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Bri and I used to love watching F·R·I·E·N·D·S on Netflix, but starting at the beginning of 2020, NBC decided to end their contract with Netflix and move the show to HBOMax instead.
Unfortunately, we don’t have HBOMax, and we’re unwilling to shell out the additional $15-a-month to watch a show we’ve already seen at least 3 times through.
However, we are willing to pay $65-a-month for YouTube TV because we love watching live sports like this month’s Tour de France. Even better, YouTube TV has unlimited DVR, which has proven to be the best feature of the whole service.
The best part about YouTube TV’s DVR is that you can navigate to a show you want to record (like Friends) and add the entire show to your DVR. Then, as episodes of your show air, it will automatically be added to your DVR.
Using this method, we have collected every episode of Friends in our YouTube DVR using a single button.
While so far, this all sounds like a dream come true, there is a massive problem with this whole system: commercials!
We have grown so accustomed to watching our favorite shows commercial-free that we feel like we’re being cheated when a commercial comes on. We’re already paying $65 a month, why do we have to sit through commercials?
The good news is that you can skip through the commercials on recorded shows by picking up the remote and mashing the “skip” button repeatedly until the show comes back on. However, after the 10th time you do this, it gets pretty old.
Luckily, we’ve developed a hack that allows us to combine our Roku device and YouTube TV subscription to easily skip commercials while watching our favorite shows. We’ve implemented it in an easy to use way so that anyone can use it.
We call it “pivot” (Friends reference), and it’s free to use and open source. It takes about 1 minute to set up, and you can use it on any of your devices (phone, tablet, computer) as long as they are connected to the same network as your Roku device.
To set this up for yourself, follow these steps:
- Make sure you own a Roku device, and it is powered on and connected to your home network
- Go to pivot.pensivesecurity.io in your web browser on whichever device you prefer. Just make sure the device is connected to the same network as your Roku
- On your Roku, navigate to “Settings > Network” and look for the label that says “IP Address”
- Copy that address exactly into the box you see on pivot.pensivesecurity.io
- Start watching the show you like on YoutubeTV
- When you get to a commercial, click the “Pivot” button, and your Roku will magically jump ahead and skip the commercials. If it didn’t skip enough or it skipped too far, adjust the slider higher or lower, respectively.
If you just came here for the tool and you don’t care about how it works, stop reading and go watch your show!
If you care about how it works, we’ll walk you through it.
The Roku device has an HTTP interface running on http://ROKU_IP:9090, which allows anyone connected to the network to send commands to it. A subset of these commands correspond to keypresses on the remote, and you can essentially replicate all of the physical remote’s functionality via HTTP requests to the Roku.
You can probably piece together the rest of how it works. When you click the “Pivot” button, it tells the Roku to hit the “Right” arrow key on the remote several times, followed by an “Enter” key. This lets you sail through the commercials and get back to your show within a few seconds rather than a few minutes.
While it’s much easier than click the remote button 13 times, it’s still sort of inconvenient to pull out your phone every time you want to skip commercials. We tried to experiment with different options such as voice commands and clapping to trigger the skipping ahead. We also looked into solutions such as using a microphone and machine learning to automatically determine when a commercial was being played and trigger the skip. Ultimately, we settled for this simple solution because it’s the perfect combination of reliability and simplicity for our needs.
Hopefully, this tool helps you get the most out of your Roku device and YouTube TV subscription.
Have an idea for making the tool better? Fork the code at https://github.com/lukewegryn/pivot and improve it yourself! If you don’t know how to do that, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your idea. We’d love to hear your thoughts!