Archives For Netflix

Microsoft’s offering a free weekend of Xbox Live Gold service to entice new subscribers. While an Xbox 360 ($200 and up) nets you a solid gaming platform, to enable the most compelling online features, such as collaborative gameplay and Netflix streaming, one must subscribe to “Gold” — which retails for $60/year. As regular reader James (jcm) says, the Xbox 360 currently offers arguably the most complete video streaming experience in terms of quantity/quality of apps, polished interface, and integrated search. Yet, the annual subscription irks me and I’ve allowed my service to lapse. Heck, for the same money, one could buy a fee-free Roku LT streamer ($50).

But I went ahead and dug my Xbox 360 out of the closet to partake in the Free Gold Weekend (6/1 – 6/3) to check out the new Amazon Instant video streaming app. As an Amazon Prime member ($80/year), I’m entitled to all sorts of “free” content. Although, I have to say my primary motivation was to check out Amazon’s new Watchlist — overcoming their most significant technical shortcoming compared to say Netflix or Hulu Plus, as recently pointed out by Engadget HD’s Richard Lawler: No queue is a bizarre way to live. Continue Reading…

viewdini 1

Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead launched viewdini this morning, a new mobile video portal that sources content from different providers and lets users stream video, search, share and more. Early content partners include Comcast Xfinity, Hulu Plus, mSpot and Netflix. No FiOS TV video yet (ironic), but it’s reportedly on the way.

The concept here is very similar to offerings out from companies like Fanhattan and Clicker, but of course Verizon has a little more heft in the marketing department. Verizon says the app will be available on LTE Android devices later this month, and an iOS version is in the works.


As promised, TiVo’s Spring Update has arrived — and, with it, are refreshed Netflix and YouTube apps in addition to the ability to access parental controls from the HD UI.

Having had the Premiere-only software about a week, thus far, I’d say it’s a mixed bag. The HD UI remain incomplete and while the new app UIs are certainly richer, similar to those on the Best Buy TiVo TV (RIP?), but we pay a penalty in terms of speed. In fact, I can actually switch television inputs and launch Netflix on Roku in about 1/3rd the time it takes to come up on TiVo. But, of course, the point is maybe you wouldn’t need a second box and once you’re streaming (Netflix), audio and video quality are quite high. Beyond these apps, developed by Netflix and Google respectively, new Parental Controls (that mark the end of KidZone) are accessible from the HD UI… yet they themselves aren’t actually rendered within the high def interface (and feature a sad padlock icon that looks like it was grabbed from an old CD of clipart).


As with all TiVo updates, no official change log is provided. However, TiVo’s User Experience Veep Margaret Schmidt has unofficially itemized notable additions and fixes on the TiVo Community forum. Amongst the interesting discoveries:

  • Cox customers that had difficulty receiving “Plus Pak” channels should find that issue resolved.
  • Customers experiencing pixelation in Amazon Video downloads should find that issue resolved.
  • If you bring up the Guide over a recording, it now highlights the channel on the foreground tuner, rather than the lowest channel in the Guide.
  • SELECT-PLAY-SELECT-9-SELECT now displays a clock (without seconds) in the upper right corner when using HD Menus.

As to what comes next, TiVo suggests they may actually finish the HDUI this year. Or, at least, move it forward.

  • HD version of the Season Pass Manager
  • HD version of the To Do List
  • HD version of My Shows for Multi-Room Streaming
Beyond that, we know both TiVoToGo 2.0 and Preview-esque Extender hardware are slated for release later this year (and I’ll be buying). Although, I also pine for an updated Amazon Instant app and perhaps a Blu-ray accessory.


Having problems finding winners on Netflix? A Better Queue just launched which hopes to improve your experience by linking Rotten Tomatos meta movie rankings to Netfix streaming inventory. Unfortunately, it proves what we already know – there aren’t many recent, mainstream hit movies available for just $7.99/month. But A Better Queue, which doesn’t actually connect to your “queue,” might help surface more obscure, independent, or foreign fare you may not have otherwise easily found.

After taking it for a quick spin this AM… I went ahead and cancelled my Netflix account. I’m sure I’ll return as I always do. Yet, in the interim I’ll attempt to find enjoyment from my Amazon Prime Instant streaming “gift” and, once again, spend some quality time with physical media given recent streaming frustrations. Also, I continue to contemplate a TiVo Premiere XL4 — adding more tuners and drive space to preemptively record more of what I seem to end up buying after the fact via Amazon.

(via The Verge


VentureBeat’s run a rather provocative headline that declares “Roku is kicking the cable industry’s butt.” Yet, it’s not exactly clear how they could be.

First thing first, we’re big fans of Roku. In fact, we were amongst the very first to purchase their original Netflix streamer, currently own several modern boxes, and named the $50 Roku LT as “a box of the year” in 2011. Yet, even with all that love, we just don’t see any way that Roku could be kicking cable’s butt.

In terms of numbers, Roku has moved about 2.5 million boxes. That represents one time sales and a small but growing recurring revenue share. Beyond that, Roku isn’t actually profitable. Meaning they spend more money than they ingest. Compared to say a Comcast. Yeah, they may have lost 19,000 cable customers last quarter but that still leaves them will more than 22 million households… who pay them each and every month for premium television services. Continue Reading…

While Netflix may or may not have gained paying streaming subscribers last quarter, they’ve clearly given up on the idea of peddling physical video game rentals. But, I have to wonder, if thinking games and given their current emphasis on digital delivery, might Netflix elbow into OnLive or Steam‘s territory at some point?

In regards to Netflix’s core video streaming competency, Amazon is reportedly rethinking their Prime Instant offering, currently bundled with a shipping discount program ($79/year), into something more directly competing with Netflix. From the New York Post:

Jeff Bezos and his team at Amazon are weighing a move to beef up the Web retailer’s video-streaming service — possibly carving it out as a standalone, subscription-based operation

Given the effort currently expended to license content, potential upside, and rumors that Amazon contemplated a Hulu acquisition, this isn’t so far fetched. If so, what might Amazon charge for a dedicated streaming subscription? I can’t imagine Netflix’s $7.99/month is sustainable as content licensing fees increase. Which we suppose is the price of success. And if it’s the likes of Netflix versus cable, the establishment has already won… as content owners such as HBO and ESPN tie arguably more compelling online entertainment to television or broadband packages.


Artwork and photograph via Jim Sheely.

As part of Roku’s “Streaming Stick” outreach, their team offered up interviews with CEO Anthony Wood. While we chose to pass on the opportunity, our pals over at GigaOm were more aggressive with their coverage… and dug up a few interesting nuggets in speaking to Wood (who you might recall created the ReplayTV DVR).

First, the Streaming Stick may land in the $50 – $100 price range — which is where we find the current stand alone Roku boxes. Further, the UI is said to be the same as what’s found on those very same boxes. Yet it’s not clear to me if this merely represents parity between the devices or that Roku is sticking with their existing simplistic presentation.

But what’s most interesting is GigaOm’s dive into Roku sales. The company had anticipated moving 3 million units by the end of the year. However, Roku ended up with about 2.5 million deployed boxes – despite a massive (and sometimes befuddling) advertising campaign and the introduction of a low priced $50 mass market streamer. As to why? From GigaOm, Wood:

cited Netflix’s fall stumbles as one reason that sales may have been below its goals.

Some context makes this even more interesting… in that Wood was a Netflix VP and the original video streaming box was spun out of Netflix to Roku along with both financial and personnel investment. And now, several years and many “channels” later, it appears Roku’s fate is still intrinsically linked to Netflix. Something any potential suitor should take into account.

Instant Watch Browser for Netflix Roku TheEndless

Every Netflix fan knows the pain of trying to browse the Instant Streaming catalog, and I know I’m not alone in longing for a better UI. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. At least on the Roku.

The Instant Watch Browser for Netflix, developed by TheEndless, debuted as a Roku channel back in June. It’s a nice step up from the native browser, letting you dig deeper into the Netflix catalog for stuff you might actually want to watch. You can buy the full version for $2.99, or download the “lite” app for free. After adding it to my own Roku last week, I found several new TV series to drop into my Instant Queue.

The biggest perk with the Instant Watch Browser app is the ability to scroll through more titles in every genre. I haven’t upgraded to the full version of the channel yet, but even without it, I can see up to 100 selections in every subcategory of entertainment. For example, a click on TV Drama takes me to a list of shows divided up by Crime Drama, Courtroom Drama, Dramedy, etc. One more click on a subcategory and I can see the top 100 titles available for instant streaming. That doubles the number listed in the native Netflix browser, and even that artificial cap goes away if you pay the $2.99 fee.

There are other benefits to getting the full version too. Notably, you can run title searches with the premium channel, and add selections directly to your Instant Queue from the browser screen. According to the FAQ on the developer’s website, the full version also provides:

  • A more up-to-date catalog than the lite version
  • Additional genres for HD TV and movies
  • Title ratings
  • Ongoing enhancements based on user community feedback

Oddly, the Instant Watch Browser has gotten very little attention online. Perhaps it just hasn’t been discovered yet by the tech-writing regulars? In any case, it’s worth a download. For the price of a latte, I’ll certainly be adding the full version to my Roku line-up.