Google Launches All Access Music Service in Play Store
SAN FRANCISCO—Google on Wednesday launched a new music service called Google Play All Access here at the Google I/O developer conference.
For $9.99 a month, users of All Access will be able to listen to "millions of tracks" in the Google Play Store in addition to their own personal music libraries, said Google engineering director Chris Yerga.
"We set out to build a music service that doesn't just give you access to great music, but guides you to the music you want to hear. Google Play All Access is a uniquely Google approach to a subscription music service," he said.
All Access features expert-curated playlists that subscribers can access and add to their own libraries or create "radio stations" within Google Play's music service. The idea behind the service was to add a better discovery process for music lovers seeking to find new tracks, Yerga said.
"Anything you see, you can play. You can turn All Access into a radio station and this is radio without rules. It's as lean back as you want or as interactive as you want it to be," he said.
Google made the new service available in the U.S. immediately with All Access set to roll out in other countries in the "coming months," he said. U.S. subscribers will get a 30-day free trial—if you sign up for the free trial before July 30, the monthly subscription price drops to $7.99, Yerga said.
Apple’s ‘iRadio’ Streaming Service Reportedly Stalls with Sony Music
Waiting on iRadio, Apple's rumored streaming service that's likely to make executives at Pandora and Spotify, among others, a wee bit nervous?
The latest rumors surrounding Apple's to-be-announced service are a mix of good and bad. Unfortunately, it's the latter that's allegedly keeping the service stalled at the moment, with Apple and music industry representatives still working out the contentious issue of licensing fees.
According to Apple Insider, Apple initially offered the record labels all of 6.5 cents for every one hundred tracks streamed on Apple's service. The labels balked, as that figure is just a tad over half of what Pandora allegedly pays for the right to stream its songs. Apple eventually ended up boosting its offer to 12.5 cents per 100 songs — matching Pandora's alleged rate — which helped the company convince Universal Music to enter into a licensing agreement.
While that's a feather in Apple's cap, given that Universal Music is the world's largest record company, it still leaves Sony Music and Warner Music Group to convince. Apple Insider also reports that Apple's apparently close to getting Warner to sign on board. However, Sony continues to balk at Apple's terms in the hopes that company will sweeten the deal.
Report: Microsoft Prepping Streaming Set-Top Box
Although Microsoft has received its share of criticism for its responses to challenges in the mobile arena from the likes of Apple and the Android operating system, most agree that the company's Xbox gaming system remains an unquestionable success. However, a new report claims that the company is looking to take one of the device's primary features and break it off into an entirely new product: a set-top box for streaming video.
Citing inside sources familiar with the matter, theWall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has been working on a set-top box that would ditch the Xbox's gaming features and focus solely on streaming video content into consumer's homes. The first whispers of such a device came late last year, as an earlier report in The Verge indicated that Microsoft's new set-top might debut sometime this year. According to that report, in addition to television and film content, the set-top box would also focus on casual gaming. The new product would also supposedly offer software that would allow television manufacturers to add the new Microsoft video streaming service to smart televisions.
Such a service could put Microsoft more firmly in competition with other streaming services such as Roku, Boxee, and Apple TV, as well as software-only services such as Netflix. Such a move could also allow Microsoft to possibly reach consumers before the debut of Amazon's rumored set-top box. Amazon's device is expected to launch some time in the fall, so, if the reports coming out of Seattle are accurate, Microsoft has a very small window in which to operate if it hopes to beat the e-commerce giant to market.
Hulu Tops 4M Paid Subscribers, Reveals New Original Shows
The company said subscriptions to its Hulu Plus service doubled last year to reach the 4 million mark in the first quarter of 2013. Hulu also set a new record for paid subscriber growth during the quarter, adding nearly a million members between January and March.
"Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly," Hulu's acting CEO, Andy Forssell, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "In Q1 of this year, we set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter."
Mobile viewing is also growing at a "significant rate," he added. It will account for about 15 percent of viewership in 2013-2014. Living room viewing accounts for 29 percent of content consumption.
Report: Amazon Plans Set-Top Streaming Box
Amazon has already conquered the online retail world, made great strides in the e-reader/tablet market, and entered the realm of TV and movie streaming. So what's next?
According to Bloomberg, Amazon is planning to release a television set-top box to stream video via the Internet.
Citing sources close to the matter, the news outlet reported that the unnamed device will hit shelves later this year, providing consumers with another option to stream content — inevitably including Amazon Video on Demand offerings. Amazon could also pull applications from its marketplace to integrate into the product, much like the Apple TV already does.
If the rumors are true, the online retailer is essentially playing catch-up with the competition, like Apple, Roku, Boxee, Microsoft, and Sony, which already have their own set-top box, or a game console, that delivers the same programming.
Still, it could live in harmony with services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, all of which are currently available on Kindle Fire tablets.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
House of Cards’ Gamble Pays Off for Netflix
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.
Report: Apple Nearing Deals for Streaming Music Service
Reports about an iTunes-based subscription music service have been making the rounds for years, but a new report suggests that Apple might finally be on the verge of signing the deals it needs to make iTunes streaming a reality.
As reported by CNET, Cupertino is close to striking a deal with Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group — perhaps in the next week.
Citing two sources familiar with negotiations, CNET said the Apple service would embrace the Internet radio model like Pandora, rather than the on-demand listening available via Spotify and Rdio. Apple is hoping to secure a cheaper per-stream rate than what Pandora currently pays via revenue stream options like links for people to buy the music they hear and audio ads.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on rumors and speculation; Warner and Universal did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
CNET was quick to point out that nothing has been signed, so don't hold your breath.
Redbox Instant Streaming Opens in Public Beta
Verizon today launched the public beta version of its Redbox Instant movie service, throwing its hat into the movie streaming ring to take on rival heavyweights Netflix and Amazon.
The service provides four one-night DVD rentals and unlimited video streaming for an $8 monthly subscription fee. A Blu-ray option will be available for $1 extra per month.
A private beta version of the Verizon-backed service rolled out to a select few users in December, but initial plans for the joint venture reach back to February 2012. "Verizon is embracing streaming, a platform that many view as a disruptive force in our industry, as a great opportunity for innovation and leadership," Bob Mudge, president of Verizon consumer and mass business markets, said at the time.
In July, the cable provider and Coinstar owner jointly revealed the beginnings of the Redbox Instant alpha testing.
Report: Twitter Preparing to Launch Music App
For years, Twitter has resisted blockbuster acquisition offers, opting to stay the course and build what it believes can be a broad communications platform that will stand the test of time. Now the company is reportedly laying out the next phase of that plan with a new application focused on music.
The first rumblings of this new music app came yesterday via a report from CNET that said Twitter had acquired music discovery service We Are Hunted. According to a source, the acquisition is part of a plan to use the technology from We Are Hunted to launch an official Twitter Music app that would allow iOS users to discover new music based on the people a user follows on Twitter.
Twitter has not confirmed the reported acquisition, but in a follow-up report, AllThingsD claimed that the new Twitter Music app will not only rely on SoundCloud for its music streaming functionality (as the original report claimed), but it will also include other, unnamed music-streaming companies as well. But the real revelation from this follow-up report is that the Twitter Music will supposedly include music videos, made possible with support from music video service Vevo.
This latest move mirrors Twitter's acquisition of Vine as a means to launch its own video-sharing app. By all appearances, the Vine integration into Twitter was a success, particularly because the app, which only allows six-second video clips, matched Twitter's popular abbreviated information-sharing aesthetic.
Report: Apple, Beats Electronics Talked Streaming Music
Late last year we learned that the team behind Beats Electronics, led by music mogul Jimmy Iovine, was hard at work developing a new kind of streaming music service, code-named Project Daisy. Now a new report claims that that team recently held a high-level meeting with none other than Apple regarding the future of the new venture.
According to an unnamed source in direct contact with Reuters, Iovine met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and iTunes chief Eddy Cue sometime in late February to discuss a possible streaming music partnership between the two companies. The source claims the meeting was primarily an information exchange between Cook and the team from Beats and that no deal was secured.
In January the Project Daisy team announced the addition of Ian Rogers as CEO of the venture. Although Rogers, formerly of Topspin and Yahoo Music, has maintained a relatively low profile for most of his career, insiders know that he is perhaps one of the best choices for the role due to his deep experience in music and technology. "This is the opportunity I've been working toward my entire career," Rogers said at the time. Project Daisy is underpinned by MOG, now owned by Beats.