It's Hard to Say Who's Winning the Streaming Wars, But as a Customer I'm Definitely Losing
Yesterday, I tried to watch the 9th episode of Survivor 41. I say tried because apparently my computer science degree and 12 years of experience writing software are not sufficient to the task.
Normally I would accomplish said task using my YouTube TV account, but the episode was inexplicably unavailable, even though episode 8 was still there and episode 10 shows scheduled for next week. 9 was simply missing with no additional information. Even searching to see if anyone else was having the same issue yielded no results. As of this writing episode 9 is still nowhere to be seen from my YTTV account.
I asked my friend how she watched it. She said she had used her parent's xfinity account, but recommended going to CBS directly. I installed the CBS app on my phone, prepared to watch with commercials, which is annoying but bearable for (hopefully) a one-off situation. The episode started playing with no problem, and even had Chromecast support, which was necessary to watch on my projector which has a Roku Ultra connected. But for some reason Chromecast only detected the Roku TV in my roommate's bedroom, not the Roku Ultra.
I then tried installing the CBS app for my Roku Ultra. The app installed fine, but when I tried to watch Survivor, it required a login with a local TV provider. This is the point at which I stopped, to spare my sanity.
It just so happened that yesterday I also got a new toy in the mail, the Anker Nebula Capsule, which I intend to use to watch movies while camping. Let me say that I love it based on my preliminary testing. It's a well designed and executed product. However, apparently it's impossible to play DRM content via any sort of casting or screen mirroring technology. You either have to use the Netflix, Disney+, etc apps directly from the device (terrible input UX, especially for searching for content), or use your own DRM-free movies from a USB flash drive (which is what I plan to do).
I've also noticed that there seem to be a lot less NBA games available on YouTube TV than last year. I'm assuming some obscure licensing deal expired or changed, yet again to the detriment of customers.
I suspect things have gotten bad enough that the only way to have a reasonable UX is to set up some sort of pirated pipeline based on Plex, Emby, Jellyfin, etc.
I'd prefer to just pay these people rather than mess with any of that, but they're making it too difficult to justify.