Following Lillyhammer and House of Cards, Netflix’s next foray into original programming is here. Hemlock Grove, from Eli Roth (Hostel) and based on Brian McGreevy’s 2012 novel of the same name, is a horror mystery series involving murder and monsters. On April 19 all thirteen episodes were made available on Netflix and if you’re a subscriber you can binge-watch ‘em all at anytime. Eye the freakishly awesome poster above, and then get a taste of what’s in store with a red-band trailer, a teaser, and arguably the most “realistic” looking werwolf transformation sequence you have ever seen. (Click here for more…)
The anticipated Netflix original series House of Cards from David Fincher and Kevin Spacey is now available to stream on Netflix. “This wicked political drama starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara slithers beneath the curtain and through the back halls of greed, sex, love and corruption in modern Washington D.C.,” reads a press release. All 13 episodes (the first two directed by Fincher) are available to stream today.
In a surprise, bold move Netflix is offering up the first episode free for anyone to watch. ”The creative team in front of and behind the camera have delivered a riveting 13-chapter narrative that we’re proud to present to Netflix members today,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. “By offering the first episode for free, including to non-members, we are opening up this fascinating world for everyone to see and are confident they’ll want more.” An intriguing move by the company; get hooked after watching the first episode and you’re only option is to become a paid subscriber to see the rest. One wonders if they’ll do the same when Arrested Development comes around this spring?
Watch the first episode of House of Cards at Netflix.
On Tuesday Microsoft launched three new video apps on Xbox 360: HBO GO, Comcast Xfinity TV, and MLB.tv. All three apps require that you be a subscriber to each of their respective services, obviously. With HBO GO, Xbox owners can now access every episode of every season of HBO’s most popular programming like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos. If you’re a Comcast subscriber, you can now view on-demand content via your console. And MLB.tv gives sports fans yet another way to stream live every out-of-market regular season game in HD with features like split-screen, a mini guide, and a personalized My Teams page. These apps come baked with Kinect integration, meaning you can put the controller down and use gestures and your voice to control the menus and playback. If you’ve got an Xbox 360, turn it on and download these video apps for free today. Game of Thrones returns to HBO for a second season tomorrow night, so this just might be the best way to catch up quick.
In related news, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi told the LA Times that Xbox owners are spending more time with the “video game” console to watch video and listen to music than play games. “What we’re seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment,” he said. With Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, Verizon FIOS and now HBO GO, Xfinity TV, and MLB.tv, the term “video game console” is starting to get blurry as “entertainment hub” starts to come into view, at least in regards to Microsoft’s Xbox brand.
Jump after the break to watch the new video apps in action.
On Wednesday Google stripped the “b” word from Music Beta by Google and transitioned Google Music into a one-stop shop for uploading, purchasing, and sharing music. Like Music Beta, Google Music will allow users to upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud for free. The music.google.com portal still exists and looks nearly identical to its beta version. Users can upload their music to the cloud by clicking the “Upload Music” link in the top right corner; this will prompt you to open the Music Manager software, just like before. What’s new, however, is the link “Shop.” That’s right, Google is ready to go head-to-head with Apple and Amazon by selling songs directly to users. The Android Market has a new section called Music living among Apps, Books, and Movies. At this new Music store users can browse, preview, and purchase individual tracks and albums. Google has worked out deals with three of the four major labels–Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI–and many independent labels to offer over 13 million tracks. Google has yet to partner with Warner Music Group, and the absence of their inclusion stings a bit. To ease the pain, they are offering exclusive content from some of the most popular artists like Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, and Dave Matthews Band. Free tracks and live concert albums are currently in the mix from a handful of artists. When you download music from the Android Market, the tracks automatically fly into the cloud and populate your Google Music library on your computer and mobile devices. If you have an Android device running 2.2 or higher the Music section of the Market is rolling out to you soon and you’ll be able to download tracks on the go. The Google Music app has already received an update and can be downloaded at the Market today. After downloading music from the store, Google lets you share your purchase with your Circles on Google+. When your friends see a track or album shared on their stream, they have the option to listen to your music once in its entirety! Next there’s the Google Music Artist Hub. The kind folks at Google are giving independent artists a means to upload their music to the Android Market. If you have the rights to distribute music, Google has built a simple interface to create your own artist page, upload original tracks, set prices, and sell content directly to customers. Indie artists keep 70 percent of the profits and Google gets the remaining 30. If this tickles your fancy, visit the Artist Hub to get started. Last, the G-Men have released a Google Music app for Google TV. It’ll let you can access your music library right on the TV.
And just like that, Google has set itself up to become a formidable contender in the music space. Video after the break.
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.
On Sunday Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted an apologetic blog entry on the official Netflix Blog and uploaded a similarly themed video to the company’s YouTube channel to announced some big changes. First and foremost, in the coming weeks Netflix will be split into two separate entities: Netflix is being kept for streaming, and the new brand Qwikster will incorporate the DVD-by-mail service. Additionally, subscribers will be able to rent video games (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii) from Qwikster; this will be available as an upgrade option at an additional charge, just like how the Blu-ray upgrade is handled.
So why is all this change happening? Hastings blames his own “arrogance” on it all. He believes that his lack of communication with customers before, during, and after the recent price hike is to blame for the negative backlash the company has witnessed from subscriber outrage, cancellations, and the plummeting of their stock on Wall Street. According to Hastings, the decision had to be made: “So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”
Though the decision to break up Netflix into two pieces might make sense for the company, there really aren’t any benefits for the customer that I can think of. Netflix and Qwikster will each have their own domains and they will not communicate with one another. This means that queues and ratings will not carry over from one service to the other. That’s a major bummer. Every time you want to change billing information or your password, these things will have to been done twice since the two services are totally separate. All of these extra steps on the consumer end of things is going to make matters worse (read: not better) for subscribers. I get that Hastings thinks that by separating streaming and DVD-by-mail will help the company innovate faster, but in the long-run I cannot see this shift in branding working at all. And isn’t that name just plain stupid…Qwikster, ugh. Reminds us of failed Internet ventures like Friendster and Napster. Is the introduction of Qwikster a step in the wrong direction for Netflix? Time will tell, sooner rather than later I bet. It’s funny. Hastings admits that “DVD by mail may not last forever but we want it to last as long as possible.” This move to disintegrate DVD and streaming services, I think, will speed up that process leading to the demise of physical rentals.
Other tidbits to come out of the announcement… Hastings claims, “There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). Members who subscribe to both services will have two entries on their credit card statements, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix.” …Andy Rendich, the man in charge of DVD-by-mail for the last four years (he’s been with the company for twelve years), has been appointed CEO of Qwikster. …The DVDs will continue to ship in “ that distinctive red” envelope but branded with the Qwikster logo. …Hastings hints that, “The additional streaming content we have coming in the next few months is substantial.” (Good news there!) Watch Hastings’ video titled “An explanation and some reflections” after the break.
Hey you Google Music Beta-er. Got an iPhone and feeling left out? Be jealous of your Android-wielding friends no more! Google has brought its music locker service (still in beta, still requires an invite) to iOS devices in web app form. Sure it’s not a full-fledged app that Android users have been privy to for months now, but it gets the job done. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch simply point Safari to music.google.com you’ll arrive at the new portal that’ll grant you access to your Music Beta song library on-the-go. Use your finger to swipe left and right and scrub through categories like Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, and Genres. Cheers!
Netflix is officially available on Nintendo latest handheld device, the 3DS. As long as you are signed up with streaming plan (starting at $7.99/month) you can stream content from Netflix directly to the 3D-capable handheld. I know what you’re pondering: does any of the Netflix content take advantage of the 3D capability? At the moment, no. But the press release (pasted after the break) is promising. It hints, “Users will soon have access to an additional library of select movies that can be viewed in 3D without the need for special glasses.” Unfortunately I do not think this future update involves Netflix, however. Back in March Ninty mentioned that a short-form video service was on the way; it is described as a 3D video channel that will act as a gateway to 3D produced content like movie trailers, music videos, and comedy shorts. Perhaps that is what the PR is referring to. But for now, if you’ve got a 3DS go ahead and enjoy Netflix content in classic 2D. The app is now available to download for free in the Nintendo eShop.
Yesterday and today Google hosted its renowned developer’s conference dubbed Google I/O 2011. Literally thousands of developers flocked to San Fransisco’s Moscone Center to find out what Google’s been cooking up on their end. This year’s event proved to be leaps and bounds more exciting than last year’s conference. Google introduced their new cloud-based music service called Music Beta; they unveiled Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Android that promises to bridge the gap between Gingerbread and Honeycomb; Android is going into the home automation business with Google’s impressive initiative Android@Home; Chrome OS is finally ready for the big leagues–Samsung and Acer are prepping Chromebooks for mass consumption; and Angry Birds has landed in the browser!
So much to discuss–it’s all a hop, skip and a jump after the break. (Click here for more…)
HBO first unveiled the HBO Go service in February 2010, promising subscribers access to their favorite premium TV shows and movies inside their browser. It never really caught on. Today HBO revealed its plan to bring the on-demand service to the mobile front, and I’ve got a feeling this will get the motors revving. Come May 2, HBO subscribers will have instant and unlimited access to every episode of every season available through HBO on their mobile devices. Featured content includes “HBO original series, blockbuster hits, sports, specials and more.” The company has specified it’ll be coming to iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad as well as Android-powered ones. The service is free for (paying) HBO subscribers and it’ll work over WiFi and 3G. The interface mimics the one they’ve been using inside the browser and it’s pretty slick; check it out in the video above.
OnLive, the gaming on-demand cloud-based service, scrapped the idea of implementing a required monthly fee back in October, but now they’re bringing it back and this time it’s optional. OnLive gamers will have three options to play games. (1) Purchase a game in full to keep. (2) With PlayPass gamers can buy a 3-day or 5-day rental pass to stream a full game. (3) With PlayPack (and here’s the new addition) gamers can pay $9.99/month to gain access to an entire catalog of games. Think of it as Netflix but for games; you pay one flat-rate per month and gain access to a bunch of full streaming games. Nice deal, huh?
The company says the new flat-rate plan will comprise more than 40 “high-quality” games when it officially launches January 15, 2011. Some of these games include Prince of Persia, Unreal Tournament 3, and LEGO Batman. They promise this small batch of initial games will “expand up to and beyond” the launch date. Now check this: if you purchase the OnLive Game System (which is a $99 controller and MicroConsole bundle) you will receive free access to the PlayPack library of games until the January launch. After this “introductory beta period” is over, you’ll have to pay the monthly subscription price if you don’t want to part with it.
Happy (video games) streaming. Full PR after the break.
But not so fast! There are two stipulations that must be discussed. First, SlingPlayer for iPad is only compatible with Sling SOLO and Sling PRO-HD boxes; all the rest are left in the dust, unfortunately. According to Engadget Sling will soon offer a $50 voucher for those who are itching to upgrade to a newer box. What’s interesting is that SlingPlayer for iPhone has a wider compatibility range; it works with the aforementioned boxes and the SlingBox PRO. And that brings me to point number two and more bad news. If you already purchased the $29.99 app for iPhone, you’ll have to shell out another thirty bucks to use the iPad version of the same app. Well, it’s not exactly the same app since the iPad version is tailored for a larger screen, but still. Sling assures that users can use the iPhone app to stream content on the iPad in a “Compatibility Mode”, but these users will not experience the “higher quality resolutions” provided in the iPad version. If I may quote Jigsaw from Saw, the choice is yours. Full PR after the break.
Here’s an update for you from Camp Netflix. A new $7.99/month plan gives subscribers the option to instantly stream TV shows and movies from their computer (or any Netflix-compatible device), and nothing else. If you’re the type of couch potato that rarely orders new DVDs by mail on a regular basis, this is the plan for you. If you prefer to stick with your current plan which includes unlimited instant streaming and DVD shipments there’s a price hike you should become aware about. The two most popular unlimited plans–the 1 DVD out at a time and 2 DVDs out at a time–are a dollar more than before, so prepare to cough up that extra Washington. Browse the chart embedded above to learn about the rest of the price increases. With Netflix instant streaming and Hulu Plus both priced at a low $7.99/month, you can safely say it’s on.
Hulu Plus has already been exhaustively detailed, so let’s get right to the good stuff. For the last four months Hulu has been testing the waters with the $9.99/month subscription based service in a preview period. Today the streaming service finally officially launched Hulu Plus to the masses. And at the same time they lowered the monthly fee to $7.99. Score! They say, “Any users who subscribed during the preview period will also receive a credit for the difference from the $9.99 preview price to be applied automatically to their next billing cycle.” So that’s been sorted out nicely. In tandem with the launch and price drop, Hulu Plus will now be accessible on Roku boxes. Check out the official PR after the break to see a list of all other Hulu Plus supported devices. All new subscribers to Hulu Plus receive a 1-week free trial–get started here.
Sony is really doing a splendid job at racking up the movies selection for its PlayStation 3 users. After making deals to bring television and movie content from Netflix and Hulu Plus, come November 23 PS3 owners will have access to VUDU’s on-demand movie service which includes more than 4,000 HD movies for all major Hollywood studios, including new releases available the same day they are released to DVD. VUDU supports 1080p HD and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound streaming, which is a big plus. VUDU plans to release a UI revision in mid-December, and it will bring a more streamlined user experience, intuitive structure, and support for next-generation motion-based input devices including the PlayStation Move controller. VUDU offers $2 for a two night rentals and new customers will receive a $5.99 credit; that’ll get you a ticket for one free HD streaming movie. Sony and VUDU official PR sits after the break. Catch a peek of VUDU on PS3 in the gallery below.
Last night the developers at Boxee hosted a launch party in NYC to celebrate the debut of the Boxee Box by D-Link. We already know everything there is to know about the Internet streaming box, so I’ll jump right into the juicy new details shared at the launch party. First, Netflix and Hulu Plus are coming to the Boxee Box; the former is expected to arrive before the end of the year, and there’s no release window for the latter though Boxee promises they’re working on it. They’re also working on an updated version of the 2-sided Boxee remote (one side control buttons, the other a QWERTY keyboard for search) that will include a dedicated Netflix button. VUDU, TED, VEVO, and VICE videos will be accessible to browse and stream on the Box, too. There’s also been some changes to the user interface since it was last previewed in the beta. The home screen is a lot more streamlined, making it easier to find your content and view featured content. A new drop down menu provides quick links to Home, Shows, Movies, Apps, Files, and a search bar. Music and photos have been pushed into the Files category until the Boxee team can find time to give it some more “TLC.”
And that about does it. Boxee Box can be yours today for a cool $199.99.
Hulu Plus preview opens up to everyone, now available on 2010 Sony BRAVIA TVs, coming next week to all PS3 users
Hulu is ready to take its premium subscription service to the next level by opening it up to more people. As of today you no longer need an invitation to subscribe to Hulu Plus; if you’re interested, go ahead and register for the service right now. Is your living room packed with Sony products? If so this next bit of news should crack a smile. Hulu Plus is now available to access on 2010 BRAVIA HDTVs and BRAVIA Internet Video Link via the BRAVIA Internet Video platform. It will “soon” be available on Blu-ray players, Blu-ray Home Theater Systems, Network Media Player, and Sony’s DASH. PS3 owners, listen here: Hulu Plus will open for all of you sometime next week. (Update (11/10): It’s available today.) Since July only those PS3 users who subscribed to PlayStation Plus (a $50/year service) could use Hulu Plus, but now Hulu is removing that road block and allowing all PS3 users with a (free) PSN account to sign up for their service. PS3 will remain the exclusive video games console with Hulu Plus access through the remainder of the year; it’s expected to land on Xbox 360 and Wii sometime in 2011. PR messages from Sony and Hulu sit after the break.
Conan O’Brien testing the Internet waters in pre-TBS premiere with ‘Show Zero’ [Update: watch it here!]
Conan doesn’t premiere on TBS for another week (we’re only one week away, woohoo!), but that won’t stop the former Late Night host from interacting with his fans. Tonight (11/1) Conan will be streaming live “Show Zero”, a short webisode that should give fans a taste of what to expect when his TBS debuts for real. Tonight’s show will feature Conan along with sidekick Andy Richter and The Show Zero House Band. Brought to you by–you guessed it–Coke Zero. It all goes down at 11PM in “TRIPLE-SIMULCAST action”; the stream can be accessed at TeamCoco (which has received a handsome relaunch design and new logo), YouTube, and Facebook. Happy streaming, and welcome back Coco!
Update: Wow, that lasted a whole 5 minutes. Conan wasn’t lying when he said this would be “the fastest talk show ever.” Conan introduced viewers to his offices, blasted through one monologue joke, and invited guests Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and Steel Train (who only played the first chord off their new self-titled album) to make extremely brief cameos. The house band consisted only of Jerry Vivino on the flute. And Andy Richter was there to promote Diet Coke (not Coke Zero, strangely). Anyway, watch the mini-mayhem unfold after the break. (Click here for more…)
Check out this brief video demonstration of SlingPlayer running on Windows Phone 7. Full access to your set-top box content and controls is coming to Microsoft’s spankin’ new OS “soon.”
The Boxee Box is coming! The Boxee Box is coming! It’s been a long time coming, but the Internet streaming box built by D-Link is almost here. The Box will start shipping on November 10 to those customers who pre-ordered it through Amazon in the U.S. or Best Buy and Future Shop in Canada. Pre-orders taken in Australia/New Zealand and other countries across Europe will ship out ”shortly thereafter.” It will then become available for general public consumption November 17, and that’s if you’ve got the guts to drop a cool $299 for it. The Boxee Box will run the latest Boxee 1.0 software, and this will roll out for PC, Mac, and Linux users at a “later” date. Happy streaming! Full PR after the break.