Tag Archives: streaming service

James Franco travels back in time to save JFK in ‘11.22.63,’ the next series from J.J. Abrams & Stephen King

J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot (LostFringePerson of Interest) aren’t tipping toes into the world of subscription-based streaming; with 11.22.63, the ubiquitous storyteller is diving in head-first. Abrams’ latest TV series is coming to Hulu in 2016 and it’s based on Stephen King’s 2011 novel of the same name. King (Under the Dome) also serves as executive producer. Here’s the official logline, time travel included.

Hulu Original series 11.22.63 is a thriller in which high school English teacher Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — but his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, falling in love and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed.

Movie actor James Franco, best known for stoner comedies such as This is The End and Pineapple Express, takes a dramatic turn as lead character Jake Epping and the supporting cast includes Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity), Josh Duhamel (Battle Creek), T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy), Cherry Jones (24), Sarah Gadon, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, and Daniel Webber.

The series’ first teaser trailer rests above and packed inside the 30-second clip are more than enough tantalizing glimpses to appropriately whet your appetite. “I’m gonna tell you something that’s gonna seem crazy,” says an off-screen narrator. “If you go through there, it’s 1960.” Chills is the proper response.

Prepare for you next binge as 11.22.63 rolls out on Hulu on February 15, 2016. Happy President’s Day.

Hulu lets you ditch ads for $11.99/month

And just like that, Hulu’s jumping on the ad-free bandwagon. To compete with the ad-free competition (namely Netflix and Amazon), Hulu is now offering a No Commercials plan at $11.99/month. That’s four dollars more than the Limited Commercials plan (formally known as Hulu Plus) that has been around for awhile now. Nearly all of Hulu’s library of TV shows and movies will steam without ads; there are only a handful of series that will roll ads before and after (but not during) a viewing session and they are: Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder. The reason? It’s simply a matter of licensing deals. Other than that, you can say goodbye to commercials on Hulu as long as you sign up for or upgrade to the new plan.

“At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience,” said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins in a blog post. “Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option, and so today we are excited to introduce just that. Providing more choice for consumers is fundamental to the Hulu experience, in addition to an array of choices in content and devices, our customers can now choose to watch with or without commercials.”

The ad-free plan comes at a time when Hulu really has to start showing its muscle if it wants to continue to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Both of those streaming services have consumers flocking to their content libraries thanks to high quality original productions (see: House of CardsTransparent, etc.) and exclusive partnerships with major film houses. In addition to introducing this new plan, Hulu is doing its part by churning out original content (The Mindy Project is coming soon, as is an anticipated new series from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, 11/22/63) and making deals with companies like EPIX. In fact, Hulu recently snagged EPIX away from Netflix, and this will result in an influx of hit films from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. Game on.

[Via Hulu 1, 2]

Apple Music and Beats 1 launch Tuesday, here’s what you need to know

On Tuesday, June 30, Apple Music goes live and it may very well be the next evolution in the music industry like iTunes before it. With Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio breathing down Apple’s neck, the house that Steve Jobs built is ready to take on the competition with both feet in, offering up a subscription-based streaming service as well as a 24/7 global Internet radio station.

Apple unveiled Apple Music at WWDC earlier this month, and you can learn all about it there. Today I’m here to discuss what’s new before the service rolls out tomorrow morning. First let’s talk exclusives. In order to compete with the aforementioned competition, Apple is taking advantage of its artist relationships to bring special content to Apple Music that listeners won’t be able to find elsewhere. After pulling her latest album 1989 from Spotify’s library, country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift is granting Apple Music streaming rights to it. This followed, of course, Swift’s public letter to Apple regarding paying artists (both large and indie) royalties during users’ free three-month trial periods. Apple’s Senior VP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue swiftly took to Twitter to announce his company’s about-face. The indie community, as well as Swift, backed Apple’s decision to pay artists before users’ subscriptions kick in and this seemingly opened the floodgates for more goodwill and exciting exclusives coming to Apple Music. Pharrell is debuting his brand new single “Freedom” exclusively on the service on Tuesday, and it will likely come packaged with a music video. Additionally, Dr. Dre’s iconic rap album The Chronic will stream digitally for the first time on Apple Music; due to a legal spat, the Beats co-founder couldn’t even get it spinning on the Beats Music service before Apple gobbled it up.

The remainder of new information surrounds Beats 1, the new global radio station powered by Apple and run by former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. He’ll be broadcasting from Los Angeles, and two other hand-picked DJs–Hot 97’s Ebro Darden and UK tastemaker Julie Adenuga–will broadcast live from New York City and London, respectively. In an interview with The New York Times, Lowe shared his aspirations for Beats 1, after the break. READ MORE Apple Music and Beats 1 launch Tuesday, here’s what you need to know

Showtime joins the stand-alone streaming fray with… SHOWTIME

Following in the footsteps of the Home Broadcasting Company, premium cable rival Showtime is getting in on the standalone-streaming service cord-cutting craze. HBO NOW‘s direct competition will be called SHOWTIME when it launches in July. A specific release date is still being kept under wraps, but Showtime confirms it will arrive prior to the July 12 season premieres of Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. SHOWTIME subscribers will have unlimited on-demand access to every season of the network’s original series, as well as hundreds of hours of movies, documentary and sports programming. Additionally, subscribers will have access to the live broadcast of the east and west coast feeds of Showtime–this is something HBO’s stand-alone streaming service does not offer…yet. SHOWTIME requires a monthly fee of $10.99; for comparison’s sake, NOW subscribers have to cough up $14.99 for access to HBO’s content library. Also like HBO, Showtime has signed a deal with Apple that allows customers to sign up for a free 30-day pass for the service, as long as you nab it on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV. SHOWTIME will be accessible via the network’s app or in-browser at showtime.com.

“Going over-the-top means Showtime will be much more accessible to tens of millions of potential new subscribers,” said CBS head Les Moonves in a statement. “Across CBS, we are constantly finding new ways to monetize our programming by capitalizing on opportunities presented by technology.  This works best when you have outstanding premium content – like we do at Showtime – and when you have a terrific partner like Apple – which continues to innovate and build upon its loyal customer base.”

Though the 30-day free pass will be made available exclusively on Apple devices, SHOWTIME at $10.99/month will be offered on other platforms at launch including Roku and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.

PlayStation Now game streaming service now offers subscription program

Sony’s game streaming service PlayStation Now has been available in beta for months, allowing PS4 gamers to stream last-generation PS3 games on their shiny new consoles. As of today, PS Now is officially released in earnest and comes with more ways to play. In beta, gamers could only stream games a la carte, and pricing depended on the title and how long you rented the game for. Today, the service supports a subscription model; PS4 owners can cough up $19.99 for one month or $44.99 for three months of back-catalog gameplay. PS Now currently provdes “instant and unlimited access to a catalog of more than 100 PS3 games” with more on the way. This new model is launching exclusively on the PS4 first, and Sony promises it will reach other PS Now enabled devices in the future. Want a taste? The company’s offering a free seven-day trial to the subscription program; get it here or fire up your console. Click here to scan a list of all the currently available PS3 titles streaming today, and jump after the break for video.

[Via PlayStation Blog] READ MORE PlayStation Now game streaming service now offers subscription program

First look at Sony’s graphic novel based original series ‘Powers’

A new, exciting, buzzy series called Powers is coming soon and here’s your first look. It’s based on a graphic novel series of the same name from writer Brian Michael Bendis and illustrator Mike Van Oeming and it stars District 9‘s Sharlto Copley with an American accent. Powers follows detectives Christian Walker (Copley) and Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) who are assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as Powers. The 10 episode series is written by Charlie Huston and David Slade (Hannibal) is directing the first two.

Now here’s the catch: Sony Pictures Television is out to rival subscription-based companies like Netflix and HBO by making Powers a PlayStation-exclusive. In other words, you’ll have to be a PlayStation Plus subscriber to watch the show on your PS4, PS3, or PS Vita handheld. The pilot will premiere for free on PlayStation Network and across other outlets such as YouTube and Crackle so the public at large can get a taste. If you like what you see then you’ll have to sign up for PlayStation Plus to access more.

The trailer packs quite the punch in terms of action, humor, and vulgarity. Bendis, Oeming, and Sony seem to be pushing the envelope here with PlayStation’s first original series and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd gets drawn to it. Of course PlayStation Nation will gobble it up, but will Powers have the ability to attract new members to Sony’s gaming-turned-entertainment destination? It premieres this winter.

Disney & Netflix team up to produce four Marvel superhero series

If ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t enough for Marvel fans, The Walt Disney Co. and Netflix are collaborating on four live-action series to air on the streaming service beginning in 2015. Each series will star a popular Marvel superhero: the first hero coming to the small screen is Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage; click those links to learn more about each of them. A statement promises these four series will take Netflix subscribers “deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.” Now get this: after the four, thirteen episodes series have aired they will culminate in “Marvel’s “The Defenders” mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.” It’s like what Marvel did in the movies with all those films leading up to The Avenges. This is neat stuff right here.

“This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling. Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty,” said Alan Fine, President of Marvel Entertainment. “This serialized epic expands the narrative possibilities of on-demand television and gives fans the flexibility to immerse themselves how and when they want in what’s sure to be a thrilling and engaging adventure.”

“Marvel’s movies, such as ‘Iron Man’ and Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’, are huge favorites on our service around the world. Like Disney, Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels,” said Netflix COO Ted Sarandos.  “With ‘House of Cards’ and our other original series, we have pioneered new approaches to storytelling and to global distribution and we’re thrilled to be working with Disney and Marvel to take our brand of television to new levels with a creative project of this magnitude.”

As Disney and Netflix begin work on this massive production, stick it here for the latest developments.

[Via Netflix]

Netflix introduces personal profiles for all subscribers

It’s been a long time coming and now the Netflix feature you’ve been waiting for (whether you realized it or not) is finally here: personal profiles.

So you’re a Netflix subscriber and you share your account with family and friends. Say you’re into action films like Thor and your little brother is high on animated comedies like Phineas and Ferb. Netflix will recommend both action movies and animated series aimed at children to you. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but wouldn’t it be better and more efficient if the streaming service was able to compartmentalize the shows you watch and are into versus the other type of programming your younger sibling might be addicted to?

Now, Netflix subscribers can create his or her own profile (no extra fees required) to enable “a uniquely personalized experience based upon their individual watching habits, their personal favorite shows, and favorite genres, all driven by Netflix recommendation technology.” Up to five profiles can be created per account. When you log into your Netflix account, you can select which profile you’d like to jump into and you’ll be presented with recommendations based solely on the content you watch. Brilliant! Netflix posits that you can also set up profiles headlining various genres like “Date night” or “Hanging with the bros.” You even have the option to personalize your profile further with a fun profile picture; and if you choose to link your Facebook account to your Netflix profile your picture will automatically show up as your Facebook profile picture.

Netflix started rolling out this new feature on August 1 and the company says profiles will be accessible globally for all subscribers by August 15. New members will be notified about creating profiles during the sign up process; existing members can add profiles on Netflix.com and on the PS3 Netflix app. According to the company, “profiles can be accessed on most devices that support Netflix, including the Netflix website, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV and other iOS devices, and most smart TVs. Additional devices will be added over the coming months.” So if you don’t see it yet on your device, patience.

After the break, a video demonstration. READ MORE Netflix introduces personal profiles for all subscribers

Netflix introduces a social recommendation engine with Facebook friends

Netflix already does a great job at recommending to its users TV shows, movies, and documentaries based on what you watched in the past and the ratings you give the content you watch. This week the streaming company launched a new way to discover content with a social spin. Subscribers can now link their Facebook account with Netflix to see what their friends are watching. Once the accounts are linked, Netflix users will notice a new “Watched by your friends” row in the streaming site’s main menu as well as a row called “Friends’ Favorites” that features content watched by friends that they have rated with four to five stars. Additionally, friends will be able to see what you watch and rate highly; but if you’ve got a guilty pleasure you don’t want to be shared you can easily click the “Don’t Share This” button in the player. Netflix notes that by default all this social sharing with Facebook friends happens on the Netflix side of things only. If you want your Facebook friends to see what you’re watching on Facebook, you have to dig into Your Account, Social Settings to flip the switch on; there you can also stop sharing altogether if you don’t want to take part in the new social recommendation engine.

Currently the Netflix/Facebook cross-sharing initiative is live in the U.S. Netflix says they will “continue to experiment and improve our social features over the coming months and years.” Click after the break to watch a brief demonstration of this at work across Netflix.com in the browser as well as on the PlayStation 3.

[Via Netflix] READ MORE Netflix introduces a social recommendation engine with Facebook friends

Netflix original program ‘House of Cards’ gets first trailer

Could House of Cards be a game-changer in terms of original content distribution? That’s where we last left off when Netflix announced it would be exclusively streaming a new show from executive producer David Fincher (The Social Network) and Kevin Spacey. The streaming giant released a trailer for the “wicked political drama [that] penetrates the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption in modern D.C.” Kevin Spacey stars as Congressman Francis Underwood, his wife Claire is played by Robin Wright, and together they “stop at nothing to conquer everything.” Kate Mara (American Horror Story) and Corey Stoll co-star.

Production value looks on-par with the best premium cable giants like HBO and Showtime have to offer. Will it attract the same kind of audiences Game of Thrones and Homeland score? We’ll find out shortly after House of Cards premieres on Netflix February 1. Just like the streaming company is doing with new episodes Arrested Development, all thirteen episodes of House of Cards will be made available on day one. No matter its performance, Netflix is committed to two 13-episode seasons of the politically-driven drama.

Xbox 360 dashboard update rolling out today, Xbox Music coming to Microsoft devices this month

Flip on your Xbox 360 today and you might find an update waiting for you to download and install. Microsoft releases updates to its video game console every fall and spring, and we’re well into October so this refresh shouldn’t come as a giant surprise. Nor should most of its features since the most prominent ones were highlighted at this year’s E3. But let’s recap. With nearly every update comes a refreshed dashboard with user interface tweaks; overall the design and layout largely remain the same, but you’ll notice that each hub now houses more tiles. Some of them are tailored to your gaming habits, recent activity, and content ratings, while others are merely advertisements. You can create a personalized folder of “pinned” items; you can pin your favorite games, movies, TV shows, and music to an easy-to-access destination on the dashboard. Bing search has been enhanced to allow for search by genre; for example, you can speak to your Kinect and say “Xbox, Bing sci-fi” and related content will show up. And last but not least there’s the introduction of Internet Explorer; Xbox nabs a web browser. Where’s Xbox SmartGlass? Microsoft is holding off on the second-screen experience until Windows 8 launches; when it does users will be able to control their consoles via tablets and smartphones and interact with content in new ways. (Learn more about SmartGlass here.)

Here’s how the rollout will work, according to Xbox’s Major Nelson. “To ensure a stable release, this will be a gradual deployment across subscribers and regions over the course of the next week. Our initial deployment will reach approximately three million consoles worldwide, with additional users being updated over the course of a couple weeks.” So there you go.

Announced separately from this fall’s dashboard update is the rollout of Xbox Music. With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 on the horizon, Microsoft wants to forget the Zune era and start anew with a cloud-based music service that extends across the desktop/tablet OS, the phone OS, and the home console. Currently Xbox Music is available on Xbox 360. Users will notice a newly branded destination to browse, stream, and download music. In the Music hub there’s an Xbox Music tile that takes you to Microsoft’s collection of 30 million songs. To access the content, users must sign up for an Xbox Music Pass that goes for $9.99/month or $99.90/year. With the Pass, you can stream individual songs and full-length albums, ad-free. A free 30-day trial is offered if you feel so inclined to dip your toe.

When Windows 8 ships later this month on October 26, Xbox Music will be the destination for music consumption from Microsoft there, too. Unlike 360 owners, desktop/tablet users will have free unlimited, ad-supported access to the music database. Purchase an Xbox Music Pass and the ads go bye-bye; and also with the Pass, you’ll be able to save songs for offline listening. A feature called Smart DJ allows you to personalize a radio station based on your favorite artists. Since Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, your entire music collection (including playlists and Smart DJ data) is synced across devices including your desktop/tablet, phone, and console. Start streaming a song on your Xbox, pause it, and continue exactly where you left off on your tablet. You get the idea. Feel the urge to download a song for keeps? Purchase it in the Xbox Music Store, available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Speaking of Microsoft’s phone OS, Xbox Music will begin to rollout to WP8 devices as they ship after the OS’ release later this month. Xbox 360’s rules apply to WP8 devices–an Xbox Music Pass is required to access streaming content. To reiterate, free ad-supported streaming is only available to Win8 users. Microsoft notes that they plan to expand the service to other platforms (think Android, iOS) sometime in the future.

In review: your Xbox is about to be injected with new life, and Microsoft is ready to take on the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Spotify with the launch of their very own cloud-based music streaming service and storefront. If you’ve got an Xbox, you can explore Microsoft’s new offerings today; for the rest of you it will come baked in Windows 8 when it releases in just over a week.

[Via MajorNelson; Microsoft]

Netflix scraps Qwikster, keeps DVD-by-mail and streaming services under same roof

A mere three weeks after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings apologized for his “arrogance” concerning the lack of communication behind the the Netflix price hike, he is reaching out to subscribers yet again to backtrack plans to separate the company’s DVD-by-mail and streaming services under different brands: Qwikster and Netflix, respectively. In a brief blog entry on Monday, Hastings informed everyone:

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs. This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.

This time, in a thinly veiled apology, Hastings shared this in a press release (fortunately he does not star in a YouTube video this time): “Consumers value the simplicity Netflix has always offered and we respect that. There is a difference between moving quickly — which Netflix has done very well for years — and moving too fast, which is what we did in this case.”

Hastings originally came up with the idea for Qwikster because he believed that separating the two services would help the company innovate faster. Though such a move might benefit the company internally, I had concluded that it would receive negative backlash from subscribers. Two separate URLs and accounts would surely confuse people and in the long run it would likely drive users away. Thankfully Hastings took some time to rethink his plans for the company and Qwikster is no more. Simplicity continues to reign under one brand, Netflix…for now.

[Via Netflix]