The Tech News Blog

January 8, 2013

Netflix Shows Off Personalized Profiles

Netflix Personalized Profiles

LAS VEGAS–Netflix is now testing personalized profiles for users of its streaming service, which will let each member of a household receive customized recommendations based on their viewing habits.

With separate profiles, Netflix can serve up Downton Abbey to Mom and Storage Wars to Dad. For kids under 12, parents can set their profiles to only offer content from Netflix's Just for Kids service so your 8-year-old doesn't accidentally start watching Breaking Bad.

In a demo here at CES, Netflix spokesman Joris Evers stressed that the Profiles feature is only in the testing phase. It's being rolled out to "tens of thousands" of current Netflix users, but if they don't use or like it, Netflix won't roll it out completely, he said.

How will Netflix know if Profiles are a success? If it leads to customers watching more content, Evers said. If Profiles does not inspire increased viewing, however, they "may never" be released to all members, he said.

Testing on Profiles started a few weeks ago in the U.S. and abroad, and will pop up on the iPad, PlayStation 3, and the Web. Evers showed off Profiles here on a PS3, which included a "Profiles" button on the top right of the main menu screen, along with a cartoon icon for the current profile selection. Select the Profiles button and a pop-up window will give you the option to switch to another profile. See the slideshow for more.

Evers said Netflix is also testing the option of letting international users add films to an Instant Queue, so they can come back and watch later. Queues have been a familiar site for U.S. users thanks to Netflix's DVD service, and Netflix incorporated the queue concept into Watch Instantly when it first launched streaming. But overseas, Netflix users only have a streaming option - and no Instant Queue. That might change soon, but again, it will depend on the feedback Netflix receives during testing.

January 1, 2013

Amazon Blames Deleted Data for Christmas Eve Netflix Outage

Netflix on Windows 8

Amazon on Monday offered a detailed explanation of a Christmas Eve outage that took down the services of clients like Netflix.

In a nutshell, a developer accidentally deleted some data from the Amazon Elastic Load Balancing Service (ELB). It took Amazon some time to figure that out, and when it did, an initial recovery effort failed, prolonging the Netflix outage.

"We want to apologize," Amazon said in a note posted on its AWS website. "We know how critical our services are to our customers' businesses, and we know this disruption came at an inopportune time for some of our customers. We will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to drive further improvement in the ELB service."

Netflix users started reporting problems with the service's Watch Instantly service on the afternoon of Dec. 24 - meaning many people couldn't try out Netflix on their new gadgets, or avoid family members with whom they did not want to interact. The partial outage affected "some, but not all devices that can stream from Netflix," the company said at the time. Service was restored by Tuesday morning.

Alas, it appears the downtime was the result of human error. According to Amazon's calculations, a developer deleted a portion of ELB data at 12:24 p.m. Pacific on Dec. 24.

December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve Netflix Outage Forces Families to Socially Interact

Netflix on Windows 8

Christmas is a time for family, eggnog, unwrapping gifts … and apparantly, streaming movies.

Not this year, though, thanks to an outage at Amazon's Virginia data centers.

According to Wired, Netflix's streaming video service began to falter around 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday, when customers began reporting the outage. Later that night, the company said on Twitter that the partial outage affected "some, but not all devices that can stream from Netflix."

"We're aware the some members are experiencing issues streaming movies and TV shows," the @Netflixhelps Twitter account wrote Monday afternoon. "We're working to resolve the problem," which seemed to affect certain users in only the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.

Offering tips like visiting the "Cannot Connect to Netflix" support page, the team manned its Twitter feed constantly throughout Tuesday, responding directly to many members and offering apologies for the service disruption— even in Spanish.

A true Christmas miracle, service was restored by Tuesday morning, according to the Netflix Twitter feed.

"Special thanks to our awesome members for being patient. We're back to normal streaming levels. We hope everyone has a great holiday," a Dec. 25 message said.

December 7, 2012

Netflix CEO in Hot Water With SEC Over Facebook Post

Reed Hastings

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is in hot water with securities regulators - thanks to a Facebook post.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) informed Hastings and his company Wednesday that it may bring civil action following a social network message that allegedly violated public disclosure rules.

On July 3, Hastings posted on the company's public Facebook account that said "Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June." The post is still live, but does not show up on Hasting's Timeline.

This week, the Netflix chief took to the very same page to defend his actions.

"SEC staff questions a Facebook post," he wrote early Thursday morning. "Fascinating social media story."

The Netflix chief acknowledged his early July posting, pointing to the resulting press coverage, as many reporters and bloggers are among the page's followers. Some users re-posted Hastings's message, but the company never issued a press release or filed an 8-K about the milestone. Hastings did the same thing a month earlier, he said, when noting on Facebook in June that Netflix has reached "nearly a billion hours per month."

December 4, 2012

PS3 Is Most Popular Netflix Streaming Device

ps3 vs cable

Netflix and Sony announced today that the PlayStation 3 is now the most popular Netflix streaming device.

"PS3 is our largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing, and this year, at times, even surpassed the PC in hours of Netflix enjoyment to become our No. 1 platform overall," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement.

Hastings touted the ability to update the Netflix app with new features on a daily basis, as well as the ability for users to sign up for Netflix directly from the PS3.

Netflix started streaming content to the PS3 in late 2009. Initially, users had to insert a special disc into the console in order to access Netflix Watch Instantly, but Sony fixed that by Oct. 2010. Earlier this year, Netflix was added to the PlayStation Vita, allowing users to start watching something on the handheld and pick up on the PS3.

Sony and Netflix did not elaborate on exactly how many hours streaming customers are consuming versus other devices. Netflix is also available on the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, as well as a variety of Blu-ray players, HDTVs, streaming media players, home theater systems, phones, and tablets.

November 8, 2012

Netflix Dominates North American Streaming

Netflix App

Despite its troubles last year amidst a price hike, Netflix has seemingly rebounded, and users are tapping into the company's streaming video service now more than ever, according to new stats.

Netflix dominates Internet video streaming in North America, according to report from Sandvine. During peak periods, Netflix makes up 33 percent of downstream traffic, which is up from 32 percent in October 2011.

"Audio and video streaming account for 65 percent of all downstream traffic from 9pm-12am and half of that is Netflix traffic [on North America fixed networks]," said Dave Caputo, CEO of Sandvine, in a statement.

Amazon streaming, meanwhile, makes up 1.8 percent of downstream traffic, followed by Hulu at 1.4 percent, and HBO GO at 0.5 percent.

In Europe, YouTube dominates peak downstream traffic at 20 percent, Sandvine said. Netflix launched in the U.K. and Ireland in January, but faces competition there from Sky's streaming service, as well as Amazon's LoveFilm and YouView.

Sandvine also looked at file sharing and found that BitTorrent has a healthy share of the audience in Europe at 16 percent and about 12 percent in North America. In Asia-Pacific, however, that number jumps to 36 percent, which Sandvine attributed to the lack of attractive over-the-top video services.

November 2, 2012

Amazon Closing in on Netflix in Alternative TV Space

Amazon Headquarters

Netflix is still the king of the paid alternative TV market, but Amazon is making inroads with its Instant Video service, according to a new survey from 451 Research's ChangeWave service.

Netflix's share of the market declined two points since the previous survey in February, though the company still managed to nab 82 percent, making it the leader among online video services, the survey found. Amazon Instant Video, however, increased five points since the previous survey to nab 22 percent of the market. Apple iTunes came in third with 16 percent followed by Hulu Plus with 8 percent.

The data is based on a September survey of 1,115 North American consumers.

"While Netflix still holds the largest share by far of the paid alternative TV market, consumers continue to shift towards Amazon's Instant Video service," ChangeWave's Andy Golub said in a statement. "As Amazon's TV and movie content becomes more competitive with Netflix, its popularity is surging among consumers."

October 5, 2012

Blockbuster Abandons Plans for Netflix-Like Streaming Service

Blockbuster Movie Pass

Good news for Netflix: Dish has abandoned plans to turn its Blockbuster subsidiary into a streaming video service that would rival Netflix's Watch Instantly.

A Dish spokesman today confirmed that Blockbuster does not have a future in streaming. Charlie Ergen, co-founder and chairman of Dish, broke the news earlier today in an interview with Bloomberg.

"You make a lot of mistakes in business," Ergen told the news service. "I don't think Blockbuster is going to be a mistake, but it's unclear if that's going to be a transformative decision."

Dish acquired Blockbuster last year for $320 million after it made the winning bid in Blockbuster's bankruptcy auction. By September, Dish announced plans for a streaming and DVD movie rental service with Blockbuster that was bundled in with Dish's pay TV service. At the time, Dish said it was prepping a standalone, Netflix-esque streaming service as well, but nothing was ever announced.

Bloomberg said Dish envisioned a system whereby Blockbuster stores would sell gadgets that could be used to stream Blockbuster content, but Dish failed to secure regulatory approval to use satellite spectrum for terrestrial data and voice transmission.

August 8, 2012

More Consumers Still Opting for DVDs, Blu-ray Over Streaming


Despite the increasing adoption of streaming media services and the convenience they offer, consumers still largely prefer good old-fashioned physical disks when they want to watch a movie, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The report, which is based on a survey of approximately 21,752 U.S. consumers, revealed that the majority of feature-length movies are still rented on physical discs. Sixty-two percent of all movie rental orders during the first half of the year were for physical DVDs or Blu-ray discs that came from kiosks, video stores, and Netflix movies by mail. The other 38 percent were for digital copies of movies from subscription streaming, pay TV Video on Demand (VOD), and Internet VOD services.

But while physical discs still rule the movie rental scene, digital movies are catching up. Year-over-year disc rentals declined by 17 percent, while digital movie rentals increased by 5 percent, according to the report. The increase in digital movie rental orders is largely attributable to Netflix Watch Instantly.

"Kiosk and subscription Internet streaming are generating strong user satisfaction ratings, including future rental intent, price, and value, which is reflected in market-share gains," Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis for The NPD Group, said in a statement. "Netflix is frequently the most popular video application on connected devices, so an increase in households with Web-connected Blu-ray Disc players, tablets, and smart TVs will lead to still more video streaming activity."

July 24, 2012

Netflix Returns to Profit Amidst Mixed Subscriber Numbers


Netflix rebounded from a $4.6 million first-quarter loss to post net income of $6.2 million on solid revenues of $889.2 million in its quarter ending June 30, the company reported Tuesday.

The service now has about 24 million domestic streaming subscribers, up from 23.4 million in March. But in the U.S., roughly 50 percent fewer new streaming subscribers signed up with Netflix than in the second quarter of 2010, the company said, dismissing the numbers from the year-ago quarter as a "an anomaly due to our mid-year price changes." However, Netflix expects the new subscriber rate in the third quarter of 2012 to return to levels similar to those of the same quarter two years ago.

DVD subscriptions, which the company appears to believe will eventually be phased out, fell to 9.2 million in the second quarter from 10 million.

The streaming video and DVD rental service said that in the second half and early 2013 it would continue to expand in international markets, bring its second batch of originally produced television content to viewers, and create its own content delivery network (CDN).

"Given our size and growth, it now makes economic sense for Netflix to have its own CDN. As a result, we recently announced that we are enabling ISPs to get Netflix video data from Open Connect, a single-purpose Netflix CDN," a letter to shareholders signed by CEO Reed Hastings and chief financial officer David Wells stated.