Let the streaming music wars begin. Just last week Microsoft went on the offensive and attacked Apple's iTunes service over its pricing model compared to the Zune Pass unlimited subscription service, which serves up all-you-can-listen-to tunes plus 10 free tracks for $14.99/month. Looking to leapfrog ahead of them both, Napster, now a Best Buy commodity, is planning to relaunch its subscription music service with a $5 deal that includes 5 free tracks every month.
"There's no need to settle for 30-second clips to decide if you want to buy a song," said Chris Gorog, CEO of Napster. "For five bucks now you can have access to our entire music catalog and get five MP3s to add to your permanent collection."
The new pricing model, which goes into effect tonight, could put Napster in contention with more popular music services and put the one-time P2P pioneer back on top. Napster's catalog sits at over 7 million strong and includes more than 60 commercial-free radio stations, which seems like an obscene amount of content for the same price as a Subway footlong.
Anyone plan on giving Napster a second look? Hit the jump and sound off.
Hulu is currently one of the hottest video sites available on the web. It’s about to take over the number two spot amongst streaming video sites (behind only YouTube), and it just signed a deal with Disney that will give it even more content. Though, these great features are only available to those that live in the US, and they’re making damn sure it stays that way.
In the past, if you weren’t living in the US and you wanted access to Hulu’s massive library of footage, you had to use a proxy server workaround. For a while, this worked without a hitch, but Hulu wised up to the tricky practices and began doing geo-checks. Still, a few VPN creators like Hotspot Shield would work by making your IP address anonymous. Sadly, these days have ended.
Hulu’s techniques for detecting location has once again changed, and they’re blocking all anonymous proxies. If you’re one of those looking to use the video site through a VPN, you’ll be met with this message: “Based on your IP address, we noticed you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”
At long last, Hulu and Disney finally inked a deal giving Hulu permission to stream full-length episodes of such programs like "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," and more. Under terms of the new deal, Disney will join the video sharing site as a partner and according to un-named sources, take a 27 percent stake in the venture, DigitalDaily reports.
"From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today’s Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey," Disney CEO Bob Iger bloviated. "Disney and Hulu share a focus on delivering the highest-quality entertainment experience and we look forward to working with Hulu to build value for our consumers, our brands and our shareholders."
The deal should inject a ton of new content into Hulu, which according to a joint press release, will include full-length episodes of primetime programs, ABC Family series, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet shows, classic series from ABC's library (like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", "Dancing with the Stars"), Disney Channel hits (like "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "Phineas and Ferb"), yet-to-be-determined library titles from The Walt Disney Studios, and short-form content.
YouTube, in an effort to continue expanding as a media hub for more than just low quality, user-made content, is trying to hash out a deal with Sony Pictures to secure licensing rights to some of the studio's full-length movies, CNet reports. Such a deal would help YouTube better compete with the likes Hulu, Netflix, and other web video services.
It was just a week ago that YouTube was able to license short-form content from Disney, which also includes Disney brands like ABC and ESPN. But when it comes to feature-length content -- a crucial component if YouTube is to compete with other streaming services -- YouTube has only been able to snag a small number of titles from MGM.
Neither company is commenting on the report, but it's not hard to see why each one would be interested. Sony Pictures acquired streaming video site Crackle in 2006 for a cool $65 million and has since posted a bevy of full-length films on the site. By licensing a handful of flicks to YouTube, Sony would be promoting its Crackle acquistion. And of course it makes sense for YouTube, which was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion three years ago.
Do you think is a good move for either company? Hit the jump and sound off.
TunerFreeMCE's Martin Millmore posted an example of what Hulu is doing to restrict its content, which at first meant that "no new programs will be added to Hulu in TunerFreeMCE at the moment." However, Millmore was quick to update the Vista MCE add-in to version 2.6.7, which he says works with Hulu's new encoding, albeit while running a fair bit slower.
According to Engadget, Boxee will also have an update available for Windows and Linux users before long with a workaround in place. Once that happens, it will be interesting to see how Hulu responds, who some feel is at the whim of its content providers, and not evil aliens (if such a separation exists).
In an attempt to better compete with streaming giant Netflix, Blockbuster this week announced a new deal to begin transmitting movies to TiVo users.
"This relationship with TiVo is step one in getting into the places that consumers care about," says Kevin Lewis, Blockbuster's senior VP for digital.
As part of the deal, Blockbuster will start selling TiVo DVRs in its retail stores later this year. However, neither company was willing to divulge how many of Blockbuster's nearly 4,000 stores will participate. Nor is it known what movies will be available, as "The studios and we are trying to figure it out," Lewis added.
Due to begin in the second half of 2009, Blockbuster's OnDemand will feature content to both buy and rent, and will be integrated into TiVo Series2, Series3, TiVo HD, and TiVo HD XL DVRs, Blockbusters says.
Barring any changes, TiVo owners with Blockbuster accounts will pay up to $4 to rent a movie and then have 30 days to begin watching. Subscribers will then be given a 24-hour window. Alternately, movies will be available for sale at up to $20 a pop, but DRM will prevent subscribers from copying purchased content over to DVD.
After seven years of stealth development at Rearden Labs (a startup incubator), OnLive today unveiled itself as a new game service to deliver on-demand games. Basically, instead of running your games on a PC or console at home, you connect your HDTV to a small MicroConsole which receives compressed video from a remote server that actually renders and processes your games. The immediate benefits of the service is its low entry cost, since you don't have to build a high-end gaming PC or invest $500 on a next-gen gaming console. Games purchased with OnLive are activated on remote servers and the only data that is streamed to you is gameplay video and audio. You never have to download software, patches, or handle physical media. Think of it as video-on-demand but for games.
We met with OnLive's founders at Rearden Labs last week to get a sneak preview of the service, try out some games, and grill the developers about how OnLive actually works.
Think streaming video is impractical for gaming? You might be surprised...
Some users of Netflix’s streaming service have groused about dwindling performance in recent times. The dip in performance has not only nettled users but also engendered speculation as to its cause. The most plausible conjecture is that video streams are being deliberately throttled by Netflix.
“Also, routing to different ISPs in the same region may be quite different, thus performance may also be quite different, even for neighbors, if they are connected to different ISPs. Moreover, congesting points can rise and fall with ISP configuration changes and other conditions,” Hunt wrote.
Sometimes you just want to browse and listen to your album collection at the office without having to load it all into a portable music player. Pandora and Last.fm are great web services that can help you discover new music, but they won’t let you specify your own music playlist. Streaming music from within a home network is easy with iTunes and Windows Media Player; what’s trickier is getting access to your 100GB music library while away from home. We’ll teach you how to turn your library into an Internet radio station with Apache server software and a little-known program called netjukebox. You’ll be able to browse your collection via a gallery of album cover art, stream custom playlists, and even download entire albums as zip files.
The first thing you'll need to do is set your desktop up as an Apache server.
Netflix continues to enjoy immense popularity as a subscription-based movie rental and streaming video service, a business model which Netflix CEO Reed Hastings previously said would stay the same going forward.
"We don't plan to enter the pay-per-view segment, where Apple, Amazon, Sony, and others focus, or the ad-supported segment, where Hulu, YouTube, and other compete," Hastings said in July 2008.
Maybe success has gotten to Netflix's head. Since Hastings' statement, Netflix has made major gains to its streaming service, which is now found on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, offered through a standalone Roku player, integrated into select Blu-ray players, and even is available on some TiVo units. More homes than ever now have easy access to Netflix's streaming catalog, and a new customer survey seems to suggest that Hastings and company might be reconsidering Netflix's position as a subscription-only business. One of the questions being asked is whether customers would be willing to pay an additional $10 per month to stream "HBO original series and movies."
It's unclear how quickly Netflix would make new episodes of, say, Big Love available for viewing after first appearing on HBO, or whether new episodes would be available at the same time. But what is clear is that Netflix has become too large to ignore other business models. Even if survey respondents shoot down the idea of a $10/month HBO add-on, one has to wonder how long it will be before additional services find their way onto Netflix.
Would you pay a premium for HBO content through your Netflix account? Hit the jump and sound off.