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Netflix Is Making All the Wrong Decisions in 2017

For the past few years, it seemed like Netflix had been making all the right decisions. The company had become the world’s foremost streaming giant. The number of new shows and movies continued to grow at an unprecedented rate, and the company had legions of loyal fans. But then came 2017. Something now seems to be off. Netflix seems to be making all the wrong decisions in 2017.

The most obvious point to start with is Netflix’s plans for global domination. 2017 is perhaps the first year where Netflix’s plans to expand around the globe have become so obvious. Everywhere you turn these days, it seems like Netflix is throwing money around.

Here’s just one example: at film festivals, they’ve become the new big spenders, eager to pick up the best new movies and showcase how they’ve become new players in Hollywood. Netflix paid nearly $60 million for the new movie “War Machine” (with Brad Pitt) and $90 million for the new movie “Bright” (starring Will Smith). And it seems like Amazon and Netflix are buying up everything they can, eager to win some awards. We’re starting to see Netflix movies nominated for major awards.

In 2017, though, this strategy seems to have gone off the rails. One of the big stories coming out of the Cannes Film Festival this year was the “booing of Netflix.” Yes, that’s right, one of the new films that Netflix was showing at Cannes – “Okja” – received boos when the Netflix logo came up on the screen. That’s according to the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, Netflix denies this. Their version of the story is that the film had been experiencing technical difficulties throughout the entire screening, and that the audience in Cannes was not booing Netflix. Instead, the audience was booing the sound and picture quality, and they simply waited for the end of the movie. And that, coincidentally, was the same time that the Netflix logo came up on the screen.

But you can see the problem here – Netflix is no longer automatically the “good guy.” When you get too big, and when you try to change the system, you suddenly become the “bad guy.” From the perspective of the Cannes crowds, Netflix may be winning awards, but they are killing the modern theater. In short, fewer people are going to the movies because of Netflix. Why pay $15 or $20 for a movie ticket when you can just stream it online later as part of your Netflix subscription?

And the French are plenty upset about how brazen Netflix seems to be this year. As a result of Netflix, Cannes has created a new rule saying that any film at the festival must have a French theatrical release. In other words, if Netflix wants to have films represented at Cannes in 2018, it better have a plan in place to make sure those films are showing in cinemas in Paris, Marseilles and Nice!

Moreover, here’s another problem: Netflix seems to care less about what its viewers want, and more about what’s good for Netflix. Ok, Netflix is a publicly traded corporation, so we understand that the company can’t be perfectly altruistic, but it somehow seems like the demands of Wall Street are forcing Netflix into new moves in 2017 that will feed the content machine.

Here’s another example: in April, Netflix replaced its vaunted five-star recommendation engine with a simple Yes/No recommendation. This was basically the Facebook “like” with a single thumbs up or thumbs down. Some Netflix fans hated this. From their perspective, there’s a huge difference between a movie with 3.5 stars and a movie with 4.5 stars. And that nuanced difference couldn’t possibly be matched with a single thumbs up or thumbs down. And, in fact, the New York Post ran a story called, “Netflix Users Already Hate Its New Rating System.”

Here again, Netflix has an alternative explanation. As they see it, people are more likely to give recommendations if all they have to do is give a thumbs up or thumbs down. And the more recommendations there are for a movie, the more likely people are to check it out and watch it. So the whole recommendation process was changed to encourage people to watch more content (but not necessarily better content).

You can see why some people say that Netflix has simply lost touch with its users in 2017. Every decision the company makes seems to be a pure business decision, driven by how it will pad the bottom line and make global expansion even easier. It’s all about the profits.

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And that has made Netflix tone deaf in 2017. Here’s yet another example – there’s been a huge online controversy over the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” and yet Netflix continues to stand by its position that the show must go on. Despite the huge outcry in public that the film might glorify suicide for teens, Netflix seems to be perfectly OK with having the show in its archive. As Netflix seems to see it, all that outcry is going to be great for viewership. People who might not have watched it are now going to be plenty interested in checking it out.

Another problem that has become particularly acute in 2017 is the whole notion of “going straight to Netflix.” At one time, the idea of “going straight to cable” was the death knell for any movie. It meant the movie was so terrible that it stood no chance of making a decent return at the box office, so the film just ended up on cable TV before the critics could eviscerate it in public. And now the same thing seems to be happening with shows that are “going straight to Netflix.”

Basically, Netflix has so much cash these days that it is re-investing all of it into new content. On the surface, that might seem to be a good thing: Netflix is rescuing the film industry and helping to create the golden age of TV.

But there’s a downside to all this. It now seems like Netflix is trying to become the new cable TV. The company has created so many new shows that it has lost the ability to control for quality. The goal is just more content, faster, and that’s going to have problems later down the line. It’s the same feeling that one gets by scrolling through the listings of a 24/7 cable TV network. There may be a few quality shows, but in general, it’s just a bunch of dreck.

Even worse, what’s good for Netflix is not necessarily good for moviemakers. One little known secret about Netflix – and one that bloggers have been mentioning in 2017 – is the fact that Netflix refuses to share data with content producers. Think about that for a second. Say that you’re a content studio that has just sold a movie or show to Netflix. The only way you will ever get any feedback about how it’s doing is if you hang out on social media, and try to make sense of viewer reactions and blog comments. But you will never get a nice, tidy spreadsheet from Netflix showing the number of views, or any insights into demographics.

So, as a moviemaker, that makes your job harder. You don’t really know how you are doing, or what types of films to make next. Yes, you got a big payday, but from here on out, the only one going to profit from it is Netflix. You’ve become part of the movie churn at Netflix, where the goal is to keep cranking out more and more content.

Moreover, it’s now becoming clear that Netflix is not just changing viewer habits – such as by encouraging the binge-watch – it’s also changing the very structure of the movie industry. If Netflix goes to a major film festival like Sundance and buys up all the best indie movies, then it means those movies will never show up in the cinema. They will go “straight to Netflix.” And now Netflix is going one step further, by buying up potential blockbuster movies. It’s now paying nearly $100 million for a bankable film starring Will Smith. And that means Will Smith is not going to the cinema anymore for a box office payday – he’s going to straight to Netflix, who will write him a nice check. But think of what happens to movie audiences – no more summer popcorn movies featuring Will Smith, you’ll have to sign up for Netflix if you want to see him.

And these films aren’t necessarily going to be any good. Variety, for example, has already called the Brad Pitt “War Machine” movie a “costly flop.” Variety also called it a “dud.” So it’s no longer the case that everything Netflix touches turns to gold, at least in 2017.

So you can see why the crowds (purposefully) booed Netflix at Cannes this year. The movie industry insiders understand how Netflix is changing the industry, even if movie fans at home don’t. And they aren’t happy about it. If you’re buying into the idea that Netflix is doing you a favor by making so much great content available to you, it’s time to re-think that notion. In 2017, it appears that Netflix has been making all the wrong decisions. They’ve lost touch with the average movie fan, and we’re going to get a backlash soon. In fact, it might have already started.

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Why Netflix’s CEO Called Amazon “Scary”

In the world of streaming video content, Netflix may still be the top dog, but it has identified Amazon as the one competitor of which it is most wary. Appearing on CNBC in late May, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called Amazon “awfully scary” – a far cry from nearly five years ago, when Netflix derided Amazon’s push into streaming video content as a “confusing mess.” Here are three reasons why Amazon is now “so scary” for Netflix.

Reason #1: Amazon has unrivalled pricing power

In just about any field that it enters, Amazon can afford to be the low-price competitor. Think of books and music – there’s a reason why there are no more brick-and-mortar bookstores and independent record stores, and you can thank Amazon for that. Amazon is so efficient, so big and so global, that it can squeeze out competitors from nearly any market simply by being the low-cost alternative.\

Reed Hastings alluded to that pricing power in his interview with CNBC, in which he said that Netflix would become a “specialty play” like Starbucks, while Amazon would always play the role of Wal-Mart. He went so far as to say that Netflix wouldn’t try to “out-Amazon Amazon.” By this, he means a race to the bottom in pricing.

But is avoiding a price war even possible? Netflix is currently moving all of its subscribers to the $9.99 per month pricing plan, which is an unbelievable bargain in terms of how much content is available to watch. But as Amazon pushes into streaming video content, it could put a lot of pressure on Netflix. If you sign up for Amazon Prime Now, it’s only $99 per year – and that gives you access to Amazon’s growing digital catalog at no additional cost.

So do the math: Netflix is charging $120 per year and Amazon is charging $99 per year. As long as Netflix had a commanding lead in both the amount of content available and the amount of original content available, Netflix subscribers were willing to overlook this pricing discrepancy (especially those Netflix subscribers grandfathered in at $7.99 and $8.99 per month).

Reason #2: Amazon is pushing hard into original content

That, of course, leads us to the second major reason why Amazon is so scary to Netflix – the company is making a major push into original content. According to some estimates, Amazon has allocated anywhere from $4 billion to $5 billion for original streaming content. Amazon is buying up the best films at film festivals and commissioning new work from marquee Hollywood talent.

And now we’re starting to see the fruits of all that investment. At this year’s Oscars, “Manchester By The Sea” – an Amazon original movie – picked up a handful of Oscar nominations, including one for “Best Picture.” And now Amazon has a number of big-name programs lined up for 2017, including “Jack Ryan,” a new action series based on Tom Clancy’s CIA hero Jack Ryan (starring John Krasinski in the title role).

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And Amazon isn’t afraid to throw around cash – it reportedly spent $200 million for three seasons of “The Grand Tour,” an auto show that stars the original cast of BBC’s “Top Gear.” And Amazon is also moving aggressively into sports, which has always been an area that Netflix has avoided. This year, Amazon will pay $50 million to live broadcast 10 NFL Thursday Night football games. In contrast, just about the only original sports content that Netflix has is a competition-based reality game show called “Ultimate Beastmaster.” Which one would you rather watch?

Reason #3: Amazon is changing the video streaming business model

Lastly, one of the major reasons why Amazon is so “scary” is because it’s not a traditional competitor for Netflix. In other words, Netflix would be a lot less concerned about a lookalike competitor forced to play by the same rules as it does. But Amazon is a company that cuts across so many categories – everything from cloud computing to book publishing to streaming music to logistics – that it’s impossible to call Amazon a standalone video streaming service.

Instead, the Amazon business model is really all about e-commerce. Getting people hooked on Amazon streaming video content is just a means to an ends – getting people to sign up for Amazon Prime. Once someone is signed up for Amazon Prime, the chances are good that that person will use Amazon anytime they want to order something online. Who wouldn’t use Prime, if it’s free to have it delivered?

And, thus, just as Netflix disrupted the old moribund cable TV operators, it could be the case that Amazon is on the cusp of disrupting Netflix. That’s what truly makes Reed Hasting lie awake at night – the thought that Netflix might be doing everything right, and a competitor like Amazon could still come out of nowhere and disrupt it.

In fact, he hinted as much in the CNBC interview. Reed Hastings, talking about Amazon, said, “It’s like they are trying to repeal the basic laws of business.” And he also noted, “Everything Amazon does is just so amazing.” Does that mean Amazon is unstoppable?

Going forward, the video streaming market is going to get a lot more competitive – not only do you have companies like Amazon entering the fray, you also have the big cable TV giants, which are rapidly reinventing themselves by embracing video streaming. And, of course, you have all the video streaming upstarts like Hulu and Sling TV.

To be victorious in this hyper-competitive marketplace, you need to have two things: plenty of great content and a very attractive price. For the past five years, just about the only company that could claim both of these was Netflix. It was the giant at the top of the video streaming mountain. But now there’s a new competitor – Amazon – that already has very attracting pricing. With billions of dollars being invested into streaming content, it’s only a matter of time before Amazon narrows the gap with Netflix. And that’s why Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called Amazon “scary” – he knows that the writing is already on the wall. There may be little that he can do to delay or obstruct Amazon, and that’s what keeps him up at night.

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The Ease and Appeal of Google Chromecast

The primary allure of the Google Chromecast has always been its ability to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO or Hulu content from your mobile device or PC to your TV. Moreover, it was able to do this at a very affordable price – just $35 for the tiny Chromecast dongle. But did you know that there’s a lot more that the Chromecast is able to do? Just check out some of these creative ways to use the Chromecast, proving once again how handy it is.

#1: Send live broadcasts to your TV

Ever since Facebook debuted Facebook Live, people have been looking to live broadcast bits and pieces of their lives. This might be a live broadcast from a birthday party or a “wish you were here” clip while on vacation. Well, you don’t have to watch all those Facebook Live broadcasts on just a tiny mobile phone anymore. You can use the Chromecast to send a Facebook broadcast to the TV. Your friends and family will appear larger than life as they give a live feed from a game, concert or event. Whenever you get a notification from Facebook that one of your friends has a live broadcast in process, it’s time to pull out the Chromecast.

#2: Send photos to your TV

It’s possible to cast photos from Google Photos on an iOS or Android device to your TV. Imagine coming back from vacation and having hundreds of photos on your phone that you want to show others. Now you can invite them to your living room and show them on the big screen. You can turn this into a real entertainment experience. Just dim the lights and turn on the right music to set the scene for your viewers.

#3: Watch TV with the volume cranked down to zero

There is a mobile app called LocalCast that enables you to cast video to your TV while keeping the audio on your device. If you plug in your earphones, you’ll have a completely muted experience – you may have a gorgeous movie playing in HD on your TV, but people around you won’t hear a thing. Pro tip: this is a great way for parents to enjoy a movie after the kids have been packed off to bed. You won’t have to worry about waking them up when a loud explosion goes off in the R-rated action-adventure film you’re watching together.

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#4: Take Chromecast with you on vacation

No more being at the mercy of hotels for your entertainment options. You can take your Chromecast with you on vacation and use it to play content on your hotel’s TV. You have two options here – you can either call the hotel IT desk and have them hook up your Chromecast to the hotel Wi-Fi network, or you can bring a travel router that plugs into an Ethernet port in the wall. In the second case, you’d have to connect your Chromecast and the travel router to make sure they can talk to each other. But the result is magic: you can stream content in your hotel room, just like you would at home.

#5: Have a virtual reality experience

Ok, here’s where things get really interesting. You can combine the Google Daydream VR headset and the Chromecast to show what’s on your headset on your TV. Thus, as you are exploring a virtual world, you can let people join in on the fun. This helps to make virtual reality (VR) a more social experience. Instead of having your friends seeing you just twisting and turning your neck every now and then and letting out an audible, “Wow,” let them see exactly what you’re seeing in virtual reality.

#6: Play games on the TV

Just like you can stream movies on your TV, you can also stream games. There are a growing number of games made specifically for Chromecast in the Google Play store. Most of these are fun family games that you can enjoy with your kids, like “Trivia Bash” or “Just Dance Now” (if you want to get your groove on). If it’s a rainy day and your kids are getting cabin fever, this might be a fun, low-cost way to keep them from running around the house.

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#7: Have a presentation on your TV

If you use Google Slide, you can show your presentation with Chromecast since Google Cast is built into Chrome. In other words, you can carry around your corporate presentation with you on your phone and then project it on a TV to give a true big screen effect to your latest slides. Once you’ve figured out this little trick, you’ll never want to give a PowerPoint presentation on your laptop again.

#8: Play music on your TV

You can also take advantage of the audio qualities of your TV to play music. You can do this via the Google Play Music app. Just open up the app, select the Cast icon, and then choose Chromecast. From there, you can have an impromptu DJ performance in your living room. Or just stream music during a party. If you’ve invested in a home entertainment system, it’s time to make the Chromecast the center of that system.

#9: Watch your movies in stunning 4K

Google Chromecast recently released an upgrade, known as 4K Ultra, that enables you to stream 4K content. If you went out and bought the latest and greatest TV that boasts a stunning 4K picture, this might be worth the upgrade. You now have the ability to watch stunning content in the highest possible resolution.

#10: Use the Chromecast to decorate your room

We said the Chromecast was handy, right? It now comes in such colorful options that it seems like it would make a wonderful piece of décor for your room to match with art on your walls. At the very least, you can use it as a paperweight.

As you can see, the uses of the Google Chromecast are limited only by your imagination. Seemingly every week, there’s a new use unveiled for the Chromecast. Any digital content, it seems, can be cast to your TV. So, whatever you do, don’t refer to your Chromecast by the derogatory term “dongle” anymore. It’s way, way more than that. It’s cheap, portable and very handy.

chromecast-review

How Will Live Streaming Affect This NFL Season?

Changes in the live streaming industry continue to reverberate everywhere, changing the way we think about entertainment, news and sports. Perhaps the best place to see this dynamic at work is with the NFL, which is continually looking for ways to widen its fan base and provide a superior viewing experience via live streaming.

The days are long gone when the only way you could catch an NFL game was by tuning into broadcast TV at a certain time. Once Monday Night Football moved to ESPN, it meant that you seriously had to consider cable TV. And as live streaming became popular, it meant that streaming services such as Sling TV became very relevant for football fans who wanted to pay the minimum possible and still get their NFL action. And in 2016, the NFL changed the game even further, by streaming Thursday Night Football games on Twitter.

So there are clearly a lot of changes happening right now with how the NFL delivers its action to fans. Here’s what to watch out for in the 2017 NFL season in terms of live streaming.

#1: New Live Streaming Partners

During the first week of April, the NFL announced that Amazon.com – not Twitter – would become the new live streaming partner for Thursday Night Football. Amazon hasn’t released much about what its live streaming option will include, only that it will only be available for Amazon Prime members.

Tying the live stream to Amazon Prime membership makes sense – after all, Amazon reportedly paid $50 million for the right to live stream a whopping total of 10 games! It’s easy to do the math – that’s $5 million per game. Assuming that the cost of Amazon Prime membership will be $99 per year, it looks like Amazon will need to sign up 50,000 new Amazon Prime members each week to make this deal work!

Most likely, Amazon will include the live NFL action as another reason to buy new Amazon Fire streaming sticks. Last season all you needed was a Twitter account to get live NFL action: this year you will need some kind of hardware to stream the game to your TV.

#2: A More Fragmented Viewing Experience

In addition to Amazon, there are now at least three other ways to stream NFL action without having cable TV: Sling TV, Playstation Vue and NFL Game Pass. If you have cable TV and a tablet or smartphone, then you can stream the games on mobile apps from NBC, Fox, ESPN and NFL Network.

But here’s the thing: it might take a combination of several different streaming services to get exactly the right mix of games. Last season, for example, Sunday games were available on CBS and Fox, Sunday night games were on NBC, Monday night games were on ESPN, and Thursday Night Football games were on CBS, NBC or NFL Network (depending on the week).

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Confused yet?

So, let’s say you’ve cut the cord with cable and are using Sling TV to get your TV content. You would need Sling Blue to get NFL Network, and you would need Sling Orange to get ESPN. So you would need Sling Orange and Blue to get all the games on Sunday and Monday.

Oh, but wait, there’s just one problem with that strategy – local Fox and NBC streaming feeds are not available in all markets with Sling TV, so that means you might still have no way to watch Sunday Night Football (on NBC) or Sunday games (on Fox). And when Thursday Night Football was on NBC, you’d have to watch it via Amazon!

So you can see why watching football is going to be a very fragmented experience for anyone who doesn’t have cable TV. By the time you combine all the necessary services (like $99 for Amazon Prime!), maybe it’s just easier to sign up for cable TV and stop trying to patch together a lot of different streaming options!

#3: New Types of Screen Experiences

The big allure of signing up Twitter last season was that the NFL could tap into a vast new audience of social media users who might not otherwise watch football. If all your friends are tweeting about the game, then it might encourage you to tune in as well. The single best ad for the NFL, theoretically, is a Twitter feed that fills up with NFL-related tweets.

In theory, Twitter + NFL should have meant even more of a “second screen experience.” In other words, people would be watching the game on TV while sending out funny tweets on their tablet. But maybe that’s not what the NFL really wants. Maybe it’s better for the NFL if all the social interaction actually occurs on the TV screen.

Moreover, a lot of users complained about the Twitter experience last year. One big #fail was the fact that there was a 15-to-30 second delay between the linear broadcast and the live stream. That means people on Twitter were sometimes sending out tweets about what just happened 30 seconds before you saw it yourself! You’d be watching your team, huddled down near its own end zone, and people on Twitter would be talking about some amazing play. And then – boom! – the star player on your team streaks down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. So that’s what they were just tweeting about!

One type of new screen experience that people are talking about this year is better integration of stats, scores and fantasy football information right on your screen. Thus, say the quarterback on your fantasy football team just threw a touchdown – instead of checking on your mobile app to see how that play  changed your fantasy football score, you’d see it right on the screen.

The key here is that people prefer to watch NFL on the big screen. That’s why people go to bars to watch games – the screen is bigger than the one at home. That’s why the guy or girl with the biggest TV screen always hosts the Super Bowl party – you want to be able to see all the action on a huge HD or 4K screen!

So, looking ahead to the 2017 season, there’s a lot to keep in mind about live streaming. Once Amazon announces how it plans to deliver Thursday Night Football action, you can start plotting out the ultimate live streaming experience if you don’t have cable TV. And, even if you do have cable, you’ll want to check out whether you will need to upgrade to a higher tier to catch all the action on NFL Network or NFL RedZone.

This might just be the season where Sling TV and Playstation Vue find themselves dealing with mass defections of NFL fans, who are starting to realize that the “skinny bundle” popularized by these streaming services might not deliver all the hard-hitting football action they want every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Now that the big streaming players have shown that NFL action can be a premium offering, it’s going to be interesting to see what changes they make in the live streaming market.

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Is Binge-Watching Potentially Detrimental?

Binge-watching is a habit that millions of Americans have embraced, but now some researchers are warning that hours spent in front of the TV could have some negative side-effects. So is binge-watching potentially detrimental?

Big streaming companies like Netflix certainly don’t think so. In fact, Netflix encourages users to enjoy the binge. It’s a guilty little pleasure that’s a great way to share an experience with a friend. In fact, Netflix says that 6 in 10 streamers regularly engage in binge-watching, which the company defines as watching between two and six episodes of a show in a single sitting.

Health risks

On the surface, there’s no fundamental difference between a regular “couch potato” who stares at the TV while reclining on the couch for hours at a time and a Netflix binge-watcher who stares at a TV while sitting on that same couch. And all that physical inactivity simply isn’t good for you, especially if you’ve spent all day sitting at your desk. Sedentary behavior, if it becomes an ingrained habit, can increase your health risks for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

However, is it the case that binge-watching is the same as being a couch potato? Given the fact that many people stream content to their tablet or smartphone, it could be the case that people are watching a show while moving around, such as running on a home treadmill. As long as you’re standing, stretching and doing some walking around between episodes, you’re reducing the worst of the health risks.

Social isolation

OK, but what if you binge-watch alone? According to survey data from entertainment research firm Marketcast, 56% of people binge-watch alone and 98% binge-watch at home. That would seem to suggest that binge-watching is largely a solo activity that you’re not engaging in while in public.

But, again, facts can be deceiving. The whole point of binge-watching certain shows is to catch up with what your friends, family or work colleagues are talking about, right? How many times have you heard people talking about “Game of Thrones” and realized that you’d better get caught up if you want to be able to have a conversation with them? Some shows – like “Orange is the New Black” – become part of the pop culture world, so having a basic understanding of what’s happening in the show actually has positive (not negative) social implications.

Addictive behavior

There’s something about the binge that makes it addictive. You start out saying that you’re only planning on watching two or three episodes, and end up watching all 12 episodes. That’s a potential sign of dangerous addictive behavior. And another sign of addictive behavior is something that’s known as “Netflix cheating.” That’s when you promise to watch a show with someone, but then binge-watch more than you agreed to.

But as long as you can limit yourself to a certain number of episodes, you should be OK. Just as there’s nothing wrong about getting wrapped up in a mystery novel or spy thriller and reading more chapters than you planned, there’s nothing inherently wrong about watching more episodes than you planned.

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Whose side is Netflix really on?

The problem, really, is that the big streaming services have a vested interest in getting you to binge-watch. The more you binge-watch, the more you establish a relationship with Netflix, and the harder it is to say goodbye to your Netflix subscription.

Say, for example, you promise to give up Netflix as soon as you make it through every single episode of “Orange Is the New Black.” But then, just as you are about to finish the final season, you happen to read an article seductively titled something like, “Great shows coming soon to Netflix.” You decide to try out one or two of these shows, and before you know it, you’re trapped in another binge-watching cycle. And so it goes, over and over again.

Do you have a problem with binge-watching?

It’s this chronic binge-watching that might lead to problems. In fact, a more severe form of binge-watching is something that’s perhaps best known as marathon binge-watching. That’s when you decide to binge-watch not just a single series – but every season of that series, ever.

Believe it or not, but people have actually done studies on this, trying to determine how many hours you would need to spend binge-watching every episode of every season of a certain series. If you tried to watch all seven seasons of “The West Wing,” it would take you five full days. Do you really have five days of your life to devote to that show?

So perhaps it’s time to ask yourself several important questions to see if you have a problem with binge-watching:

  • Have you stopped enjoying the show you’re watching?
  • Are you neglecting household tasks or your studies?
  • Are you canceling social events to binge-watch a show?

If you answer “Yes” to any of these three questions, then binge-watching is detrimental. In the first case, it means that you’re watching TV for the sake of watching TV, and not because you’re deriving any real pleasure from it. In the second case, it means that all of that time spent watching TV is starting to intrude into your “real life.” And, finally, if you’re canceling social events to watch TV, then guess what? That’s basically the definition of anti-social behavior and you might have a problem.

Conclusions

As you can see, there’s no easy way to tell if binge-watching is detrimental or not. As with most things in life, the key to success is moderation. Just as there’s nothing wrong with occasionally having a few beers with your colleagues, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally binge-watching a few of your favorite shows. However, when behaviors persist over a long enough period of time, that’s when they start to become addictive.  And addiction means that the brain starts to crave more of it, in order to achieve the same effect.

As a golden rule, you should think about how many hours of TV you’re watching each week and try to keep it within manageable levels. Don’t overdo it, and make sure that binge-watching a show is not just an excuse to have a tub of popcorn every night!

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FuboTV Review – Live Soccer for Cord Cutters

FuboTV launched as a live streaming TV service in January 2015 primarily for soccer fans, offering viewers the chance to watch soccer matches and other live sports on 10 different channels for a low monthly price of $9.99 (with a chance to upgrade with “add-on” packages).

Image result for FuboTVAt the end of December 2016, though, the company announced that it had signed major partnership deals with Fox Networks, NBC Universal, A+E Networks, Crown Media Family Networks, Fuse Media, NBA TV and The Weather Channel. Starting in early 2017, fuboTV plans to offer 70+ premium sports and entertainment channels for an introductory, discounted price of $34.99 per month (which will increase later to $49.99 per month).

As a result, fuboTV viewers will be able to watch live sports events from all major U.S. professional and college sports, as well as international leagues and tournaments. For sports fans looking for a live streaming TV service, fuboTV has suddenly become a very attractive option, especially because the network also plans to bundle in some major entertainment channels as well.

With the huge boost in the number of channels that fuboTV will offer, the streaming TV service is transitioning from being a niche sports streaming service into being a major sports-centric live streaming TV service that can compete with the likes of DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live and Sling TV.


CONTENT

Image result for FuboTVAs noted above, fuboTV now plans to offer 70+ channels. Full beta launch is coming in February 2017, although the current website for fuboTV still describes the $9.99 package for 10 channels.  So let’s take a closer look at the core 10 channels still being offered, and then consider the remaining channels.

Here are the 10 channels offered in 2016:

  • BeIN Sports
  • FuboTV Network
  • El Rey Network
  • Univision
  • Univision TDN (Televisa Deportes Network)
  • BeIN Sports En Vivo
  • Football Report TV
  • Revolt
  • UniMas
  • One World Sports

New sports channels coming in 2017

  • FOX
  • NBC
  • Regional sports networks from FOX Sports and NBC Sports
  • Big Ten Network (BTN)
  • FS1
  • FS2
  • FOX College Sports
  • FOX Soccer Plus
  • FOX Deportes
  • Golf Channel
  • NBA TV
  • NBCSN

New entertainment channels coming in 2017

  • A+E Networks (A&E, History, Lifetime)
  • Hallmark Channel
  • National Geographic
  • Fuse
  • FM
  • NBC Universal (Bravo, CNBC, E!, Oxygen, USA Network)
  • The Weather Channel

It remains to be seen how fuboTV will adjust the composition of its special “add-on” packages for viewers. Currently, fuboTV offers four major add-on packages:

  • Entertainment (4 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Lifestyle (6 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Portuguese (3 channels, $19.99/month)
  • Spanish (7 channels, $3.99/month)

PRICING

What we know now is that fuboTV plans to price its new basic package at a special discounted rate of $34.99 per month, and eventually raise that to $49.99 per month. That puts this live streaming TV service almost directly in line with the pricing offered by DirecTV Now, which also started its promotional pricing at $35 per month. In contrast, current fuboTV pricing for 10 channels is $9.99 per month.

PROS

Ever since its launch in early 2015, fuboTV has attracted a diehard audience of soccer fans, who used the service to watch soccer matches from around the world, including the Premier League, the Brazilian League and MLS. There’s no other streaming service that can offer this type of live soccer programming. And, with the new content from the likes of Fox and NBC, it’s clear that fuboTV is trying to become the streaming service of choice for sports fans in the United States beyond just soccer, to include basketball, golf and other major sports.

Image result for FuboTVBut the advantages are more than just all the great new content. Just like the other streaming TV services, fuboTV is playing up all the differences with cable TV. For example, you can cancel online anytime without having to deal with the customer service department.

And, you can watch fuboTV anywhere on any device. The service is currently supported by iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast. Once you’ve downloaded the fuboTV app, it’s possible to watch it on your TV, your tablet, your smartphone or your laptop computer. All you need is the Internet.

And, as part of its expansion, fuboTV plans to offer several more extras: programming look back (in which you can watch previously aired content), video on-demand, digital TV guide navigation and a cloud DVR service. As it stands now, users will be able to watch shows they’ve recorded on the cloud DVR within a period of 3 days of recording. So, for example, if you missed the NBA basketball game last night, you could record it and then watch it the next day for no extra charge.

Finally, fuboTV offers a very crisp 1080p HD quality live stream, so all of the matches and games look spectacular on your viewing device.

CONS

With any new service, there are always growing pains, and for fuboTV to make such a drastic change in its strategy could impact its core viewers. If you look at what fuboTV plans to offer (lots of American sports, plus entertainment) and compare it to what fuboTV has been offering for the past two years (lots of Spanish- and Portuguese-language soccer games), it’s clear that the service is going to have two very different types of audiences.

And it will have to be careful that it doesn’t alienate these diehard sports fans with a sudden burst in pricing and streaming content options. In short, will people who are paying $9.99 now still want to pay $34.99 in the future for content they may not want to watch?

If you’re a current subscriber, it’s time to ask a lot of questions about what will or won’t be included in the new programming lineup. For example, will the old Entertainment add-on package of 4 channels (Antena 3, TeleHit, Bandamax, Ritmoson) now be included in the core offering of 70+ channels? What happens to all the live soccer online content? And what happens if you want to watch ESPN, which doesn’t seem to be included in the list of new channels?

CONCLUSION

FuboTV has the potential to become the leading sports-centric live streaming service. For anyone thinking of signing up for a live streaming TV service, it will be almost impossible to beat fuboTV’s wide offering of both national and international sports programming.

The service just has to make sure that it clearly states what’s going to happen in 2017. It’s now been a month since the company announced the major programming change, for example, and the fuboTV website still doesn’t even have something like a “Coming Soon” announcement on its homepage. The service is currently offering a free 24-hour trial, so that might be one way to sample it to see if it’s right for you.

What to expect from Hulu + Yahoo

Netflix is currently the biggest streaming service in the market with around 83 million subscribers. That is an intimidating number and its competitors are gearing up to give Netflix a fight for its top slot: the recent partnership between Yahoo and Hulu is a step in this direction. It is clear that both Yahoo and Hulu have decided to take on Netflix together, as both of them have media behemoths backing them. While Verizon has acquired Yahoo’s core business for $4.83 billion, Hulu was started by media barons, and Time Warner has also bought a 10% stake in Hulu for $583 million recently. Now, in light of these recent events, what can a streaming service subscriber like you expect from this new team?

Yahoo and Hulu have recently floated their own free streaming service called Yahoo View. All the content that is currently available with the free Hulu subscription will now be available on Yahoo View. Yahoo View will predominantly focus on offering TV show episodes to its subscribers, but they will also be able to watch a variety of videos and content from Tumblr on this streaming service. In fact, Yahoo View is the only service at the moment that offers access to both movies as well as television shows available on Hulu.

This leads to the next obvious question – if all the content from Hulu is available on Yahoo Live, will that not make Hulu redundant? The simple answer is – Yes. And this is the reason why Hulu is pulling the plug on its free streaming service. Subscribers will soon be left with only the premium Hulu Plus services — they can either go for the $7.99 monthly plan with limited commercials or the no commercial plan of $11.99 per month. The management at Hulu thinks that the company has always tried to offer richer and more personalized content to their subscribers, and over the years, the free service has become very limited, which is not something Hulu believes in offering to its customers.

hulu-yahoo-chance

So, how will this move impact the current lot of subscribers? The ardent Hulu fans, who watch TV shows regularly on the free Hulu plan, may understandably not welcome this move for obvious reasons. But, for a casual viewer, this change of plans will not really make much of a difference. Hulu does not really offer a great variety with its free subscription. There are only a limited number of television shows like South Park, America’s Got Talent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and a few more, available with the free version. The five latest episodes of these shows are what you can enjoy on Hulu now. These are also only available for a week after they are aired on live television. So, it’s quite apparent that taking the free Hulu service will not really have any big impact on most of the subscribers, because they weren’t enjoying any kind of exclusive programming anyway. The die-hard fans of the service should also not feel abandoned, because Yahoo View will be offering all the content that was previously available on Hulu for free as well.

Yahoo and Hulu are pushing to make Yahoo View a sort of ultimate destination for cord-cutters to come to get their TV fix. Apart from the free Hulu shows, it will also feature a lot of ad-supported popular television shows. Both the companies are trying to create a brand in the market and they want people to identify Yahoo View as the television of the internet.

hulu-yahoo-shows

It appears that Tumblr will help them get the word out. The social media platform boasts of 550 million users a month and over 280 million blogs, and it was acquired by Yahoo for a whopping $1.1 billion in 2013. Yahoo is definitely going to encourage people to share their favorite shows and other offerings on their blogs. Netflix, on the other hand, does not have such a huge social media tool in its arsenal.

So, as a cord-cutter, you should be happy that another streaming service is entering the market. The big investors behind the service will ensure that you get a lot of great content to watch, mostly for free. As for Hulu, it will now focus more on the 12 million paid subscribers that it has. You can expect it to put all of its energies on increasing that number by way of more original programming and a bigger content library. As a consumer, you will certainly be a winner.

Rovi, TiVo, and The Battle of TV Guides

2015 marked a milestone in a relatively less known war that has been plaguing the tech and entertainment industry. This is the patent war. This is a war between what are called as patent trolls and the average organizations. Patent trolls, as they are known, are some obscure companies that buy relatively unknown patents and start bullying organizations by threatening them with lawsuits for intellectual property infringements. Whether the patents they actually own do cover the products or services offered by the other organization is highly debatable. But, fearing lawsuits, most companies simply settle for a sum. Some companies are not intimidated, and they fight their battles in the court. In some cases, they win, while in others, they fail.

If this sounds all too familiar, that is because many analysts feel that, more often than not, Apple vs. Samsung lawsuits fall in this category. Whether Apple does possess a valid justification or is simply trying to weed out the competition the dirty way is something that is for the judiciary to decide. But industry experts agree that a desperate change is needed in how patents are issued and how patent licensing should work, so that companies with genuine cases are not strong-armed by the patent trolls.

rovi-tv-guide

If you are wondering what Rovi and TiVo have to do anything with all this, well, the answer is quite complicated. As you must know, Rovi provides TV programming guides. Roughly about 18 million American households use Rovi TV guides through various apps and devices. But, have you ever wondered what is so special about Rovi guides? Why doesn’t everyone else build their own TV guide? It’s not like Rovi is the only company which has a copyright on making TV guides, right? Well, the simple answer is that Rovi has about more than 1,500 issued and pending patents in the US alone. Because of its patents, it has intellectual property rights on many features and functions of TV guides in general. That’s why most other companies simply go with Rovi when they offer TV programming guides. Even the giants like Google, Facebook, Samsung, Sony, Apple, and Comcast simply prefer to sign licensing deals with Rovi rather than build their own TV guides and antagonize Rovi. However, not everybody is comfortable with this idea.

Some companies like Amazon, Netflix, Sharp, Hulu, Toshiba and others stood up against Rovi. Amazon took on Rovi head on in court, and won the case in 2014. Amazon had attracted the case from Rovi, just because it bought IMDB. The patents which Rovi claimed that Amazon’s IMDB was infringing, that they were just describing TV guides, but on the internet. With Rovi losing the case, these “but-on-the-internet” cases are slowly losing their steam. It was Netflix’s court battle against Rovi in 2015 that deserves special attention. The US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton invalidated 5 of the patents Rovi was holding, essentially making it impossible for the company to cause trouble toward other companies based on those patents. Hamilton noted that these patents were not given for new technology or revolutionary concept. Instead, those patents were awarded for generic ideas. Ideas such as combining two categories into one set of suggestions such as crime dramas, sci-fi fantasies, and so on. Hamilton noted that patents cannot be given away for abstract ideas.

rovi-court-case

With these two lawsuits, Rovi’s death grip on the TV guide industry has taken a serious hit. It may not be too farfetched to presume that Rovi might find its customers abandoning it and developing their own TV guides instead. Perhaps, it is this reason which has pushed it to acquire another player in the industry to ensure that it continues to maintain its market share in the industry and stays relevant. A few months ago Rovi announced that it is acquiring TiVo, a DVR and TV guide company, for $1.1 billion.

This deal gives Rovi all of the 10 million customers of TiVo. Also, as TiVo brand is more popular and customer-friendly, the company, post-merger, will take the name of TiVo. This deal is expected to give Rovi the foothold it wants in the industry. Also, the company will threaten new competitors with lawsuits, as it still has a lot of patents in its bag, which it can use. Even though it is impossible to guess how many of those lawsuits it will actually win in the future, if at all it is challenged. A lot of companies might simply choose to avoid the confrontation and sign a licensing deal with Rovi. Coupled with its newfound bump in the market share after it buys off TiVo, it is safe to say that Rovi will continue to be the leader in this industry.

rovi-buys-tivo

TED for Smart TVs

Every year, TED hosts conferences across the world. Renowned academicians, politicians, businessmen, Novel laureates, and other people come and share their ideas, and offer a glimpse of revolutionary ideas that are changing the world in their own field. Some of these speakers bring knowledge that every person can make use of, while others share highly specialized and niche information. But, a common theme that runs across all of them is the fact that they are absolutely life-changing. What’s more, they are highly entertaining too. While the tickets to these conferences are very expensive, and difficult to get, TED does release many of its events online. So, if you want to enjoy TED talks on your smart TVs, TED apps are supported on so many platforms that chances are you already own one. So, check out here how you can use your existing hardware to enjoy TED talks on your smart TVs.

Android TV

TED for android tv

TED is available on Android. That pretty much makes the app compatible with a host of devices out there, including smartphones, tablets, and of course, smart TVs. If you smart TV runs on Android TV operating system, then all you need to do is go to Google Play, search for TED app, and download it. Once you access the TED app, you will be able to enjoy thousands of TED talks, even with subtitles, if you need them.

Xbox One

TED for xbox one

TED has been available on Xbox One platform for quite some time now. You can access the TED app on Xbox One and enjoy the talks on your smart TV. Moreover, if you have Kinect, then you can just wave your hand to enjoy TED talks. If that is not enough, Xbox One even provides you voice commands for this purpose. It really is a cool way to enjoy TED talks.

Netflix

TED app netflix

Netflix has one of the world’s biggest libraries of TV shows, movies, documentaries, and other videos. Naturally, it also features TED talks in its content library. However, Netflix does not offer all the TED talks that are online. Instead, it features some select talks on only a handful of topics. The collection of TED talks is quite small.

Amazon Fire TV

TED amazon fire tv

Amazon Fire TV is a power-packed streaming device, and gives access to a huge variety of content, most of which is for entertainment. However, some of that content is educational, and TED talks belong in that category. TED released an app for Amazon Fire TV in January of 2015. You can download the app, and enjoy the talks by using the streaming service with your smart TV.

Samsung Smart TV

TED samsung smart tv

Samsung smart TVs do not feature Android TV OS. Instead, the latest ones run on Tizen OS. Samsung has been the biggest supporter of Tizen, and hence, is trying very hard to make the platform a substitute for Android. One of the fruits of its efforts is TED app. Yes, TED is also available on Tizen. You can download the app just like you download it from Android Play Store, and enjoy the talks.

Roku

TED roku

Roku is another impressive streaming device. It has a variety of channels, which you can browse and enjoy all kinds of video content. TED talks can be found on Roku under the Science and Tech category. However, the classification under this category does not mean that you can access only Science and Tech TED talks. You can browse and enjoy all videos that are available online.

YouTube

TED youtube app

YouTube features a massive number of TED talks on the namesake channel. In addition to videos from TED, you can also comment and share your views on any specific video, although YouTube comment section can be a nasty place with comment wars being a norm. The being said, YouTube is accessible on pretty much any smart platform. So, if you have a smart TV that supports YouTube, or even a set-top-box that supports YouTube, you can enjoy TED walks without much fuss.

Bonus: For Non Smart TVs

TED for non smart tvs

If you do not have a smart TV that is compatible with any of the TED apps or platforms that support the app, there is one way you can still enjoy TED talks inexpensively. You will need a Google Chromecast for the purpose. You can plug in the Chromecast into your HD TV, and stream the TED videos from your smartphone or tablet, be it an Android or iOS device.

9 Best Smart TV apps for your Samsung TV

The way the TV entertainment industry is taking shape, it is difficult to predict what the future will hold. Just two decades ago, cable TV and satellite were pretty much the only options. Then came the streaming devices and apps that totally changed the entertainment industry. Now, much of the smart TVs are seeking to even make those streaming sticks obsolete. Whether one of them will win or coexist together is a discussion for another day. Today, let’s have a look at the top apps that you should have on your Samsung Smart TV to fully enjoy its potential.

Netflix

samsung smart tv apps netflix

When it comes to streaming services, Netflix is the undisputed champion of the lot. Sure, a lot of services are slowly catching up to Netflix, but it is the top streaming service by a huge margin. Its content library is the biggest among its competition, and it allows you to enjoy pretty much any show of your liking, any time you want. Moreover, Netflix is heavily investing in homegrown original shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and so on which have tasted immense success. It goes without saying that Netflix will continue to be the unchallenged king in entertainment, at least in the near future.

Amazon Instant Video

samsung smart tv apps amazon instant video

Amazon Instant Video is following Netflix like a shadow. Like the leader, Amazon is also building up a huge content library. One great feature about Amazon Instant Video is that you can download your favorite shows, and watch them later offline as well, which is pretty rare. Also, it is striking deals with many content producers, broadcasters, and movie studios to bring a lot of content to your smart TV.

Hulu

samsung smart tv apps hulu

Until recently, Hulu had been plagued by ads. Now, ads are the biggest reason for cord-cutters to become, well, cord-cutters. However, Hulu has now released another tier in its packages, which is completely ad-free, barring less than 10 select shows. The service is quite affordable, and offers excellent content. In fact, its TV show library is one of the best in the industry, although don’t expect to find many movies worth watching there.

TED

samsung smart tv apps ted

While the above apps were mostly into entertainment, this one is not. If you have never heard of TED, it’s basically an organization that hosts conferences all over the world, and people discuss revolutionary ideas in their field – everything from global politics to the coolest inventions. The speakers at the events usually talk for only a few minutes but leave a lasting impact. It is a great source for learning new things.

HBO Now and HBO GO

samsung smart tv apps hbo go hbo now

If you love HBO’s programming, such as Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight, and The Wire, then one of these two apps is a must. They are both from HBO, and there is only one difference between them. HBO Go can be accessed only by users who have a cable subscription to HBO channels. On the other hand, anyone can sign up for HBO Now.

Napster

samsung smart tv apps napster

Yes, Napster is still alive. No, it is no more the pirate king it used to be. It has taken a different form now. Currently, it is owned by Best Buy, and has been merged with Rhapsody. Napster has a good collection of music for your pleasure. It even offers the feature of downloading the content. Other than these, it has a lot of cool features worth noting. Check it out.

YouTube

samsung smart tv apps youtube

YouTube has transformed immensely over the last few years. It is no longer the place you visited only when you wanted to watch funny cat videos. Professional teams work in studios to produce high quality content for the service, under various channels on YouTube. There is a lot of outstanding content worth your time. The free version has ads, as always, but the sheer amount of good content gives YouTube bonus points.

Spotify

samsung smart tv apps spotify

Just like Napster, Spotify is another app that lets you play music in the background while you go about your routine at home. The difference is that Spotify has a bigger collection of music, and even comes with a free version. The free version has ads, and you can always go for the premium version to get rid of them.

VUDU

samsung smart tv apps vudu

VUDU is a digital video rental service from Walmart. It does not offer a monthly subscription, and you have to pay per video basis. The rates vary, but are quite affordable. The good thing about VUDU is that it brings a lot of latest movies to the table. Its library of old and classic movies is quite impressive too.

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