Roku, makers of the popular Netflix streaming set-top box, has refreshed its lineup with a pair of new models, bringing the total number of set-top boxes to three.
On the lower end, Roku said it's "introducing a breakthrough price point" with its Roku SD player. Priced at $79, or $20 less than the company's original set-top box, the Roku SD unit connects to TVs using standard composite video and audio cables, but also includes both integrated WiFi (802.11 b/g) and an Ethernet port.
For HD buffs, the new HD-XR player takes things a step further by incorporating 802.11n dual-band.
"The Roku HD-XR is one of the first Netflix-streaming devices to embed next generation 802.11n dual-band wireless connectivity, making it easier and more reliable than ever to start enjoying movies, TV shows, sports, and the best online content available, all on the living room TV," said Anthony Wood, founder and CEO of Roku.
Roku says the HD-XR player not only works with legacy routers, but can actually boost the WiFi range inside the house.
PS3 users will have to insert the disc into their console each time they wish to enjoy streaming content from Netflix's library. But this disc-popping ritual should only last until the two companies enable direct access to the service. "As a leading game console and Blu-ray disc player, bringing Netflix to the PS3 system is a real win for both Netflix members and PS3 system owners,"said Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings.
What do pacifistic mailmen do when they “go postal”? Well, if we limit our sample group to a single mail handler from Philadelphia, then you turn to a life of crime by stealing the easily identifiable video games shipped by online rental service GameFly. The disks come in an easy to spot bright orange package, and Reginald Johnson stole every envelope that he could get his hands on, a tally which would add up to more than 2,200 disks over a six month period.After jacking the disks, he would turn around and sell them to a local Gamestop for a tidy profit.
After being confronted by Police, Johnson led local authorities on a high-speed chase which ended with him crashing his SUV, and being tracked down on foot. When he was finally apprehended, police found 81 stolen games in a duffel bag he was carrying with him. For his crimes, Johnson is likely to receive 12 to 18 months of jail time, and will likely be in search of a new career upon release.
2,200 video games would fetch a tidy sum, but he is still pretty far from beating the record for disks stolen. That honor falls to Myles Weathers, a mail handler from Springfield Massachusetts who managed to swipe over 3,000 DVDs before he was caught.
Did these guys actually think they could get away with this?
Perhaps Myles Weathers' biggest mistake was not calling it quits after stealing 2,000 Netflix DVDs instead of 3,012. Or maybe he should have been more careful about removing the DVDs from Netflix mailers in front of surveillance cameras. Then again, the whole idea is dumb to begin with, and we imagine the 49-year-old former postal worker is kicking himself pretty hard right about now.
Weathers, who worked at a mail processing and distribution center in Springfield, Massachusetts, was picked up by authorities last year after Neflix officials fielded a hunch that perhaps thousands of missing DVDs meant something shady was going on. Surveillance footage confirmed the suspicion when it showed Weathers stuffing the stolen DVDs into his backpack, but not before he managed to lift over 3,000 discs valued at more than $30,000.
Weathers pleaded guilty yesterday to federal theft charges and is scheduled to be sentenced December 23, 2009. His felony plea carries a maximum of 5 years in prison, but will likely receive 1 year, The Smoking Gun reports.
In what turned out to be a heated code-battle right up until the end, Netflix on Monday awarded a seven-person team of statisticians, machine-learning experts, and computer engineers from the U.S., Austria, Canada, and Israel its $1 million prize. All the multinational team -- called BelKor Pragmatic Chaos -- had to do was put their programming mettle to the test and improve the online movie rental service's movie recommendation algorithm by 10 percent, then fend off the competition for 30 days during which time a last call was issued for other teams to submit their work.
Sounds like an easy way to earn a million smackers, right? Mabye not, but if you think you have what it takes to out-program number crunchers from all around the world, only you missed out the first time around, Netflix is again giving out some serious cash in a follow-up contest.
This time around, the award is cut in half from $1 million to $500,000, but there will be no specific accuracy target as there was before. Instead, contestants will be presented with demographic and behavioral data, and then expected to model indviduals' "taste profiles," Netflix said. The data set of more than 100 million entries will provide the renters' age, gender, ZIP codes, genre ratings, and previously chosen movies.
After three years, a team of programmers have finally laid claim to the $1 million "Netflix Prize" - a competition that invited teams to test their programming mettle and improve upon the online movie rental service's movie recommendation algorithm by 10 percent.
While progress had been slow going, the 10 percent mark was finally broken last month after several top teams joined forces to form BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos. With a score of 10.08 percent, it looked like BellKor was ready to cash in on the reward, however their announcement put into effect a 30 day last call period for other teams to submit their work.
A team called The Ensemble did just that, turning in an algorithm that scored 10.09 percent, giving the team the lead over BellKor. BellKor would manage to tie the score with under 30 minutes left in the competition, but 4 minutes before close, The Ensemble turned in the top submission of 10.10 percent, stealing a victory in what turned out to be a nail-biting race.
Netflix is expected to formally announce the winner once it confirms the data.
If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em, and most would agree that Netflix has grown too large (and too strategic) to beat. So who wants to buy them? If you believe the latest rumor, Amazon wants to buy the online DVD rental service, news of which has sent Netflix stock soaring to the highest it's been in 11 weeks.
"There's heavy call buying and the stock is up on renewed takeover talk, with Amazon being mentioned specifically," said Fred Ruffy, the senior options strategist at WhatsTrading.com. "It's pretty typical of speculative buying."
While Netflix and Amazon both compete in the Internet video business, not everyone is convinced a takeover makes much sense. Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, points out that Amazon has distribution centers all across the U.S., meaning the company would have to collect sales tax in those states. Should that happen, subscribers would likely end up footing the bill.
As expected, both Amazon and Netflix said they don't comment on rumors or speculation.
Pretty soon, even your toaster will come with Netflix streaming built in. In the meantime, Netflix's newest target is Sony's line of online-enabled Bravia LCD televisions.
Enabled via a software update expected to launch this fall, those with compatible Bravia sets will gain access to the same growing catalog of movies and television shows that are available on an also growing list of Netflix-streaming devices, including the Xbox 360 console, Roku player, some TiVo sets, and a few Samsung and LG Blu-ray players.
Supported Sony TV sets so far include the XBR9 series, Z5100 series, and the W5100 series, while other Sony sets can add support via a $200 Bravia Internet Video Link. In addition to Netflix streaming, Bravia Internet Video-enabled devices also support content from Amazon's Video-On-Demand, YouTube, CBS, and others.
Microsoft continues its quest to convince people to watch TV on their PCs with today’s announcement that Netflix subscribers can finally stream more than 12,000 movies and TV episodes through Windows Media Center. But there’s a catch; two, actually.
As Blu-ray players and media continues to go down, the cost of adding Blu-ray to your Netflix subscription is going up. Again. Back in October of last year, Netflix implemented a $1 surcharge to customers who wanted to add access to Blu-ray rentals to their monthly subscription plan, saying the price hike was to cover the "significant cost difference" between Blu-ray and standard DVDs. Netflix called it a "pretty modest" surcharge at the time, but now you could be paying up to $9 extra per month to add Blu-ray to your plan.
"We’re committed to providing a high quality Blu-ray experience for our members who choose to add Blu-ray access, and in order to do that we need to adjust Blu-ray pricing. As a result, the monthly charge for Blu-ray access is increasing for most plans and will now vary by plan," wrote Jessie Teitz, Netflix's VP of marketing, in a blog post.
Hit the jump to see how the new pricing breaks down.