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October 14, 2013

Cable Deals Could Bring Netflix to Set-Top Boxes

Nefflix Logo

Netflix is reportedly in talks with cable companies to provide quick access to the company's streaming service via cable set-top boxes.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Netflix is discussing the option with firms like Comcast and Suddenlink Communications. If it goes through, cable customers could access content from Netflix from their TVs much like they would access TV shows and movies on demand.

Last month, Netflix signed an agreement with Virgin Media to bring Netflix onto a pay-TV platform for the first time. Using the Netflix app, Virgin Media TiVo customers can watch streaming content through their set-top box.

Netflix declined to comment on the report.

If Netflix did secure a deal with U.S. ISPs, it would mean cable customers would not need a smart TV or DVD player or a separate gadget - like Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast - to access Netflix streaming content.

According to the Journal, a deal between Netflix and U.S. cable firms would require those firms to sign on the company's Open Connect program. Netflix launched Open Connect in June 2012, and it serves as the video provider's very own content delivery system.

April 23, 2013

House of Cards’ Gamble Pays Off for Netflix

Nefflix LogoThe success of House of Cards helped Netflix add 3 million streaming customers during the quarter, and has emboldened the company to pursue more original programming.

Netflix also said it will introduce a new subscription option that will allow for four simultaneous streams at once, and roll out a personalized profile feature.

During the first quarter, Netflix added 2 million U.S. streaming members for a total of 29 million, according to a Monday note to shareholders from CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells. The DVD business continues to shrink and now stands at 8 million. International streaming membership grew by more than 1 million to 7.1 million, and collectively, users watched more than 4 billion hours of movies and TV shows.

Netflix said it plans to launch in a new European market in the second half of 2013, and promised more details during its July earnings call.

Back at CES, Netflix said it was testing out personalized profiles, which let each member of a household manage their own viewing and receive customized recommendations based on their viewing habits. At the time, Netflix said it did not know if the feature would ever be released, but the company announced today that "we expect to roll out profiles globally in the coming months."

Meanwhile, Netflix said it will add a 4-stream plan for $11.99 per month in the U.S. "shortly." At this point, only two people can watch separate streams per account, but the 4-stream option will allow for up to four simultaneous streams on one account. Netflix, however, expects that fewer than 1 percent of its customers will take advantage of the feature.

Netflix touted its content deals during the quarter, including those with Turner Broadcasting and Warner Bros. TV group. The Warner deal, in particular, "illustrates our evolution to a curator of select programming," Netflix said, meaning the service will ditch programming that is not popular with viewers, much like a network.

February 15, 2013

Judge Dismisses Shareholder Suit Against Netflix


A federal judge this week dismissed a shareholder lawsuit brought against Netflix more than a year ago for allegedly concealing rising costs to inflate its share price, Reuters reported Thursday.

The class-action suit, filed by the City of Royal Oak Retirement System in California district court in January 2012, alleged that Netflix "issued materially false and misleading statements regarding [its] business practices and its contracts with content providers. "Specifically, defendants concealed negative trends in Netflix's business," the plaintiffs claimed.

The suit drew attention to Netflix pricing changes and attempted to draw a connection between the company's alleged financial misbehavior and the sale of stock by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and others. The plaintiffs claimed that Netflix raised prices without keeping shareholders in the loop when it faced the expiration of contracts with content providers that would be expensive for the company to renew.

But U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti said Wednesday that the plaintiffs "failed to show that Netflix materially misled them about its accounting, its pricing trends, the relative profitability of its streaming and DVD businesses, and its dealings with U.S. securities regulators," Reuters reported.

Judge Conti "also said Hastings did not materially mislead investors in a conference call on Dec. 8, 2010, when he said Netflix would benefit from a 'virtuous cycle' where it could add subscribers and streaming content while lessening its DVD-by-mail costs," according to the news service.

February 11, 2013

Google Fiber, Cablevision Top Netflix ISP Rankings

Netflix on Windows 8

Netflix today released its ISP rankings for January, and Google Fiber once again provided the best average speed for Netflix streaming.

Cablevision's Optimum and Suddenlink, however, made some gains, topping Charter and Verizon's FiOS in the top five.

Netflix announced in December that it would start publishing monthly rankings of U.S. IPSs based on their performance across all Netflix streams. At the time, Google Fiber ranked No. 1 for November, followed by Verizon FiOS, Comcast, Charter, and Cablevision.

According to Netflix's stats, Google Fiber produces an average speed of 3.02 Mbps. Access to Google Fiber, of course, is quite limited at this point. The search giant just started rolling it out to several neighborhoods in the Kansas City area, so network congestion is not exactly a major problem right now. Still, the company's average is up from 2.55 Mbps in November, making it the fastest U.S. ISP.

Google Fiber was followed by Cablevision's Optimum service at 2.24 Mbps. Cablevision is part of Netflix's Open Connect program, which serves as the video provider's very own content delivery system. Those that sign up have access to Netflix Super HD, which is the highest quality video format offered by Netflix, boosting picture on 1080p HDTVs.

January 23, 2013

Netflix Gets Boost With 2 Million New Subscribers

Netflix on Windows 8

Netflix added more than 2 million streaming subscribers during the fourth quarter for a total of 27 million users in the U.S.

In a Wednesday letter to shareholders, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells said Netflix's "holiday season was particularly strong, driven by consumers buying new electronic devices, including tablets and smart TVs."

The DVD side of the business continued to decline, but at a slower rate than Netflix expected. At this point, Netflix has 8.2 million DVD subscribers.

Streaming is the future of Netflix, though, and the company touted the content deals it negotiated in the fourth quarter, including the lucrative Disney deal that will kick off in 2016 and the more recent Warner Bros. deal, which will bring shows like NBC's Revolution and Fox'sThe Following to Netflix Watch Instantly.

"When it comes to highly serialized TV series, Netflix offers an amazingly better experience than any other alternative as members can start right from season one, episode one, and watch episodes how and when they feel like it," Hastings and Wells said.

The company will embrace that model with its original programming, the next of which debuts on Feb. 1 with House of Cards. Netflix also has theArrested Development reboot in May, Hemlock Grove on April 19, and three other shows this year.

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.