Amazon Fire TV stick and Roku.
The two boxes dilemma
I subscribe to TFC IPTV and GMA Pinoy TV and I have been accessing these two services via two streaming devices: the former via its own IPTV box and the latter through the Lyca TV app on a Roku stick. This means that when I wanted to watch a TFC programme after watching one on GMA, I would have had to switch over to the TFC box (i.e., change HDMI source) which is a lot of hassle.
For about a year between 2017 and 2018, the two services happily co-existed on Lyca TV but TFC pulled out because, according to a Lyca TV representative I spoke to on the phone, a sizable number of TFC IPTV customers switched to the one-box convenience of Lyca TV.
TFC was doubtless making more money from their own dedicated service. If I remember correctly, Lyca TV was charging £11 per month for the GMA channels but for only £7 extra Fipino TV fans could receive the TFC channels as well. The cheapest TFC (IPTV) monthly subscription is £18 and so I guess it made more business sense for them to withdraw from the Lyca TV platform to get more money out of their subscribers.
Consequently, when TFC left the Lyca TV platform, customers who wanted both GMA and TFC had to subscribe to two separate services and have two streaming devices connected to their TV. Not ideal.
Today, I discovered that all that has changed, at least partly (and I’ll say why only partly later). There is now a TFC.tv app on Roku which means TFC and GMA are once again available on the same TV box. True, they have their separate apps but switching apps is a lot more convenient (and quicker) than switching TV boxes.
The TFC.tv app also has a a more attractive user interface than the TFC IPTV box. It is more visual with thumbnails, and easier and quicker to navigate making it a breeze to switch between genres. With the IPTV box, the interface is rather on the plain and rudimentary side. It is slow to operate and it takes several clicks to get from one genre to another. In other words, the TFC.tv app on Roku gives a smoother, more Netflix-like experience.
There is, of course, a but and this is the reason why I said earlier that things have changed only partly. The TFC.tv app, like the web version, offers only shows from the main TFC channel plus movies and live streams of only a handful of programs. The TFC IPTV box offers a lot more content (both live and on demand) over several channels including ANC, Cinema One, Sports and Action, Jeepney TV, Lifestyle Network, MYX and Cinemo. This compares unfavourably with GMA Pinoy TV whose entire range of channels are available both on the Lyca TV apps and the dedicated Lyca TV box.
For me, however, this isn’t such a big issue. Like most people, I subscribe to TFC mainly for the main channel which gives me access to the latest soap operas and news. I hardly look at the other channels which feature old movies and archived programmes that I do not have time to watch.
And if you think exactly how much you could be saving then the Roku route becomes even more attractive. As I’ve mentioned already, the cheapest monthly subscription on the TFC IPTV box is £18 – it rises to £22 for the premium subscription. With TFC.tv you can subscribe from as little as £4.50 per month (with the premium subscription just £6.95) which is a lot more wallet-friendly than TFC IPTV.
I could have saved money from the beginning by just subscribing to TFC.tv and not TFC IPTV, especially given that the extra content that the latter has was never an incentive for me. However, I prefer to watch TV on an actual TV (ideally in bed!). It is for this reason that I hardly ever watch Netflix and Amazon Prime on my computer. I suppose my only mistake is signing up for an annual TFC IPTV subscription (albeit a heavily discounted one) but I am still delighted that I can now watch TFC.tv on my Roku and start saving money when my TFC IPTV when my subscription expires in September 2019.