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Netflix Plans to Fill its Streaming Catalog With 50% Original Content

Netflix is aiming to fill half of its streaming catalog with original programming over the next few years, according to company CFO David Wells (via Variety). The announcement marks a renewed push towards offering original TV shows and movies commissioned by Netflix over stocking licensed content. The streaming catalog is already one third of the way toward reaching the target, according Wells, who said the company was undergoing "a multiyear transition and evolution toward more of our own content". Netflix expects to launch 600 hours of programming in 2016, up from 450 hours in 2015, said content chief Ted Sarandos at the start of the year. The company has projected content spending on a profit/loss basis to rise from $5 billion in 2016 to more than $6 billion in 2017. Wells said the original TV series and movies will continue to be a mix of content owned and produced by Netflix, as well as co-productions and acquisitions. The streaming market is seeing a decreasing cost of production and an increasing number of bidders, making it cheaper to take risks on new programming. "You have supply and demand settling out," Wells continued. "We don't necessarily have to have home runs. We can also live with singles, doubles and triples especially commensurate with their cost." The goal, he said, is to release something that appeals to each individual subscriber, every single month, and on that front "we’ve got a ways to go" across different genres and formats. "The nice thing about the platform is it allows a lot of creative freedom," Wells added, offering the

'Stranger Things' and 'The Get Down' Albums Debut Exclusively on Apple Music

Netflix has released the soundtracks for both its popular sci-fi series Stranger Things, and its new musical drama The Get Down, exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music. There are 36 total songs rounding out the "Volume 1" soundtrack for Stranger Things, and on August 19 a "Volume 2" is expected to launch on Apple's music services as well, with both volumes getting physical CD treatments on September 16 and September 23, respectively (via Consequence of Sound). The music from the Stranger Things soundtrack was created by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, members of an Austin-based band called Survive. The two musicians helped craft the feel of the show's score by balancing "a classic tone," without going so far as to make it "'80s cheese." “We discussed having a classic tone and feel to the music for the show but being reserved enough that it wasn’t ’80s cheese, while offering a refreshing quality so that felt modern,” Stein said in a press release. “This was one of the qualities that drew them to our music in the first place. Having a familiarity with classic synths worked, but with an overall forward thinking approach.” Netflix has yet to say when or if the two volume soundtrack will hit other streaming platforms. Apple Music has netted plenty of exclusives over the past few months, but the TV soundtrack for Stranger Things marks an interesting new addition of content for the service's users. Earlier in the week, artist Kyle Lambert detailed his process of creating the poster art for Stranger Things, which involved the use of an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The Get

Netflix Debuts 'FAST Speed Test' App for Quick and Simple Internet Speed Checks

In May, Netflix announced Fast.com, a website where users could quickly and simply check their internet connection speed. The site uses Netflix's servers and technology to give people an instant look at their current internet speed. The site quickly became popular, and Netflix has now released the FAST Speed Test app for mobile devices. Once opened, the app instantly begins giving users a reading of their internet speed. Once the test is fully complete, results can be checked against results from SpeedTest.net, another popular internet speed checking solution. Both the website and app utilize simple, minimalist designs, with the service's logo and download speed tracker taking up much of the space. The refresh button, the lone button in the app, allows users to restart the test. On its blog, Netflix's Sergey Fedorov and Ellen Livengood explained that FAST only displays download speeds because thats how most users interact with the internet, whether it be streaming video or loading webpages. To test speed, the app and website undergoes several download tests using Netflix's technology and services, including downloading chunks of a 25 MB video file through "a variable number of parallel connections." Fedorov and Livengood go into technical detail about how the service works on the company's tech blog. FAST Speed Test is available in the App Store for free [Direct Link

Netflix Faces 'Unexpected' Loss of Subscribers Due to Monthly Price Increase

Earlier this year, Netflix reminded its oldest users that the terms of its grandfathered pricing -- which kept these subscribers at the $7.99 level for two years -- would be coming to a close sometime in the second or third quarter of 2016. In a recent letter to the company's investors, CEO Reed Hastings remarked on the unfortunate churn of its subscriber base who reacted "unexpectedly" to the impending price increase. The loss of grandfathered pricing places these older users at a new $9.99/month charge for the company's popular streaming service, which Netflix sees as an agreeable compensation for its noticeable uptick in consistent, original programs like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. These shows debuted in 2013, and the $9.99/month price for new subscribers began just the next year, in 2014. Users can choose to stay at $7.99/month if they wish, at the loss of HD video streaming. Due to these abandoned users, the company's stock fell 15 percent before its second quarter earnings report, shared yesterday. In the report, Netflix noted that it expected to add about 532,000 subscribers in the United States and 2.10 million internationally in Q2 2016 (just under a 2.5 million goal), but came up short on both goals. The company ultimately netted 160,000 new customers in the U.S. and 1.52 million overseas, landing under 1.7 million total in the quarter. “Gross additions were on target, but churn ticked up slightly and unexpectedly, coincident with the press coverage in early April of our plan to un-­grandfather longer tenured members and remained

Court Ruling Could Lead to Stricter Password-Sharing Laws in the Future

Earlier this month a federal appeals court decided that an employee "acted without authorization" after he used a former co-worker's password login without their permission, in order to gain access to a collection of their data. Concerning the case The United States of America v. David Nosal, this has led to a decision by the court to rule that password sharing is a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, meaning that sharing your login among friends and family for accounts like Netflix and HBO Go could now be an illegal act (via TechCrunch). Judge McKeown, who is close to the case and wrote its opinion, admitted that more innocent forms of password sharing "bears little resemblance" to the circumstances presented in the lawsuit that ignited the ruling. McKeown urged future judges and courts to consider how important "facts and context" are to each case, and craft rulings surrounding password-sharing lawsuits and their legality from there. While the daily sharing of passwords has yet to be designated as a violation of federal law, some do see the new ruling as a slippery slope to a future where giving a friend your HBO Go login could land you in a heap of trouble. Judge Reinhardt took the dissenting opinion on the case, commenting that while David Nosal may have gotten into "criminal or civil" liabilities while logging into his co-worker's accounts, "he has not violated the CFAA." This case is about password sharing. People frequently share their passwords, notwithstanding the fact that websites and employers have policies prohibiting it. In my view,

Netflix Offline Viewing Now Expected to Launch 'By the End of the Year'

After Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that the company is keeping an "open mind" in regards to offering offline viewing to its customers, a new report from LightReading this week hints that the feature could be coming to the streaming platform "by the end of the year" (via Gizmodo). The information comes from industry insider Dan Taitz -- COO of Penthera, a company that works on mobile video -- who described a potential "landscape shift" in the streaming video market when an offline viewing option arrives on Netflix. "We know from our sources within the industry that Netflix is going to launch this product," says Taitz. "My expectation is that by the end of the year Netflix will be launching download-to-go as an option for their customers." Another source, Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Dan Rayburn, called Netflix's offline viewing feature an "open secret" within the streaming community. Rayburn commented that rumors have been swirling "for months" about the impending launch of a download-to-go alternative for Netflix subscribers, potentially even prior to Hasting's comments on the service back in April. "It's a natural progression for Netflix to want to have some of their content available for consumers to watch offline, and we've been hearing for months now that they are in fact going to roll something out soon," says Rayburn. Netflix's biggest roadblock on the service could be copyright issues with downloaded film and TV shows, according to Rayburn, who mentioned that -- besides Netflix's own original content -- it'll be a studio-by-studio basis to see how much

Netflix Announces First Original Series Out of India

Netflix today announced its first original television series from India, one of the 190 countries where its streaming service was launched in January. Netflix has seen fantastic success producing original shows for its American and English customer base, and the news follows similar announcements for original shows for the company's subscribers in Argentina and Germany. Netflix is partnering with Indian film and production company Phantom Films to make an English and Hindi adaptation of gangster thriller novel Sacred Games, by Indian author Vikram Chandra. Set in Mumbai, Sacred Games delves into the city's intricate web of organized crime, corruption, politics and espionage that lie beneath India's economic renaissance. It is described as "an epic masterwork of exceptional richness and power that interweaves the lives of the privileged, the famous, the wretched and the bloodthirsty". The series will be available globally, although the release date remains unknown. India's online markets are rapidly growing, and its film industry is estimated to be worth 192 billion rupees ($3.1 billion) by 2017. Earlier this year, it was reported that Apple executives met with TV producers and Hollywood studios about developing original TV shows that it would offer exclusively to its iTunes customers. Those discussions were also reportedly led by Cue and Robert Kondrk, vice-president of iTunes content. The original content could spearhead Apple's plans to launch its streaming TV service, which has been delayed due to its difficulties in securing deals with media

Netflix Launches 'Cellular Data Controls' to Adjust Video Quality on Data-Capped Smartphones

Streaming company Netflix today introduced a new set of "cellular data controls" that will give its customers control over the quality of video streaming on cellular networks so as to avoid overcharge fees with data-capped plans. The launch follows an admission of throttling video by Netflix earlier in March, when the company also confirmed the data saver feature would debut in May. According to Netflix, the default control setting will let users stream approximately 3 hours of TV and movies per gigabyte of data, which it determined as the sweet spot setting that "balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees." Of course, since the whole point is personal customization, the controls let users on higher data plans up the streaming quality at their will, and vice versa. Netflix's cellular data controls (left) and new 3D Touch Quick Actions (right) The cellular data controls can be found in App Settings, with the various customizable controls available once you toggle off "Set Automatically." From there users can choose Low (4 hours per GB), Medium (2 hours per GB), High (1 hour per GB), or Unlimited options for streaming video in the app. An alternative also exists to shut off cellular data playback completely -- and only use Wi-Fi -- within the menu. In addition to the cellular controls, the 8.4.0 update to Netflix on the App Store also brings 3D Touch support for Quick Actions right from the Home screen, VoiceOver improvements to navigation, and various bug fixes. Those who have yet to do so can

Netflix CEO Keeping an 'Open Mind' About Offline Viewing for Mobile Apps

A long-requested feature could be coming to the iOS and Android versions of Netflix, letting users download TV shows and movies for offline viewing instead of being stranded in areas without Wi-Fi or a cellular signal when wanting to watch the video streaming service. Netflix has been lagging behind its competitors in this regard, with companies like Amazon and YouTube allowing some form of offline viewing to its paying members. Answering a question from Re/code yesterday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted that the company would consider the possibility for users to download its videos moving forward, without directly confirming it would implement the feature anytime soon. The wording of Hastings' comment also suggests that if offline viewing ever came, Netflix would angle it as an assistive feature for countries with less reliable internet speeds, rather than a bullet point benefit to its broader subscriber base. “We should keep an open mind on this. We’ve been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming. But as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it’s something we should keep an open mind about.” Netflix's previous stance on offline viewing was a belief that the introduction of such a feature would add too much complexity into a service that prides itself on simplicity of use. Last September, the company's Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt, said that Netflix believes it's "not a very compelling proposition" moving forward. Undoubtedly content licenses would be a hurdle for the feature as well, but given

Netflix Admits to Throttling Mobile Video, Announces 'Data Saver' Feature for Smartphone Apps

Netflix has admitted to throttling the video streams of its customers on AT&T and Verizon mobile devices, a practice it confirmed has been in effect for more than five years to “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps.” Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, the company said it doesn't throttle video on Sprint and T-Mobile due to more lenient policies enacted by those carriers that favor slower network connection when data plans are exceeded, instead of overage fees. T-Mobile was at the center of its own throttling controversy earlier in the year, thanks to its free video streaming service Binge On. To continue its transparency on the subject, Netflix announced a new feature coming to its mobile apps that will grant subscribers more control over their streaming. Called "data saver," the update will let users decide to stream lower-quality video if they have a smaller data plan, or increase to higher-quality video if they have a larger data plan. Netflix said it's "on track" for data saver to launch in May, and plans to release more details closer to launch. To justify the previous half-decade of secret throttling, the company cited a study it completed recently that pointed to an apathetic response by most users regarding the quality of streaming on their smartphones, with a larger percentage worried about the quality of streaming at home on a television. Still, it hopes moving forward that the new data saver feature will level the playing field and give every one of its subscribers the chance to control their preferable mobile streaming quality. We

Netflix for iOS Updated With 3D Touch Support, iPad Pro Optimization

Netflix today updated its iOS app to add support for Apple's latest devices, the iPhone 6s and the iPad Pro. The app now includes a layout that's been optimized for the 12.9-inch screen of the iPad Pro for an improved look that offers more content at a glance. 3D Touch support is available in the form of Peek and Pop gestures, providing more information about movies and television shows from the main browsing screen. 3D Touch support does not extend to Home screen Quick Actions. Other new features in today's update include episode auto-play and recommendation features on the iPhone, an improved Kids experience on the iPad, and Arabic support on devices running iOS 9 and later.What's New - Post-Play experience (episode auto-play/recommendations) now on iPhone - iPad Pro optimized layout - 3D Touch support - Improved Kids experience on iPad - Arabic support for devices running iOS 9 and later - Performance improvementsNetflix can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Netflix’s Grandfathered Subscribers to See Monthly Price Increase From $8 to $10 for HD

During its financial results meeting yesterday, Netflix reminded its shareholders that the price-reduced grandfathered plans of long-time subscribers will be ending in 2016 (via Engadget). Grandfathered subscribers can choose to opt out of the imminent price hike, but it means they will lose access to HD quality streams. Beginning in an undisclosed window of the second or third quarter of 2016, those members will be offered a choice: stay with the $7.99 price and get lowered to SD-quality video streaming, or upgrade to $9.99 per month to stick with HD-quality videos. Netflix introduced three new tiers for new members onto the service back in October, including the two previously mentioned $7.99 and $9.99 options, along with a "Premium" $11.99 tier that gives viewers access to 4K. The first word regarding an incoming price increase for older Netflix users came nearly two years ago, so it might have been easy for grandfathered members to forget about the added money they'd have to pay to use the service in 2016. Still, Netflix calls its customers "loyal," and doesn't think the price jump will be a big deterrent for most grandfathered subscribers, especially thanks to the amount of original programming the service is producing this year. "Given these members have been with us at least 2 years," the company points out, "we expect only slightly elevated churn. In 2016, we plan to launch over 600 hours of original programming, up from about 450 hours in 2015." Similar to when it announced the two-year hold on price jumps for grandfathered accounts, the company is

Australian Apple TV Owners Gain Access to Netflix Channel, Service

It's March 24 in Australia and New Zealand, which means Netflix is now live in the country as promised. New Netflix subscribers in Australia and New Zealand will be able to access Netflix content on their Apple TVs, through the Netflix channel that is now available. Netflix plans in Australia are priced at A$8.99 for single-stream access to standard definition content, A$11.99 for two-stream high-definition access, and A$14.99 for four-stream Ultra HD access. All new Netflix subscribers in the two countries can sign up for a one-month free trial. At the current time, it appears that content available to Netflix subscribers in Australia and New Zealand is somewhat more limited than content available in the United States. Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, Silver Linings Playbook, World War Z, and The Croods are available on Netflix in the U.S., but are not available in Australia and New Zealand. According to The Sydney Morning Herald Australian Netflix has several thousand fewer titles than the U.S. version of the service, but it has 693 shows that are not available in the U.S. or Canada. Netflix has said that content available in Australia will improve in the near future as it continues to add additional shows and