Hangover Monday has turned out to be a pretty momentous day for fans of digital television watching. But while pirates bemoan the death of BTJunkie.org and Redbox gears up for a new streaming service venture with Verizon, Netflix is entering a new phase of its own: content creator. Today, the company launched Lilyhammer, a mob drama starring Steven Van Zandt of Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band fame. It looks like Netflix knows where its binge-watching strengths lie, too; all 8 episodes are available for immediate viewing.
Technology is transforming the humble idiot box into a powerful Internet appliance. Whether you call it “smart TV,” “connected TV,” or “Internet TV,” it has the potential to upend our boob tube experience, letting us watch our favorite shows whenever and wherever we want, and merging TV shows with online content in cunning, clever ways. Smart TV won’t prevent television from rotting your brain (it’s not that smart), but it should empower you to find, and get more from, all the content that’s available.
Hollywood studios and TV networks are finally waking up to the power of the Internet, thanks to pioneering efforts by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu. And if you can wait for pay-TV services such as HBO and Showtime to release their original programming on DVD, you can seriously consider ditching your expensive cable or satellite subscription services, too.
In the following pages, we’ll solve all the mysteries of smart TV. We’ll explain every important service and device that falls under the smart TV rubric (omitting only the most obvious players, such as YouTube), and tie everything together into a neat and simple package. It’s time to turn on and tune in.
It's no secret Netflix would like to see its DVD-by-mail business go the way of the Dodo so it can focus its attention entirely on the streaming scene, and with streaming subscribers almost twice as profitable as DVD customers, who can blame 'em? Company CEO Reed Hastings jumped the gun when he attempted to put Netflix's DVD business out to pasture by spinning it off into a separate company (Qwikster), a move that sparked an intense backlash from its customers, but if he's patient, it will die off all on its own, and in fact that's exactly what he anticipates will happen.
Netflix over the weekend announced that its expanding to the U.K. and Ireland where it hopes to entice potential subscribers with a free one-month trial. It's a different ballgame overseas, and while Netflix dominates the streaming scene in the U.S., it will now face off against Lovefilm, a popular streaming service in the U.K. with over 2 million subscribers and owned by online giant Amazon.
Congratulations UK PS3 owners. You’ve got Netflix! Well, a Netflix app, at least. Did we mention there is still no Netflix service in the UK? You were probably aware of that, but the appearance of the app in the PlayStation Store should offer some hope that the service is really and truly going to arrive soon.
With all the fuss over Netflix's price hikes and near-catastrophic amputation of its DVD-by-mail arm, after the all the pitchfork wielding, the mass exodus, falling stock price, and everything else company CEO Reed Hastings and the rest of the Netflix crew would like to forget about, subscribers still kicked back on their couches and tuned in to what the streaming outfit had to offer.
Come next month, Netflix will officially be in the original content game with the premier of its first series, Lillyhammer. The show stars Sopranos alum Steven Van Zandt as a former mobster in witness protection. Van Zandt’s character is moved to Lillehammer, Norway, and as you can imagine, shenanigans ensue.
Reed Hastings and everyone else behind the trenches at Netflix would probably like a do-over for all of 2011. They're not getting one, and for Hastings, the company's CEO, he's not getting the full amount of his stock option award next year, either. Instead, he'll receive exactly half of what he would have been entitled to had things not gone so wrong for Netflix in recent months, but don't feel too bad for Hastings.
Netflix shareholders haven't been thrilled with Netflix's direction the past few months. After announcing a spin-off of its DVD-by-mail rental business and higher prices for streaming and DVD services combined, subscribers raged until Netflix reversed course on severing its DVD arm, but the company didn't relent on recent price hikes. It's been paying a price in subscriber losses ever since. Enter unhappy investors, though talk of Verizon taking over the streaming service has them smiling once again.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told attendees at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York that streaming video will grow to replace cable as the viewing option of choice within 3-5 years. In reality, streaming video could leapfrog ahead of cable even sooner than that, but as Netflix gets ready to renew contracts with Hollywood studios, he might want to keep his cards closer to his chest.