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.