Netflix’s Free Speed Test Arrives on iOS & Android

Does your Netflix service lag on your some times and buffer? Netflix has a little app that will help you find out if you are getting what you are paying for from your internet provider.

Netflix’s nifty little speed testing tool, Fast.com, is now available as a mobile app.

You can use the app to measure how fast your internet connection is at any given moment. Although it’s not very different than using just the website on your mobile browser, the one-tap shortcut might be handy for someone who’s constantly curious about their internet speed.

Netflix’s super simple speed test tool is now available on Android and iOS

Plus, the more often you use the app, the more information Netflix gets about the connections service providers offer to customers around the country. Alongside the app’s launch, Netflix also details in a blog post how it built fast.com. It’s a pretty long and technical post though, so read it slowly.

You can download the Fast app for free for both Android and iOS.

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Netflix Brings Us Fast.com

Netflix has just launched what is probably the simplest speed test on the Web. It’s called Fast.com

It’s incredibly minimal, and loads pretty much immediately, probably because there are no ads. It only measures your internet service provider’s (ISP) download speed, which it will present in huge digits after a few seconds of testing.

And that’s it. A frequently asked questions section explains that keeping the site minimal was a conscious choice:

Netflix does give you the option to compare your results with Speedtest.net, which provides detailed results on upload speeds, latency and other metrics as well. That’s a nice touch, given the companies aren’t affiliated at all – there’s isn’t even a link to Netflix proper.

This is obviously part of the Netflix’s continued battle against slow ISP speeds, and I would not be surprised to see links to Fast.com show up on the Netflix site and apps, especially when users are having connection problems.. The site ends its FAQ section fairly pointedly:

“If results from fast.com and other speed tests often show less speed than you have paid for, you can ask your ISP about the results.”

Will this help for consumers with slow ISP’s? I hope it at least helps shine a light on ISP’s who are proving slow connections to customers who are paying for faster speeds — and not getting it.

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Amazon Prime Gets Even Better

In many ways Amazon Prime has become my go-to streaming service. Of course Netflix has some outstanding original content (which I enjoy) however Amazon Prime has continued to regularly improve its service since it’s launch just a few short years ago.

Amazon Prime is the ultimate product bundling deal imaginable because it combines several service including physical free shipping digital subscriptions for music, videos, and more. This week Amazon took an aggressive step to better compete with standalone subscription services (like Netflix & Hulu) by offering a new variety of Prime offerings by the month.

I have happily subscribed to Amazon prime for years. With this subscription, you can get most Amazon.com purchases delivered to your home in two days for free plus an astonishing array of digital services, which include:

Amazon Video. Unlimited access to movies and TV shows in SD, HD, Ultra HD & HDR (where possible).

Amazon Prime Music. Unlimited streaming from Amazon’s music service, which includes ad-free and personalized radio stations. This is replace Apple Music & iTunes for me.

Free Kindle books. As a Prime subscriber, you get access to over 1 million Kindle e-books for free, plus the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one free e-book per month.

But the problem with Prime is that it is only available in a one-year subscription, whereas competing standalone services are all available month-to-month. To close this gap, and convince potential customers that the wide swath of Prime perks is worth consideration, Amazon is now offering two monthly Prime subscriptions. They are:

Amazon Prime (Monthly). This is the annual plan, but month-to-month. That is, you get all of the perks of the yearly Amazon Prime membership, but pay $10.99 per month instead of $99 per year. (So it’s cheaper to get the annual subscription if you can afford it and know you’ll use it all year long.)

Amazon Prime Video. Finally available as a standalone subscription service that can take on Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime Video costs $8.99 per month, undercutting those services when you compare functionality. Netflix costs $7.99 to $11.99 per month (where only the most expensive versions offers HD and or Ultra HD) and Hulu is $7.99 (with limited commercials) to $11.99 per month (no commercials).

prime-choices

If you go with the yearly Amazon Prime subscription, and then take advantage of the shipping perk, that is still the best choice. But this move with a monthly subscription service signals that Amazon is serious about keeping its digital media services both competitive and desirable.

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Twitter to Stream Live NFL Games This Season

Here is some big news for NFL fans. The NFL has picked Twitter to stream its Thursday night games.

When the league negotiated its latest deal for Thursdays, it decided to sell the streaming rights separately for an “over the top” broadcast. This past season, it partnered with Yahoo to stream a game from London that took place on a Sunday morning in the United States. This stream with Yahoo actually worked quite well as I used this to watch a game one Sunday morning while sitting at our Disney World resort so I have high hope that Twitter can do just as well. However this streaming deal does not include any Sunday football.

Only the 10 Thursday games on CBS and NBC will be streamed through Twitter under a one-year agreement, the NFL announced earlier today. The games will be free worldwide on all devices through the Twitter platform. Viewers will not need to be registered Twitter users.

The NFL Network-only Thursday games are not part of the deal.

The NFL wants to experiment with digital broadcasts to see how they might fit into future strategies. In the meantime, this also offers a new revenue source with digital companies eager to get involved in live sports.

So far, the audience for NFL streams has been significantly smaller than that for traditional television. This should not be surprising, but given time these numbers will grow. The Yahoo broadcast of the Bills-Jaguars game from London in October averaged a worldwide audience of about 2.4 million. A Jets-Dolphins matchup from London earlier that month, which started at the same time, averaged more than quadruple that in the U.S. alone with 9.9 million viewers on CBS.

In 2016 and 2017, CBS and NBC will each air five games, which will be simulcast on NFL Network. Another eight will be exclusively on NFL Network.

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Free TV with Tubi TV

Attention Cord-cutters!

If you are looking for some free TV today check out Tubi TV. In February, the streaming video site added many new titles.

If you are a fan of ’80s TV you will be especially happy with some of their new content such as our favorite buddy from Melmac — “Alf.” All four seasons are now online.

One of the worst movies of all time is now available, as well: “Bio-Dome” starring Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin. Now you get a choice, do you attempt to watch such an awful movie knowing it won’t cost you anything (but time) or do you choose to stare at a wall?

If that’s not how you want to spend your time, there’s always “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” and “Star Trek: Insurrection” to check out. Take a look at the list below to see what other titles joined the service.

As you can see from the below screenshot Tubi TV has a nice simple interface for wtaching streaming content right from your browser.

Beware that you will have to disable ad-blockers when using this service.

Screenshot (3)

Arriving on Tubi TV in February 2016

  • Alf, seasons 1-4
  • All Star Comedy Jam Live From Orlando
  • All Star Comedy Jam: Shaq And Cedric
  • And God Created Woman
  • Angel Heart
  • Barfly
  • Best Of Times
  • Bio-Dome
  • Bloody Sunday
  • Bolero
  • La Cage Aux Folles Ii
  • La Cage Aux Folles
  • The Chumscrubber
  • Dark Tide (2011)
  • Death At A Funeral (2007)
  • The Descent Part 2
  • Dr. T And The Women
  • Everything You Always…Sex
  • Hard Eight
  • Hart’s War
  • Heartburn
  • Hot Pursuit
  • Ironweed
  • Jacknife
  • The Kite Runner
  • Like Water
  • Lions For Lambs
  • Losin’ It
  • The Lost Room
  • Love And Death
  • Mesmerized
  • The Monster Squad
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie
  • National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2: College
  • Navy Seals
  • The Phantom Of the Opera
  • Pope Of Greenwich Village
  • The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio
  • The Red Violin
  • Return Of The Living Dead III
  • Return Of The Living Dead: Necropolis
  • Romance And Cigarettes
  • The Running Man
  • Serving Sara
  • Shadows And Fog
  • Sliding Doors
  • Son Of Rambow
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Tales From The Darkside: The Movie
  • Teen Wolf Too
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre Ii
  • Triumph Of The Spirit
  • Yentl

Check the service out here.

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Smartphones Devouring Our TV Time

The recent announcement from CBS that there will finally be a new “Star Trek” TV series but unlike any major network television series before it – it will boldly launch and live exclusively on a streaming service, in this case CBS All Access.  At first I am sure many fans of the 50 year old franchise were probably left scratching their heads about this decision. However CBS is only reacting to something we all know is happening on the TV landscape. Network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS) as we have know is in the final throws of dominance and will more then likely fade away completely in the next decade or two.

You can see by the following from Nielson that CBS is on the right track with their most watched TV series of all time and what to do with it going forward.

Our Smartphones Are Eating Our TV Time

The use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones appears to have seriously cut into American’s traditional TV-watching time, new Nielsen data shows, potentially undercutting the notion that mobile devices merely serve as “second screens” while people are plopped in front of the set.

Data provided to The Associated Press shows that the number of 18-to-34-year-olds who used a smartphone, tablet or TV-connected device like a streaming box rose 26 percent in May compared to a year earlier, to an average of 8.5 million people per minute.

By contrast, the numbers of those in the same age group who watched TV, listened to radio or used a computer fell 8 percent over the same period to 16.6 million people per minute.

Nielsen’s inaugural “Comparable Metrics” report for the first time presents data on average use per minute, making it possible to directly compare the time people are spending on their various devices.

The audience for TV viewing alone fell by 10 percent, to 8.4 million people a minute in the 18-to-34-year-old category. That fall-off in the younger audience highly coveted by advertisers confirms a trend in other Nielsen data that found traditional TV viewing peaked in the 2009-2010 season.

“It’s pretty clear the increased use of mobile devices is having some effect on the system as a whole,” said Glenn Enoch, Nielsen’s senior vice president of audience insights. The new Nielsen data doesn’t break out time spent specifically on streaming TV, since that usage is likely spread across TV-connected devices, phones, tablets and PCs.

Since Nielsen inaugurated its tracking service in 1949, average daily TV viewing has marched steadily upward, from 4 hours and 35 minutes a day to a peak of 8 hours and 55 minutes in 2009-2010. That increase coincided with growing numbers of TV sets sold and the proliferation of programming on cable channels.

But viewership has been edging down ever since. From late September until mid-November this year, daily TV watching accounted for only 8 hours and 13 minutes, Nielsen said.

A Logical Choice

This information from Neilson as well as the overall downward trend of conventional TV viewership for services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are indeed proof that it is most logical that the Star Trek franchise will live long and prosper only by embracing new technology which that goodness it appears to be doing.

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Yahoo! To Stream an NFL Game This Season

Now I understand that my previous article described a crumbling and shrinking Yahoo!. Now we have this latest bit of news that Yahoo will be actually broadcasting (streaming) an NFL game this season, on the internet, with no accompanying television broadcast.

bills-jags-london

Yahoo was chosen in a bidding process by the NFL, which was seeking to find a partner to air an October 25, 2015 game in London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. The level of competition may not be the best the NFL has to offer– the Bills have the longest streak of seasons without a playoff appearance in the NFL, just ahead of the Oakland Raiders, and the Jaguars are tied for fifth on that list — but the move to allow free online access across devices is a big deviation from the NFL’s previous path.

Streaming services have managed to find popularity outside the mainstream cable bundle, but many consumers avoid fully cutting the cord due to live sports specifically. This included your favorite tech blogger. While many of the sports leagues offer streaming packages in some form or another, they black out local teams’ games from those offerings, forcing fans to purchase cable to watch area teams.

Some cracks have begun showing for streaming sports, though. DishTV recently announced a streaming bundle of programs that includes ESPN, giving streaming-only TV watchers their first access to the sports network . That offering, called Sling TV, also has some Turner channels that show live sports and a smattering of other live sports content.

Yahoo has obviously made video a focus while giving up on other traditional internet services like Maps which have been overtaken by the rise of Google and Facebook. Yahoo has pumped up its Yahoo Screen streaming service with original content from the celebrities, including Katie Couric, and picked up canceled NBC series “Community” to pair with its original offerings.

Google’s YouTube, which has reportedly pursued NFL broadcast rights in the past, was likely beaten out by Yahoo. The price for the rights to the Bills-Jaguars game was not released.

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Apple & Beats Combine Forces

In a surprising move, at least to me Apple is actually set to purchase Beats.

Apple will buy Beats for about $3 billion and bring recording mogul Jimmy Iovine into its ranks, hoping to win points with the music industry and help it catch up in fast-growing music streaming market.

apple_beats_001

As expected, Beats co-founders Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition of the music streaming and audio equipment company.

While the price tag represents a very small portion of Apple’s roughly $150 billion cash flow, it marks a significant departure for a company that for two decades has stuck mainly to acquisitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

what really surprises me is that Apple, the once dominate player in innovation has turned to trying to buy it’s way into the growing music streaming market. This is something new for Apple and makes me wonder if real innovation is in the rear view mirror for Apple.

The deal is seen as Apple’s effort to jump-start an uneven attempt to make headway in music streaming, the fastest-growing segment of the market, as iTunes sales decline. Meanwhile Pandora Media Inc and Spotify have raced ahead while Apple’s eight-month-old iTunes Radio has not made a dent with subscribers.

To add further woes for Apple music downloads have continued to decline and record labels have been putting pressure on Apple to get its act together on streaming. It is believed that the record labels hope Apple can turn Beats Music into a strong competitor to Spotify and other streaming services.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, Apple said on Wednesday, May 28.

 

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HBO Joins FireTV

amazon-fire-tvEarlier this month I picked up Amazon’s FireTV in hope that it would be the only streaming box I would need, replacing both my AppleTV and ChomeTV.

Although I was impressed with much of FireTV I was surprised and disappointed that HBO GO was not included.

Fast foreard to today when we learned that Amazon Prime Instant Video members will soon have access to HBO content. The two companies have apparently signed a multi-year licensing agreement.

The first wave of HBO shows and mini-series will be available starting on May 21, and content will continually be introduced in the coming years. The licensing deal includes access to “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Six Feet Under,” “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” “Family Tree,” “Enlightened,” “Eastbound & Down,” “True Blood,” and “Treme”. In addition previous series will be available as addition HBO shows roll out as the multi-year agreement progresses.

And in addition, and this is key to me, HBO GO will be available on Amazon’s Fire TV by end of the year. This is really good news to me because I need to clear some space in my entertainment center!

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Cutting the Cord with Frank Underwood

Kevin-Spacey-in-House-of-CardsCord cutting is a reference to the new trend of cancelling cable TV and going with internet services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime exclusively. The main hurdle for many, like me here is “live sports”. However I do believe streaming media services will continue to eat away at broadcast TV and just maybe someday become the dominant player.

Today begins Season 2 of the hit series, “House of Cards” on Netflix. Unlike broadcast networks the entire season is available to the subscriber to watch and whatever pace he or she choses. The entire second season of the Emmy award winning series is now available for your enjoyment on Netflix.

House of Cards is an amazing TV show only available on Netflix, proving that with the right amount of financial support, quality TV shows can be made and distributed outside broadcast channels. Starring Kevin Spacey. Robin Wright and Kate Mara, House of Cards focuses on the delicate politics of Washington D.C and otherwise known as the house of cards that is America’s government.

Personally I like to watch shows like this all at watch in one weekend perhaps, getting lost in the work the show’s creators have created.

"Lillyhammer", while a little uneven, mostly delivered on its first eight episodes, telling the story of a mobster, Frank Tagliano, who ratted on his bosses and moved to Lillehammer, Norway under the Witness Protection Program, because it remembered watching the 1994 Olympics there on TV and thinking that it was a nice town. When he gets there, he finds something a lot different than advertised, and struggles to rebuilt his life, stuck in his old ways. So instead of full-on changing, he meets the country of Norway halfway, forcing them to travel the rest of the distance, essentially founding and establishing organized crime in the mostly peaceful nation.

“Lillyhammer”, while a little uneven, mostly delivered on its first eight episodes, telling the story of a mobster, Frank Tagliano, who ratted on his bosses and moved to Lillehammer, Norway under the Witness Protection Program, because it remembered watching the 1994 Olympics there on TV and thinking that it was a nice town. When he gets there, he finds something a lot different than advertised, and struggles to rebuilt his life, stuck in his old ways. So instead of full-on changing, he meets the country of Norway halfway, forcing them to travel the rest of the distance, essentially founding and establishing organized crime in the mostly peaceful nation.

 

To demonstrate that this type of quality series on non-broadcast television is not a fluke I also recommend Netflix’s “Lillyhammer” starring Steven Van Zandt. Yes that’s right the very same guy from Springsteen’s E Street Band and HBO’s “The Sopranos”. This series just entered it’s second season.

With the huge success of “House of Cards” everyone forgets about the Norwegian-American co-produced show that started it all for Netflix in late 2012. Lilyhammer was the reason a lot of people signed up for Netflix in 2012, promising a new generation of television on a streaming service, and a show itself that was funny, relatable and sort of an extension of The Sopranos, thanks to star Steven Van Zandt, an alumnus of the HBO drama and member of Bruce Springstein’s E-Street Band.

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