Many members stream LDS content to their mobile devices, laptops, and computers, but are at a loss when asked to use audio-visual equipment at Church or select add-on hardware to bring Church media to their HDTVs. If you need help, this begins a two-part article on media streaming. The first part will cover basic streaming options at home and in meetinghouses, and the second will focus on add-on products for Internet TV and how well they perform with LDS media.
Typical sources of Church content are LDS.org, Mormon Channel.org and other Church web sites, or public channels such as YouTube. LDS apps, such as Gospel Library, Mormon Channel, and BYUTV also offer streaming.
When you stream media, you need a receiving device connected to the Internet and a way to deliver the stream to the device’s display or to another digital display. When considering your streaming options, the stream may start as downloaded media from the Internet which you view at a later time with a media player. You are probably familiar with using your smart phone, tablet, PC, or Mac connected to the Internet for streaming through a web browser or from a mobile app. Another choice is a “smart TV” connected to a network with a built-in web browser.
When you add a second output device to view streamed content, the two must connect (wired or Wi-Fi) with some type of hardware and software. If your source is streamed from the Internet directly, where and how you connect can be crucial. An Internet browser will not stream from YouTube at the meetinghouse because it will be blocked at the firewall. The solution is to capture content at home and stream with a media player. Streaming from [your device with the content already downloaded] in meetinghouses is preferred to avoid bandwidth issues.
To connect source and destination with a wired cable, the source device has to be compatible with the destination and both share a supported screen resolution. You set a laptop to mirror to an attached projector. A wired connection between a tablet or smart phone and an HDTV requires an adapter specific for the device and a cable to connect the two. Samsung has an adapter for Samsung android mobile devices. Apple sells a Lightning digital TV adapter or older 30-pin VGA adapter, and Surface tablets have compatible Windows adapters. Purchasing numerous adapters for meetinghouses to accommodate member preferences may not be practical, but some members purchase adapters and cables for themselves and use them successfully with meetinghouse projectors and digital TVs.
Becoming more common is the use of Internet TV add-on products for Internet streaming. Such devices are marketed as set-top boxes (iSTB), dongles, or gaming consoles. They deliver streaming on channels, apps, or “mirroring” from mobile devices. Products and processes to support Internet TVs will be covered in the next article.
The following is part 2 of the series of articles:
The Church has a keen interest in making the content on its websites, broadcast channels, and mobile platforms widely available in as many languages as possible. If you have a smart TV with a built in web browser, you need only connect the TV to your network and browse Church media. If not, you are a good candidate for an add-on product. There are a number of such devices; some are better or worse for streaming LDS media.
This article explores the more popular Internet TVs and how well they deliver LDS content.
They are marketed as set-top boxes (iSTB), dongles, sticks, or game consoles. Common brands include Roku, Chromecast TV, Apple TV, (Western Digital) WD TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Xbox. They connect to an HDTV with a cable, are configured on networks, and deliver content through channels, apps, or “mirroring” from mobile platforms. Here’s a description of each:
A Roku has the most built-in channels for media streaming, and both Mormon Channel and BYUTV may be added. A Roku comes with a remote to turn it on, add channels, and make selections. A Roku stick has much of the same functionality as the Roku box. Roku does not have a built-in web browser so you are limited to the two sponsored Church channels, both of which feature live streaming of general conferences, BYU sports, CES firesides, music, or talk radio. You may also plug in a USB flash drive to your Roku and stream media you downloaded from Church websites using the Roku media channel.
Chromecast TV does not have channels built in, nor does it have a remote. To use a Chromecast TV for Church-sponsored media, you use an Android mobile platform and Android apps for Mormon Channel, BYUTV, or the Google Chrome browser with a plug-in extension to mirror or “cast” from your mobile screen to your HDTV. Not all mobile apps “cast” their screens, but LDS apps do. The connection is made from an icon that looks like a rectangle intersected by an upward pointing triangle inside LDS mobile apps or from the mobile browser.
Apple TV comes with a remote and has many channels built in, but does not allow you to add Mormon Channel or BYUTV. To stream LDS content connect, use an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to connect wirelessly to the Apple TV with Airplay and mirror from LDS mobile apps to your HDTV. Airplay is part of the iOS operating system, so you do not need to install a separate app, and mirroring works reliably over a range of Apple mobile products. Many stakes and wards use Apple TVs at meetinghouses because there are many iOS users. Streaming can be direct from Church websites, but best practice is to download content at home and use Airplay to mirror from a media player.
WD TV (Western Digital)
Western Digital supports the most media formats of all Internet TVs. A few entertainment channels are built in, but no provision is made for adding LDS channels. Instructions recommend installing a WD TV remote app to seamlessly control the WD TV from a Miracast-enabled smart phone, or use a USB flash drive with media downloaded in a supported format. Plug the USB drive into the port on the side of the WD TV and use the remote to select that port as your input source. On a home network, browse through shared folders on network devices and stream media directly to your HDTV.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire has many built in channels and the ability to add apps from the Amazon store. For users who have Amazon Prime with Amazon Instant Video, this may be excellent for entertainment. Voice commands to the remote make finding content intuitive. The only Church app currently supported, however, is Mormon Channel – Music, though screen casting on Miracast-enabled devices such as Kindle Fire is supported. The Church is evaluating, but at present Amazon Fire is not the best source for LDS content.
Other Internet TVs are on the market. The Church is currently evaluating Church media on Xbox. Gamers may find this welcome news. Before purchasing an Internet TV, look at reviews and talk to friends. From among the choices available, you are bound to find one that suits your needs.