Archives For Netflix

While I still don’t come close to the Comcast bandwidth cap of of 250 GB per month, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my household’s broadband usage since Roku pushed out their new Netflix UI. The new interface makes it easy to browse content by genre, and, most critically, allows users to play any selection instantly without first queuing it up on a PC. As a direct result, I’ve started watching more – the short-lived Dresden Files and the first season of Friday Night Lights, for example. Take a look at the spike on my household’s Comcast bandwidth meter. June usage already doubles May, and we’re not at the end of the month yet.

It’s worth noting that the UI upgrade didn’t arrive without problems. Right after the update, the new Netflix app crashed often; an issue the company gracefully managed by offering users an unsolicited 5% credit toward the next month’s bill. I’ve since heard a plausible if unconfirmed explanation of what caused the difficulties, namely the fact that the new guide requests a lot more data during subscriber usage, which initially put a strain on the delivery system.

We knew the E3 annual gaming conference would bring the announcement of Microsoft’s Project Natal, rebranded as Kinect, but few of us were expecting a refreshed Xbox 360 console. After years of unfulfilled Xbox 306 “Slim” rumors, perhaps we just gave up on the idea. But, MS has delivered.

The new Xbox 360 form factor is available first in the “Elite” spot ($300, 250GB, 802.11n), with a refreshed lower-end “Arcade” config to follow – once existing inventory has been depleted. The most obvious change is a sleeker and more compact enclosure, but Microsoft is also touting the fact that the new unit has been engineered be “whisper quiet.” Hopefully, they’ve also engineered away the red ring of death (RROD).

As attractive as the new case is, I’m disappointed that Microsoft wasn’t able to do away with a massive (and lit) power brick. Also, I’m a bit surprised to see they didn’t go down the Blu-ray path… to take on Sony. Had they, I’d probably have upgraded my primary gaming station. But, as it stands, I’ll wait on the lower end unit to bring Netflix, ESPN 3, and Windows Media Center extender capabilities into the bedroom.

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At Apple’s developer conference, Netflix announced that a mobile app for iPhone will be available this summer. Like the iPad Netflix app, the iPhone version will let you manage your Netflix queue and stream video directly to your mobile device.

The Netflix iPhone app will feature adaptive bitrate streaming, which basically means it will try to optimize the quality based on your internet connection. And it will be available for use over WiFi or 3G data connections. But here’s the really cool part: You can start watching a video on one device, and pick up where you left off on another device.

This post republished from Mobiputing.

We’re big fans of Roku here at ZNF. In fact, the Soundbridge was one of my first streaming devices way back when. (Not to mention Mari and I have both been satisfied ReplayTV owners – a company also founded by Anthony Wood.) Of course, these days, Roku’s all about their small television-connected media player… which comes in three variations: $80 SD, $100 HD, and $130 HD-XR. All units provide access to Roku “channels” including Netflix, Amazon VOD, and Pandora. Sports have also started to make an appearance with the addition of MLB.TV, UFC PPV, and NBA Game Time highlight channels.

We only recommend products that we’d buy; Therefore, the SD Roku model is not appropriate for ZNF readers (and why we rarely mention it even exists). The $100 Roku HD is what we normally discuss and is suitable for most. The $30 HD-XR surcharge bumps you from 80211.g to 802.11n, providing increased wireless range and additional bandwidth. More interestingly, the XR ships with a USB port. And, presumably, at some point Roku will offer local playback capabilities, via that USB connection and hopefully the LAN, to fend off the likes of Western Digital’s HD TV Live.

Through June 20th, Roku is offering $25 off the HD-XR model. So if you’re in the market for a Roku, $5 more for the HD XR over the base HD unit is a no brainer. Here’s how you get it: Click this link, add a Roku HD XR to your cart, click on past the accessories screen, and then apply coupon code ready2roku.

Netflix recently launched a very interesting presentation on their employment page that describes their ongoing evolution from physical media distributor to Internet-delivered content provider. PLUS a good number of slides (accurately) describe where they see the competition coming from. It’s a must read if you’re at all interested in the space (and/or a NFLX investor). Some specific highlights beyond the meta conversation:

  • DVD shipments will peak in 2013
  • Estimate of 17 million Netflix subscribers by the end of the year
  • International expansion beginning this year
  • No “adult” content

(via NewTeeVee and HackingNetfllix)

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Over the last week or so, I’ve received a few tips and inquiries regarding the Popbox folks removing all Netflix references and imagery from a redesigned website ahead of launch.

While the Popbox brings along many of the powerful local playback capabilities found in Syabas’ precursor Popcorn Hour devices, the Popbox introduces a refreshed UI and apps. Indeed, Netflix is now a conspicuous absence… given the competition, but also since Syabas pushed it hard as part of their launch announcement (CES flyer below, my CES briefingpress release here). Yesterday, I reached out to their PR team for clarification:

So I get the story right… Will Netflix be available on Popbox at launch?

PopBox wants to have as many apps on the platform as possible at launch but we don’t have the final lineup quite yet. The great thing about the platform is that it updates easily, so while I can’t confirm either way that Netflix will be available at launch just yet, we do hope to have Netflix on the box as soon as possible.

I have little insight into how Netflix licenses streaming partners – requirements, compensation, etc. But it does appear that something has changed or wasn’t worked out in a timely fashion by Syabas given the current Netflix situation. And something to (re)consider should you have pre-ordered a Popbox from Amazon.

(Thanks David, Tom!)

While those of us in the know were aware RCN has been deploying customized TiVo Premiere units to all-comers in the DC area the last few weeks, a press release and updated landing page now make it official. Unlike the retail TiVo Premiere ($299), RCN’s rendition is currently limited to the the original TiVo interface. But what you gain in functionality and support is pretty substantial.

For only a few bucks more over the monthly cost of the generic RCN DVR, TiVo renters end up with a much better experience. More storage, more features, better UI. Compared to a retail TiVo, the RCN includes over 10,000 hours of On Demand content – transparently utilizing SeaChange technology and RCN broadband to get it done. While features like YouTube and TiVoToGo are enabled, and something not seen in prior relationships like DirecTV, someone has made the decision to prohibit access to Netflix and Amazon VOD. Yet it’s not a unilateral blockage of third party VOD service, as Blockbuster On Demand is available. Go figure. (Given their respective catalogs, for competitive reasons, it’d make more sense to block AMZN and BBI while allowing Netflix.)

In the long run, it’s possible a RCN-provided TiVo (max: $20/mo) could cost more than it’s retail counterpart. But official cable-co support is priceless. They will figure out any CableCARD problems. They will replace defective units. And if a better retail TiVo comes along, cancel the rental and grab it. Other than the loss of Netflix, I’m having a hard time seeing any downside.

As the first Netflix-enabled set-top device (spun off from NFLX), it comes as no surprise that Roku ($99) will be their first partner to bring the entirety of Netflix’s streaming catalog to the 10′ interface. Instead of merely browsing your queue (TiVo), or top genre selections if you’re lucky (Xbox), come June, Roku will allow us to browse, search, queue up, or play every title found within Netflix’s streaming catalog… from within a brand spanking new UI (above). And those of you pining for a QWERTY Roku remote to take advantage of the upcoming search functionality need look no further than this iPhone app ($.99), which provides automated text entry.

Some of the more sophisticated Netflix streaming implementations utilize Flash locally, yet moles suggest Roku’s solution is server-based – and the company has indeed confirmed it isn’t implemented in Flash. In addition to this jazzed up Netflix UI, I also expect we’ll also see a refreshed Roku dashboard in the near future to better accomodate their growing number of content partners.