Hulu announces ad-free subscription for $12/month

Hulu has launched a commercial-free subscription for $12 per month, $4 more than the previous paid plan. Although cable TV has always included ads and a subscription fee, Hulu with ads always felt odd to me in a world of Netflix. I use Hulu occasionally and am not a fan of the repetitive ads and issues with skipping ahead in programs.

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TV - too much choice the cause of ratings declines?

The New York Times discussing comments from FX CEO John Landgraf and HBO head of programming Michael Lombardo:

Mr. Lombardo and other executives say it is harder than ever to build an audience for a show when viewers are confronted with so many choices and might click away at any moment. As a result, executives say, it’s hard to make money off that show.
The success of scripted shows like “Modern Family,” “The Walking Dead” and others has set off something like a land grab. The number of scripted shows produced by networks, cable networks and online services ballooned to 371 last year, according to statistics compiled by FX. Mr. Landgraf believes that figure will pass 400 this year, which would nearly double the 211 shows made in 2009.
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Download Amazon Prime videos to iPhone, iPad, & Android

Kindle Fire users have been able to download select Amazon Prime titles to their tablet for offline viewing for some time, and now the feature is coming to iPhone, iPad, and Android users. From Recode:

The feature isn’t available for every video Amazon streams, since Amazon needs to work out deals with individual content owners (that is, pay them more money). Amazon says it has “thousands” of titles available for download; in most cases, subscribers will have 15 to 30 days to watch them.

And it looks like those titles include a pretty diverse lineup: There are Amazon’s own home-grown shows, like “Transparent,” of course. But there are also offerings from CBS (“The Good Wife”), Fox (“Sons of Anarchy”), MGM (“The Hunger Games”) and Paramount (“Star Trek Into Darkness”).

One particularly noteworthy get: Amazon says Prime members can download the old HBO shows that Amazon landed last year, including “Girls,” “Entourage” and “The Wire.” That’s something even HBO and HBO Now subscribers can’t do.

This is a really nice feature for frequent travelers and road tripping families. I've contemplated getting a Kindle Fire tablet in the past just to use this feature while on long flights. With yet another useful feature included in a $99/year Prime subscription, I may have to consider getting it. Get the Amazon Prime Video app for iPhone, iPad, or Android (Android setup is a little complicated) and try a free one month trial of Amazon Prime.

Netflix losing many of its biggest movies

From Recode:

Netflix says it is not renewing a distribution deal with cable network Epix, which means its U.S. subscribers will lose access  to big Hollywood movies like “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “World War Z” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction”at the end of September. The trade-off, says Netflix: It is making its own movies — but subscribers will have to wait a while to see most of them.

After this deal expires most of the big Hollywood movies on Netflix will come from Disney - which includes Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm. Netflix is banking that its original series and movies will be good enough to retain subscribers and attract new ones. Epic will look to replace the lost revenue with a deal with Hulu or someone else or a new exclusive deal with Amazon perhaps. Netflix really is trying to become HBO before HBO can become them.

However, HBO has done a pretty good job of making its content available to cable subscribers and cord-cutters/nevers alike. Anecdotally, I've been watching more and more HBO this year and less and less Netflix. It's almost September and I still haven't finished the current season of Orange is the New Black and never made it past the first episode of Marco Polo. In my opinion, HBO's content is consistently higher quality and more relevant to me. However, Netflix clearly wins on the variety and size of their content library. Hopefully this new battle between HBO and Netflix for original content creates even more great content for consumers that is available outside of the cable bundle.

MLB spinning out streaming video service - a model for the future of TV?

From Recode:

MLB Advanced Media, the company that streams video for Major League Baseball and many other clients, is getting ready to spin out its tech operations in a deal that would give the new company a value of at least $3 billion.

And as part of the spinout prep, MLBAM is bulking up: It has signed a long-term deal with pro hockey’s NHL, which will give MLBAM the rights to pro hockey’s digital subscription products, as well as its cable TV property.

MLB Advanced Media made possible, one of the first large-scale live streaming initiatives. That early experience led to them developing the back-end tech for other big live streaming entities, such as WWE Network, watchESPN, and HBO Now.

However, this is the first time that MLBAM is purchasing streaming rights from a media company and selling advertising. Could this be a model for the future of live sports? Will MLBAM morph into a major competitor for ESPN, or would ESPN consider buying them at (just) $3 billion?

HBO Now is available through Verizon Wireless and FiOS

FiOS internet customers can sign up for HBO Now today for the standard price of $15 per month. Verizon Wireless customers will be able to sign up soon. 

Since its launch, HBO Now has steadily increased distribution and is now available through Apple and Android devices and several internet providers. Sign up for a free trial.

Vizio smart TVs are collecting 100 billion anonymized data points from viewers each day

TV maker Vizio recently filed for an IPO. One of the interesting bits of info to come from the filing was Vizio’s ambitions to build a data services business:

'Our Inscape data services capture, in real time, up to 100 billion anonymized viewing data points each day from our over 8 million VCUs [Vizio Connect Units aka Smart TVs]. Inscape collects and stores data regarding most content displayed on VCU television screens, including content from cable and satellite providers, streaming devices and gaming consoles. Inscape provides highly specific viewing behavior data on a massive scale with great accuracy, which can be used to generate intelligent insights for advertisers and media content providers and to drive their delivery of more relevant, personalized content through our VCUs.'

Vizio and other smart TV makers are in great position to get a holistic picture of what consumers are viewing from a variety of sources (at least on their TVs). It’s something Nielsen can’t currently do and a company like Apple or Google can’t do on their own.

They better make sure that data is fully anonymized and stored securely, though. I imagine many of us probably wouldn’t want our complete viewing habits leaked on the internet.

More details on Verizon's coming streaming service

The new service, called Go 90, will include some full TV episodes and short-form content available for free. A few big networks are on board and it will also include free live NFL games, which Verizon has the rights to stream on smartphones.

This is a nice bonus for anyone that has already chosen Verizon. Is it enough to convince people to switch from another (cheaper) carrier though?