SiliconFilter

Hulu Plus Comes to the Wii Today, Nintendo 3DS Later this Year

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Remember the Nintendo Wii? That game console you really wanted to have a few years ago but that is now gathering dust somewhere in your attic? Neither did we, until we heard about the launch of Hulu Plus for the Wii today. It's hard not to think that Hulu is a few years behind here, though, but if you don't have any other means of getting Hulu Plus for your living room, your old Wii may just be a decent option.

The application is now available in the Wii Shop Channel and, as with all versions of Hulu Plus, it will cost $7.99 per month, though you get a free two-week trial as well.

Maybe more interestingly, Hulu Plus is also coming the 3DS, to Nintendo's handheld game console, later this year. There was no word on whether Hulu will offer any 3D content for the 3DS, though.

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8:26 am


Hulu Now Has 1.5 Million Paying Subscribers, Promises to Invest $500 Million in Content in 2012

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Hulu just released its year-end data for 2011 and the numbers are pretty good. The streaming video company, which mostly focusses on recent TV shows, made about $420 in revenue lat year. This is up 60% from last year and exceeded the company's own projections. Its paid service, Hulu Plus, now has 1.5 million subscribers and the number of paying subscribers continues to grow.

According to the company's own data, the number of new subscribers it attracts every day is currently double the number it attracted last year. If this trend continues, Hulu will likely have close to 2.5 million subscribers by this time next year.

Maybe most importantly for current subscribers, Hulu also expects to invest "approximately half a billion in content in 2012." This – hopefully – means that the service's lineup of shows will continue to expand. Given that the traditional cable and broadcasting networks continue to be weary of Hulu and similar online services, it remains to be seen what effect this money will have on the content offerings on the service (especially if they decide to jack up their prices).

 



2:48 pm


Google Hopes to Rekindle Interest in Google TV With New Interface, Apps & Old Hardware

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With Google TV, Google hoped to make a push into its users’ living rooms. Its launch in October 2010, though,  was marred by an overcomplicated interface and a lack of content, as the TV networks and companies like Hulu quickly barred Google TV users from accessing their sites. Now, just about a year later, Google is giving it another try. The hardware – the Logitech Revue and a few Sony TVs – remains the same, but the software got a major update. A new, simpler interface should make using the service easier and the improved search should make finding content a snap. The new Google TV experience, running on top of Android 3.1, also includes an updated YouTube channel and – maybe most importantly – a selection of apps from the Android market.

What remains the same for now, however, is the hardware selection: there’s the $99 Logitech Revue with its unwieldy keyboard remote and a small number of Sony TVs with Google TV built-in (with a remote that’s just as complicated).

Will Google TV Sell This Time Around?

Early reviews of the first generation of Google TV were generally negative (especially after all the major media companies blocked access to their sites) and it never gained any traction in the market. Users who wanted to watch Netflix or Hulu on their TVs mostly opted to buy more straightforward and cheaper devices from manufacturers like Roku or used their Xbox or Playstation to watch Hulu and Netflix. Hulu, by the way, remains absent from the Google TV lineup.

Among the new apps are offerings from AOL, Pandora, CNBC, CNN Money, the Wall Street Journal and others. Individually, none of these will likely drive buyers to Google TV, but having a large ecosystem of video services available may make the hardware an easier sell.

Still Not for Cord Cutters

The area where Google TV beats its competitors is the integration with regular live TV. Indeed, Google itself points out that it thinks this era of TV is “not about replacing broadcast or cable TV; it’s not about replicating what’s on TV to the Web. It’s about bringing millions of new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators, application developers, and networks.” Google clearly doesn’t want its TV initiative to be seen as competition for the current players. Instead, it wants Google TV to be complimentary to the network and cable programming that most people still subscribe to today.



5:57 pm


Cord Cutting: It’s Easy if You Try

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Cord cutting, that is cancelling your cable or satellite contract in favor of going Internet TV-only, isn’t as hard as it sounds. Chances are, unless you are a real TV addict, you can easily live without cable these days and switch over to an affordable set-top box from Roku or Boxee with a subscription to Hulu Plus and Netflix.

My Experiment in Cord Cutting

While the pundits are still discussing whether cord cutting is real, I decided to see what life without cable would be like and cancelled our cable subscription about two months ago. Since then, I’ve used nothing but a basic Roku box to watch TV shows. Indeed, if you’re already somewhat picky about the shows you watch, cutting the cord turns out to be pretty easy.

Today, for a total of $16 per month, we subscribe to Hulu Plus and the most basic Netflix plan. We still watch virtually all the shows we looked at before and when news breaks, we can watch Al Jazeera’s live stream, which more than makes up for not getting to see the talking heads on CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

Before I cancelled our cable subscription, we were already watching virtually all of our TV from a DVR anyway, so the idea of time-shifting shows was nothing new. Unlike with a DVR, Hulu Plus doesn’t let you fast-forward through ads, though. Given that it only shows one ad at a time (often as short as 15 seconds), however, these interruptions are far more bearable than the 5-minute blocks you find on regular TV.


A few words about my experience with the Roku box: It just works. Its user interface could react a bit faster and its animations could be smoother, but I have not complaints about the video quality (which is the only thing that matter in the end) and thanks to a fast Internet connection, I haven’t run into any issues with degraded video quality or buffering streams yet. The Roku, in my opinion, offers more flexibility than an Apple TV at this point (which doesn’t support Hulu Plus) and is also the cheaper option in the long run.


Missing Shows

There are major holes in the Hulu and Netflix lineup, though. There are barely any CBS shows available, for example, which means that if you are addicted to all 15 franchises of CSI, you are out of luck (same if you want to see 60 Minutes). While many Fox shows are available on Hulu Plus, American Idol is not (but you can still get your reality TV fix thanks to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars). Oddly enough, some shows (like Fox’s Fringe) don’t stream on Hulu Plus but are available for free on Hulu’s free website. Missing in action, too, for the most part, is live sports, though that is rapidly changing and you can now see both NBA and MLB games live on the Roku. I couldn’t care less about watching sports on TV, but at least it’s good to know there are options.

Filling the Holes

Of course, just because you broke off your relationship with your friendly neighborhood cable TV provider doesn’t mean you can’t get free, over-the-air TV anymore, so most of these holes are easily plugged by a simple antenna (though you would actually have to sit through the ads and be in front of your TV at the right time – just like people used to do 10 years ago…).

You Can Do It if You Try – But Know What You’re Getting Into

That said, though, cutting the cord is obviously not an option if you just need to see Oprah, Dr. Phil and every show on the Food Network. It is easily an option, though, if your TV diet mostly consists of watching the Daily Show and a few select programs that are available on Hulu and Netflix streaming. Indeed, I’ve watched uncounted hours of interesting documentaries on Netflix instead of vegging out in front of yet another mindless show on Home and Garden TV.

My advice for those who want to cut the cord: do a test run before you cancel your cable subscription. If you can switch over without the constant urge to turn on your cable box again, you’re probably good to go.



11:30 am


Hulu Brings TED to the Living Room

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Online video service Hulu just announced that it will offer its users content from TED, the high-end conference featuring talks about tech, entertainment and design that makes many of its talks available online in the month following the yearly conference. Starting today, Hulu will feature about 50 of the most popular TED talks. The company promises to add more talks over the coming months, including ones from the upcoming 2011 TED conference. The material from TED will be available for Hulu and Hulu Plus users.

(more…)



9:51 am


Is Apple Getting Too Greedy? Demands 30% Cut of In-App Subscriptions

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After a lot of confusion earlier this year, Apple today finally clarified its rules for in-app subscriptions for magazines, newspapers, video and music. The rules are very straightforward: Publishers can continue to sell digital subscriptions on their own websites and give free access to existing subscribers. Apple will not take a cut from these transactions. Publishers who offer out-of-app subscriptions, though, also have to offer in-app subscriptions and the price has to be the same or lower than for subscriptions processed outside of the app. Apple will take a 30% cut from these in-app transactions.

This is a rather hefty fee for processing a transaction given that most credit card processors just charge around 2.5% and a small transaction fee (generally around $0.25). It’s also worth noting that it looks as if Apple will take this same cut whenever a subscriber renews a subscription, though this isn’t 100% clear yet. This new subscription plan will become mandatory starting June 30.

Steve Jobs: “Our Philosophy is Simple”

Just in case developers think they can just provide a link to their regular web-based subscription service in their apps and circumvent Apple’s system, the rules explicitly state that “publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a website, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.”

In the words of Apple CEO Steve Jobs: “Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing.” That does sound fair, but in reality, chances are that the majority of new customers for subscription services will come from apps and given that developers aren’t allowed to route around the system, this 30% cut become a major issue for some publishers.

Can Publishers Afford This Without Raising Prices?

You can currently buy an annual subscription to Wired on Amazon for $10 and getting National Geographic for a year costs $15 per year. Will these magazines have to offer the same prices for the app-based versions of their products? (Or do these “promotional” prices not count?) If Hulu has to give Apple $2.40 of every $7.99 subscription it sells, can it still make a profit? Or will Apple’s move force them to raise their prices across the board?

It is, of course, a good thing that Apple is making it easier for consumers to buy subscriptions and helps publishers acquire new subscribers. Having to pay a 30% fee for these services does seem quite steep, though, especially given that Apple now owns the customer and not the publishers.



11:37 am