Roku on a Stick: Making Smart TVs Smarter


Roku quickly made a name for itself over the last few years thanks to its smart (and affordable) TV set-top boxes that allow users to easily stream Internet content from Hulu, Netflix and others to their TVs. Today, the company is announcing its newest product: the Roku Streaming Stick. This device is the size of a USB flash drive, but includes built-in WiFi, a processor, memory and software. It's not a stand-alone piece of hardware, though. Instead, the idea here is to augment existing smart TVs – or at least the few of them that support the so-called Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) standard. Basically, the idea here is that you can plug in a device like Roku's new Streaming Stick (or a mobile phone or any other standard-compliant device) and add new functionality to your TV.

For Roku, this means the company can offer its portfolio of channels and services to users through a significantly more inexpensive device, as the Streaming Stick doesn't need cables or a power supply, for example.

The devices will go on sale later this year, which is probably not a bad move, given that a number of new MHL-compatible TVs will be announced at CES later this week. Roku is also partnering with Best Buy's house-brand Insignia to "pair the Roku Streaming Stick to create a Smart TV for Best Buy."

5:40 pm

Super Bowl to be Streamed Live for the First Time


There is no other television event in the U.S. that commands as much attention and viewership as the annual Super Bowl. Last year's event attracted 111 million viewers. NBC and the National Football League (NFL) today announced that the next edition of the pro football season's championship game will be the first one that will be "streamed online and to mobile phones."

In addition to the Super Bowl, NBC and the NFL will also stream "NBC's broadcasts of wild card Saturday, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl would be available on the league's and network's websites and through Verizon's NFL Mobile app." According to the announcement, this package will also give viewers access to additional camera angles and live statistics. It's not clear if any payment will be required for watching these games. The announcement also doesn't explain which Verizon devices will get access to this stream, though chances are that if you can watch NBC's current football coverage on your phone, you will also be able to watch the Super Bowl.

As more and more Internet users choose to forgo a traditional TV subscription, it only makes sense for a network like NBC to stream its signature sports event live as well. The network is already streaming its "Sunday Night Football" telecasts online and to Verizon phones, so adding the Super Bowl to this line-up won't add a massive burden on NBC's staff.

It will be interesting to see how many viewers the network can get online, though. While TV viewership in the U.S. is in decline, the Super Bowl remains the top TV event of the year for most, as families and friends gather around their newly-acquired big-screen TVs.


4:36 pm

Netflix Raises Prices, Launches Separate DVD and Streaming Plans


Netflix just announced a major change to its pricing plans that could make your monthly subscription a bit more expensive if you want to get both streaming video over the Internet and DVDs in your mailbox, but could save you a few dollars if you don’t want DVDs or don’t need the streaming service. Until now, Netflix offered a plan that included both streaming and DVDs for $9.99. Now, Netflix will offer these two services as separate plans. Streaming will now cost $7.99 and if you want DVDs, the company’s new plans now start at $7.99 for its 1 DVD out at-a-time plan. The price for getting both plans will be $15.98 per month. (more…)

5:23 pm

TweetDeck Goes Real Time – And It’s a Whole New Way of Using Twitter


Yesterday, TweetDeck’s Richard Barley announced a new beta version of the popular Twitter (and Buzz, LinkedIn and Facebook) client. In this new version, TweetDeck uses Twitter’s new streaming API to display tweets in real time. Until now, clients had to poll Twitter’s servers at regular intervals to update your searches and lists. Now, Twitter just pushes every single new post directly to your desktop. While this seems like a minor change (after all, it’s just a faster way to deliver tweets), it actually changes the way you look at Twitter as a communications medium.

Twitter in Real Time – It’s Different Here

Thanks to this, you can now respond to incoming messages in real time, which makes Twitter feel more like an instant messaging service than SMS. If you are a business, for example, you can immediately respond to a tweet about your product, increasing the chance that the person who wrote it is actually still online. here is also something about just seeing this constant stream of information scrolling down your screen that feels a little bit like you are connected to the Matrix. Overall, though, it’s this new immediacy that changes how using Twitter feels, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this.


For the time being, the real-time stream in TweetDeck only works for your core columns (all friends, mentions, direct messages), old TweetDeck groups and searches. Sadly, it doesn’t work for Twitter lists yet, which is quite a shame, given that there is so much value in these lists.

Get the Beta

If you would like to apply for TweetDeck’s closed beta, click here.

2:44 pm