Tax affects Amazon Prime, Hulu, other services as well
Lawsuits have been launched in Chicago to combat the area's new "cloud tax," which hits users of Apple Music, Netflix, Hulu Plus, XBox Live, and other streaming services. The claim by the citizens alleges that not only does the tax violate the US Internet Tax Freedom Act, which is intended to prevent Internet-only taxes, but the city comptroller's decision implements a new tax by fiat, which otherwise would have required a wider city official vote, as well as public debate.
Netflix plans early 2016 launches in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea
Netflix has revealed it is bringing its video streaming service to more countries in Asia in early 2016, following its launch in Japan last month. The service will be surfacing in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea in the future, though Netflix has not offered a specific date for each country, but they will get a curated selection of popular TV shows and movies in HD and Ultra HD when it does go live.
Hulu offers commercial-free subscription for $12 per month
Hulu has implemented it's rumored advertising-free subscription option to its streaming service. Priced at $12 per month, the new tier offers the same content as its standard $8 subscription but users will be able to watch shows without interruptions from commercials during the show itself, though TechCrunch notes pre-roll advertising for some shows will continue due to licensing agreements. The service advises that the existing $8 service will continue to show "fewer commercials than scheduled television."
Epix licensing deal lapses as Netflix plans bigger original content push
Subscribers of Netflix in the United States will be seeing considerably fewer movies in the streaming service's catalog, as it has decided not to renew a five-year agreement with Epix. A number of major titles will be available until they are removed at the end of September, including Hunger Games: Catching Fire, World War Z, and Transformers: Age of Extinction, as Netflix works to expanding its roster with more exclusive content.
Streaming services covering users in Chicago required to pay extra tax
Users of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and other streaming services in Chicago can expect to pay a higher subscription rate in the future, after the city changed laws. The "cloud tax" is effectively an extension of existing laws to add a nine-percent tax on streaming services and some other online platforms, which in at least one case will see the end price of services paid for by consumers in the city go up in order to compensate for the extra cost of business.
Amazon Prime Instant Video starts streaming HDR content
Viewers of Amazon's Prime Instant Video in the United States can now watch some of the service's catalog in a high dynamic range (HDR) mode. The first shows in HDR, Mozart in the Jungle and the pilot of Red Oaks, can be watched on a number of Samsung Ultra HD televisions through the smart TV app, with more programs using HDR and ways to access them said to be on the way.
Marriott hotel starts rollout of custom Netflix app to hotel rooms
Guests of the Marriott hotel chain in the United States will soon be able to use their home Netflix accounts on the Internet-connected television in their rooms. Following tests earlier this year, the hotel has adapted the Netflix app so that users only have to log in once, with their account details wiped from the app at checkout. Six hotels will get the app initially, expanding to 100 properties by the end of this year, and to most Marriott locations before the end of next year.
Amazon adds Audible audio support to Echo speaker
Amazon has updated its Echo network-connected speaker to work with Audible. Via voice prompts using the Alexa assistant or the Amazon Echo App, the speaker can start reading out Audible audiobooks to the user, with vocal commands allowing the book to be requested by title, paused, resumed, and to go forward or back 30 seconds. It also works with Whispersync for Voice, allowing listeners to pick up an audiobook from where they left off on another device.
Tests showing trailers before Netflix shows prompts advertising denial
Netflix will not be bringing third-party advertising to its video-streaming service, the company has advised. Recent reports suggested that Netflix was testing putting in trailers for Netflix programming before and after shows being watched on the service, though the company has since spoken out denying it is considering bringing any revenue-generating advertising anytime soon, and it is just promoting its self-generated shows.
Image on Google Maps depicts Android mascot urinating on Apple
Users of Google Maps may find an odd image if they search Pakistan. Team Android reports someone has inserted an image of the Android mascot urinating on the Apple Logo. While it is unlikely to be an addition by a Google employee, it is possible that the image was added as part of Map Maker, a system that allows users to submit edits to the map for inclusion into the main Google Maps service, with the insulting image possibly overlooked during moderation.
Over 40M Netflix subscribers in United States, $1.57B total revenue
Netflix has crossed the 60 million members barrier, the streaming service revealed in its latest quarterly results. Globally, it now has 62.27 million members in total, 59.62 million of which are paid, and reflects a quarterly increase of 4.88 million users. In the United States, total members reached 41.4 million, with paid subscribers nudging past another milestone, with 40.32 million subscribers.
Audio Description tracks added to Netflix-produced shows
Netflix is making some of its content more accessible to the visually impaired, by adding an alternate "Audio Description" track to shows. Starting with the recently-released Daredevil today and reaching other Netflix-produced shows in the coming weeks, the extra option provides a narration track that describes scenes and important character attributes, such as costumes, facial expressions, and actions.
Google Play Music expands track storage to 50,000 songs
Google Play Music has received an upgrade to its music storage component, allowing customers to keep more songs on its servers for streaming to computers and mobile devices. The music locker has increased its upper limit of 20,000 tracks to 50,000, double that of the paid iTunes Match service. Despite vastly increasing its storage capacity, the digital locker is still a completely free service.
Video streaming service enters Cuba after US relaxes trade restrictions
Netflix is continuing its current strategy of fast expansion into new countries, by unexpectedly launching in Cuba. The video streaming service is being made available to residents of the country for the first time, following the recent easing of trade restrictions that have been imposed on Cuba by the United States since 1961, though potential users still have some obstacles in the way between them and watching House of Cards.
News from the gaming industry for the week of February 1
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN compile some notable news items from the world of gaming in a bumper post. In this week's edition of Weekly Game Replay, Nintendo's YouTube policy woes, a TV show based on Zelda, and some notable offline game items are overshadowed by the loss of one of the games industry's major news sources.
CRTC rules data caps can't be used to give an unfair advantage to carriers' own services
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced a decision on Thursday, acting on a complaint regarding data caps and preferred traffic. Wireless carriers Bell Mobility and Videotron both have their own subscription mobile television services, neither of which count towards the data caps written into subscribers' contracts, while competitor's services -- such as Netflix -- do, providing the carriers with incentive to sell larger data plans or favor their own offerings. With today's ruling, that practice must end.
Forecast for Q1 2015 places Netflix subscribers at over 61M
Netflix has grown its total audience by 4.33 million subscribers globally, the streaming service revealed in its financial results. The faster increase in viewers compared to the last quarter is reflected in additional subscribers for both US and international markets, 1.9 million and 2.43 million respectively, with the total Netflix audience hitting 57.4 million members.
Drone used to transport drugs across US-Mexico border crashes
A drone used to smuggle drugs between the United States and Mexico has crashed. The drone, a six-propeller craft, was found in a supermarket parking lot near the San Ysidro crossing carrying over six pounds of methamphetamine, according to the Associated Press. While Tijuana police spokesman Jorge Morrua did not say whether they had suspects for the drug trafficking attempt, he did advise that drones have been used for transporting drugs before, along with light aircraft and catapults.
Test allows Marriott guests to use own Netflix accounts during stay
Travelers may be able to log into their own Netflix accounts from a hotel's television in the future, if tests performed by Marriott are successful. The hotel chain is trying out a new in-room entertainment service which would allow guests to view streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, as well as the usual on-demand TV services.
TalkTalk adds Netflix app to YouView set-top box
Netflix is being included on the YouView set-top box in the United Kingdom for the first time, giving viewers another way to watch shows from the streaming service. The TalkTalk-owned device will start rolling out to pre-registered customers initially, with Digital Spy reporting that the rollout is expected to continue to the end of the month, covering all 1.2 million TalkTalk TV homes.
Netflix, Haier, Insignia on board as partners; releases across the year
Entertainment streaming platform provider Roku made a number of announcements today at CES regarding Roku televisions and expanded HD content streaming. Roku will be partnering with television manufacturers Haier and Insignia to produce new HDTV models of Roku televisions, while NetFlix works on delivering 4K compatible content through Roku's platforms, and a previous Roku TV maker will focus on debuting a Roku 4K Ultra HD TV for the new year.
Google adds Colbert Report set to Street View using Business View
Google has recreated the set of The Colbert Report in Street View, in honor of the show's last episode. The virtual tour of the studio, including around the main desk and interview area, was created by Business View, a service which uses a Google-certified photographer or agency to take photographs at a location before generating the explorable 360-degree images.
Offline caching a short term fix, claims Netflix executive
Netflix will not be allowing its users to cache television shows and movies from the streaming service for later playback, an executive has advised. In an interview, Director of Corporate Communications and Technology Cliff Edwards denied Netflix would offer offline storage of content, categorically stating "It's never going to happen."
Netflix tests original show marketing with reminder Twitter messages
Netflix is testing a new way to remind subscribers to watch their original shows. A custom card for upcoming show Marco Polo is being used on Twitter to promote the show, complete with a "Tweet Me a Reminder" button. According to The Next Web, the @MarcoPoloMP Twitter account will be sending a message to anyone who opts in to the service at 12:01AM Pacific Time on December 12th, with participants also receiving a custom video message from the cast.
Average time spent watching TV in US lower, online viewing up 50 percent
The viewing of television shows in the United States via broadcasting has dropped in the face of streaming services gaining in popularity, according to Nielsen. The ratings company's third-quarter report claims the average American watches more than 141 hours of live television per month, or more than four hours a day, but the figure is a year-on-year four percent drop from last year's 147 average hours per month.
Pai questions development of Open Connect, believes cache devices could lock others out
A commissioner from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is asking Netflix to answer allegations that it is touting net neutrality in one hand, while constructing Internet "fast lanes" with another, by December 16. Commissioner Ajit Pai issued a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, asking that the company reply to allegations that its development of Open Connect and decision to forego membership in the Streaming Video Alliance is actually helping tip the scales in its favor.
Billboard introducing streaming plays, digital sales into album chart
The way the popularity of content is measured may be seeing some changes in the coming weeks, both for audio and video. Billboard will start to include streaming and digital track sales as part of the Billboard 200 albums chart, while Nielsen is said to be preparing to track content watched through streaming services starting from next month.
Netflix launching video streaming service in Australia, New Zealand from March
Netflix is planning to expand its service to Australia and New Zealand from early next year. Starting from March 2015, the streaming video service will be available in the two countries, complete with 4K video playback with compatible devices, though The Next Web notes the inclusion of "a curated selection" in the announcement points to a more limited TV show and movie collection at launch than in other territories.
'Limited time promotion' sees Verizon, Netflix coexisting
Surprisingly given the public animosity between the two companies, Verizon has begun offering a year of video streaming service Netflix to some of its new customers. Customers who sign up for FiOS Internet and television bundles in the immediate vicinity of New York City are being offered the deal. Packages including a year of Netflix start at $80 a month and include a free year of Netflix.
Support comes from Chrome 37, $12 a month plan required for new 4K video subscribers
Linux users of the Ubuntu variety can now watch Netflix without hacks or workarounds. The ability to stream Netflix comes with the latest build of the Chrome browser for the operating system, for up-to-date Ubuntu users. Netflix also confirmed that subscription fees for users wanting to stream 4K Ultra HD video are increasing.
Logitech releases wireless mouse with asymmetrical, curved form
Logitech has introduced a new wireless mouse, designed with a curved shape for a natural hand position. The M320 wireless mouse features an asymmetrical form, with a wide wheel for improved scrolling and an updated optical sensor for precise responsiveness. Though intended for wireless use, its Nano receiver allows users to elect using a cord; when used wirelessly, the mouse automatically enters a sleep mode when not in use to improve the duration of its battery charge. Available in blue, red, black and gray color options, the M320 wireless mouse is priced at $30.
Provider calls Dish Network, Discovery Communications, and Netflix out in FCC response
Comcast believes that a number of companies are trying to bully the cable and Internet provider in order to get favorable terms -- in exchange for their non-opposition of the merger with Time Warner Cable. In a response to the comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the proposed merger, Comcast claims that companies are engaging in a sort of blackmail to further their own business interests at the cost of the deal.
Pebble Firmware version 2.5 adds iOS 8 support, emoji
A firmware update for the Pebble smartwatch range adds iOS 8 support to the device, among other new additions. Version 2.5 of the firmware also activates its compass features using its magnetometer, allowing developers access to the component, as well as reintroducing the Domo watch face and adding the ability to display emoji within notifications and messages.
Includes Apple TV, Chromecast
Netflix has expanded into Germany, according to an announcement by the streaming video service. Plans start at €8 per month ($10.37 US) for basic SD streaming. Two simultaneous devices plus HD quality is €9 ($11.66), while four simultaneous devices with Ultra HD (when available) is €12 ($15.55). As elsewhere, each account can have up to four profiles, which can be age-restricted if need be.
Netflix announces availability of Post-Play feature for Google Chromecast
TV and movie streaming platform Netflix has announced that its Post-Play feature is now available for use with Google Chromecast devices. Netflix "casted" to Chromecast is now capable of playing the next episode in a TV series automatically after the end of an episode. Customers using Android or iOS devices sending content to a Chromecast dongle can utilize this function as they already have been able to when viewing Netflix on their device alone. PC support is expected to be made available in the future.
256 page FCC filing lays out case for rejection of merger
Video streamer Netflix has formally objected to the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger, with a complaint filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this week. The streamer believes that the merger hampers consumer access to data, and "would set up an ecosystem that calls into question what we have to date taken for granted: that a consumer who pays for connectivity to the Internet will be able to get the content she requests."
Deal marks fourth major deal with Internet service providers
Netflix has signed a new peering deal, this time with Time Warner Cable. The deal now gives the video streamer interconnection deals with Internet service providers that cover about 68 percent of all the broadband customers in the US. Notably, the 32 percent it doesn't have deals with are smaller providers - largely carriers that have pro-net neutrality views, and haven't been found to limit or slow down Netflix traffic for users.
Agency asks for interconnection agreements for understanding, regulation depends on discovery
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking into six additional Internet service providers (ISP) and content providers over interconnecting and peering agreements, according to reports. An official spoke to Ars Technica after it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information on the Netflix peering deals with Verizon and Comcast. The news comes after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in June that the agency would be investigating such agreements.
Agreement dates back to May, but wasn't planned to be announced to the public
In the quest to give its users a better streaming experience, Netflix has reached an agreement with AT&T to gain a direct network connection. The two companies revealed that they entered into a peering deal after news broke from anonymous sources that the movie service reached another streaming arrangement. Previously, Netflix had worked out similar deals with Verizon and Comcast.
Company planning mass European expansion in September
Netflix is the latest company to release its quarterly financial results. Touting expansion to 50 million subscribers in the US, the company reports $1.15 billion in revenue from streaming, adding 1.7 million subscribers in a quarter. Profit came in at $212 million, nearly triple that of the second quarter of 2013.
Netflix updates Apple TV channel, adds 'Post-Play' feature
Television and movie streaming service Netflix is updating its integrated app for Apple TV. Its popular web and iPad feature "Post-Play" has been brought to the Apple TV, allowing users a brief countdown once a show's credits begin rolling, followed by automatic playing of the next episode in a series - unless otherwise interrupted. AppleInsider has speculated that though the Post-Play feature was found on multiple Apple TV units during testing, it is likely that the update has yet to be fully released to all customers.
Google Now reminders can be created via Google Search
Google is now allowing for the creation of reminders in Google Search. Similar to the vocal method using Google Voice Search and Google Now on smartphones, Google Operating System reports users can set a reminder by typing "Add reminder" or "Create Reminder" in the search box. A reminder card with extra settings will then appear, with a "Remind me on Google Now" link finalizing the notification.
Verizon congestion fix claimed to be cheap, simple, completed in five minutes
The ongoing feud between Netflix and Verizon has stepped up, with a transit provider weighing in over Verizon's connection congestion claims. Level 3 claims the high utilization of the connection between Verizon and itself is Verizon's fault, as the Internet service provider is actively refusing to upgrade its connections at the point of the apparent congestion.
Claims majority of Verizon network is stable, Netflix connections as weak point
The battle between Verizon and Netflix over connectivity continues, with Verizon completely refusing to accept any of the blame for slow streams. The latest feud installment involves a Verizon blog post claiming its network operations team found no congestion on the Verizon network in a recent review, laying the blame squarely at Netflix's connection decisions instead of with itself.
Steaming service ending API to focus on other efforts, eight applications partner directly
Netflix announced last week that it would be ending its public API program in an effort to better focus their efforts internally. The company stated that any requests through the public API after November 14 will be unable to access any content. Netflix announced a year ago that it would no longer be issuing new API keys to developers, or accept new affiliates.
Peering deals seem to have little lasting effect on Netflix user speeds
After a bevy of consumer complaints were filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against Verizon and Comcast regarding Netflix "throttling," the regulatory agency has begun looking into the problem. The FCC demanded, and has received, the terms of peering deals that Netflix made with both Internet giants, and will examine the issue to see if there is anything that can be done on behalf of consumers.
General counsel for Netflix sets congestion blame squarely with Verizon
The war of words between Netflix and Verizon over Internet service provider (ISP) performance issues is continuing, a new leaked letter reveals. A response from Netflix General Counsel David Hyman to his counterpart at Verizon firmly pins the connection blame on the ISP, after receiving a cease and desist letter over Netflix's congestion warning messages.
Verizon drops places in latest Netflix speed rankings
Netflix will soon stop its customized error message warning of issues with specific Internet service providers (ISP), the video streaming company has advised. At the same time as releasing ISP speed results for May, Netflix states it will stop the customized notifications when its "small scale test" concludes on June 16th, before deciding whether or not it will extend the practice to other markets and ISPs.
NVIDIA's Tegra Note 7 tablet OTA update includes streaming of Netflix in up to 1080p
Nvidia's Tegra Note 7 tablet has received an OTA update, allowing for streaming of Netflix HD content up to 1080p on the device. The Tegra Note 7 tablet features a seven-inch HD display, with enough battery capacity for up to 10 hours of video streaming. The tablet is one of the first Android devices available that can stream Netflix in high-definition. Available with a 16GB storage capacity, the Tegra Note 7 is priced at $200.
Provider wants a list of users sent claim, in addition to halting further messages
After Verizon's statement regarding congestion accusations levied by Netflix, the provider has apparently taken a more serious approach to the issue. A report from Reuters indicates that Verizon has sent Netflix a cease-and-desist letter, asking that the company put an end the messages posted on users' screens. As part of the notice, Verizon has also asked for a list of customers on Verizon's network the notices were sent to.