As part of its commitment to expand its in-flight video offerings, Virgin America and YouTube have announced the availability of five high-profile YouTube channels on Virgin America flights. The content, provided to passengers for free, will be available on all US and Mexico flights whose planes are equipped with the video screens (about 25 percent of their fleet of planes).
While this certainly is a big expansion for Virgin America, it is also a big expansion for YouTube, which has never before had a distribution agreement with an airline. This brings the content to a very captive audience, who is desperately seeking distraction from the mundane event of flying. As someone who flies several times per year for
the show, I can tell you the worst part of flying is trying to occupy yourself. We bring movies and books on tablets and laptops, but that requires prep work. Many times I have wanted to be able to watch my favorite YouTube channels or other online content, but am not really willing to pay for the Internet access (on those flights that require it). This is a great option, especially if you like those five channels.
Speaking of the channels, you are probably wondering who they are. Don't fret; I have the list right here!
Blue (starring Julia Stiles) from WIGS, Crash Course from Geek & Sundry, H+ The Digital Series from Warner Bros., The Key of Awesome from Barely Political and Written by a Kid from Geek & Sundry. Obviously, in addition to YouTube, this is a huge deal for these content producers. With more distribution comes more viewers, and with more viewers comes more ad revenue.
Hopefully, as this program succeeds, YouTube and Virgin America will work together to bring more channels to the lineup. Obviously missing from the lineup is anything in the news chat category, including entertainment, technology, gaming or culture. I wonder where they could find
a channel like that. Seriously, though, it would be good to see an expansion of categories offered, though it is a pretty exciting situation to have at least some of YouTube available to you for free on a flight.
Have you ever pined for free YouTube access on a flight? Let me know in the comments.
File this one under "bizarre." Lucasfilm,
new parent company Disney and distributor Paramount Pictures, have been sued over Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - and not for the obvious "it really sucked" reason, either. Instead, the companies are being sued for using the likeness of the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which is the missing fourth real world crystal skull, in the film without permission.
Now, while that might sound crazy on its face, it gets even crazier. The artifact in question is not currently in the possession of the person who brought the suit: director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, Dr. Jaime Awe. In fact, the artifact is not in the possession of anyone in the country, as it was stolen by treasure-hunters in 1924. This fact did not, however, prevent the suit from being filed, and damaged claimed. The good doctor claims that the use of the likeness without permission is unlawful and wants damages paid.
Oh, he also wants the skull returned - which I suppose is Disney's responsibility?
So, in recap: the director of an archaeology institute is suing for damages created by a movie about a real-world artifact because the item in the movie looks a lot like the artifact which is not under his jurisdiction, nor in his country for nearly a century, but should be returned by people who do not have it. And you thought the plot of the movie was convoluted and hard to follow... boy, were you wrong!
The PlayStation 3 may not be getting love from
new companies entering the video space but everybody knows that it is the number one Blu-Ray player. What people may not know is that the PS3 is also top dog in other video-related categories, which is interesting considering the amount of PS3s out there versus other Internet-connected devices.
Almost every Internet-connected device can stream videos from Netflix, too. However, we have been told this week that Sony's PlayStation 3, amidst all of the problems that plague the platform, is the leader for Netflix streaming among all hardware, including the Roku, Boxee and Apple TV. Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, said,
PS3 is our largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing, and this year, at times, even surpassed the PC in hours of Netflix enjoyment to become our No. 1 platform overall. PS3 is a natural fit for Netflix in terms of developing and first deploying our most advanced features. We can transparently update our application with new features on a daily basis, and through the free PlayStation Network, people around the world can sign up for Netflix directly from their PS3.
Granted, the PlayStation Network being free is certainly a plus, where Xbox 360 users need a Gold Xbox Live account to access Netflix, but that can't be the only selling factor. Roku's are $79 and do not require a special subscription to access the same content. Perhaps it is those who are buying the PS3 for Blu-Ray that are almostly exclusively loading up a Netflix subscription as well. It could also be that not many people know what a Roku or Boxee Box is, and have opted to get one of the more commonly known, free, devices to stream video from. At any rate, Sony Computer Entertainment America's CEO, Jack Tretton, shared Hastings' delight on the news.
The PlayStation and Netflix communities both share a strong passion for high quality entertainment. Netflix provides a fantastic experience for watching TV shows and movies on PS3, and our joint development will continue to produce innovations for our customers that further demonstrate PS3 as the true home for entertainment in the living room.
With 30 million Netflix customers using a device to stream video, I'd be curious to see exactly how many PS3s are being pushing video to TVs. Tretton standing tall behind the PS3 being a "true home for entertainment" definitely speaks volumes, too. I believe Microsoft
has been saying that for years now and has the resume and catalog to back it up. While being the top device for Netflix streaming sure is remarkable, Sony still has to make up about another 25 media partners in order to be in the same category that the Xbox 360 has been in for a while now. Perhaps this news will help them out with their revival plan and get Sony back on the right track. Outpacing the Wii, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku on the most popular video streaming service sure is a good start, so let's just hope they can continue to ride the momentum.
Back in the summer, we reported on Verizon teaming up with Redbox to deliver a new
video streaming service, Redbox Instant. This week, we've discovered that it's possible the service will launch very soon. There was a section on Redbox's site that was only supposed to be available to the closed beta members but was somehow publicly accessible. In fact, the help section was so in-depth that we now have some details on pricing and other information.
Granted, it's possible that this information could change a month or even a week before the service goes public, but it's always nice to get a little heads up on a new streaming service. Here's what we know for now:
Of course, you could imagine this news has spread across the Internet rapidly, so naturally Redbox Instant by Verizon's CEO Shawn Strickland made an official statement shortly after the news break.
Subscriptions are as low as $6 per month, which will give customers unlimited streaming capabilities to the entire video catalog. We can assume that the catalog will be much smaller than Netflix's or even Amazon's but we do know that Thor and Iron Man 2 are in the list. For $8 per month, you can get four Redbox credits added to your streaming subscription, which allows you to rent DVDs from physical Redbox locations. This will most likely be for movies that are only available via DVD but users will be able to reserve the disc from the website or via mobile app. Also, this isn't AT&T and credits will not rollover to the next month and will expire. Redbox Instant will also deliver video-on-demand rentals and sales of titles that are newer and not available for streaming yet. Customers can download these titles for offline access and prices start at 99 cents. Redbox Instant will be available on the web, Android and iOS devices, Xbox 360 (no PS3 from what we see) and on certain Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray players. Just like Netflix, you will be able to have five devices registered to your account at any one time. The service will also be using Silverlight for web-streaming, just like we see on Netflix. This news makes me smile a little bit on the inside. Lastly, from the now-removed help section, we saw that beta testers would not be able to use their Redbox credits that are included with their service at some Redbox locations until December 17th. This could lead us to believe we will either see a soft launch, public launch or announcement of official details on that date or shortly after.
We appreciate the enthusiasm for Redbox Instant by Verizon and we look forward to sharing the full details of the service soon.
Company spokespeople have not been allowed to comment on anything in regards to the rumors or findings. However, now that we have seen some information, we can't wait for more. Like I've said on our show, it's always good for competition to exist, especially in this space. We're likely to see some of these details change but at least we now have a starting point.
Are you excited for another competitor to enter the video-streaming ring? Or have you already picked your favorite dog in the fight? We want to know in the comments below.
Everyone loves music, right? Of course they do! While there may be a lot of music streaming options out there, like
Xbox Music, the recently price-reduced Sony Music Unlimited, and others, those who have been following this publication know that I've been a huge fan of Spotify. From its Ping app platform to its infinitely superior Radio service, Spotify has been my preference since it may its way to the States. I understand, however, if you haven't shared the same sentiment and have not yet paid for the premium service from the company. You shall not fear, though, as Spotify has given your loved ones an easy way to convince you to try out their service this holiday season: gift cards.
Want to try out a Premium subscription for Spotify but unsure if you want to pony up the bucks to do it? Ask your friends and family this year and have them pick up a gift card for you. Spotify announced this week that it will be making $10, $30 and $60 gift cards available online in their store and also at Target stores nationwide. This is a huge step in the right direction for the company, who is currently
preparing for its next round of funding, as it puts Spotify in line with Pandora, who has been offering gift cards for quite some time now. Keep in mind that these gift cards are for the Premium service, too, and not the middle tier.
The gift of Spotify Premium provides your family and friends with unlimited access to music without interruption from ads. Your gift allows the use of Spotify on a mobile phone and the ability to take playlists on the go with our offline mode.
I usually don't go and mention things like this but I feel it would be an injustice if I don't follow through on all things Spotify as I've been doing for the past two years. Not only that, but this holiday season comes at a great time for the company. Spotify also said this week that it is up to 20 million active users worldwide, with one million here in the States, which is up more than 30 percent in less than six months. This is big because we already know that
Spotify users spend more money on music than those who don't use Spotify. Secondly, they have added several key musical groups to the service as well, including Metallica, and have just recently added a new Twitter-like feature that allows users to follow their friends' listening trends if the information is not set to private. These are all good things that should entice new members to give the service a shot, and the gift card option is just a bonus.
So, are you currently a Spotify subscriber? Are you planning to be soon? Will you be picking up a gift card for someone else or have someone get one for you? Let us know in the comments.
Note: At the time of the writing of this article, Spotify has not paid for this article or any other article in this publication.
Are you still using
Nextel's Sprint's iDEN network? If so, that means either you love the little beep it makes or you're working in the construction field with a boss who won't upgrade. That's because right now, in 2012, there are still 2.3 million postpaid and 800,000 pre-paid customers still using Sprint's acquired 2G network. 2G is worse than T-Mobile's fake 4G network for those keeping score at home. Because of the strikingly large number of people still using the network, combined with Sprint's desire to shut it off by June of 2013, Sprint has decided to encourage users to get off the network sooner rather than later.
How? Sprint will be charging all subscribers who still use the iDEN network an additional $10 per month beginning January 1st. That'll teach 'em! Sprint's spokesman Mark Bonavia said this week that the company has already begun notifying customers of the change via e-mail, physical mail and text messaging. The $10 price increase will only affect Nextel and PowerSource brand users, with those using Sprint's CDMA network remaining unaffected by this change. On the decision, Bonavia added,
Customers that migrate prior to January will likely find a price plan comparable to what they have now. They are also eligible to receive a variety of very attractive device offers.
Sprint has been trying to slowly ax iDEN since 2007, but the 2 million-plus subscribers have been loyal to the brand, making it hard to quickly cut ties. Now, with the new age of technology and faster 4G networks becoming available, Sprint wants to free up the iDEN spectrum for something else and put those users onto the faster networks, capable of handling more data. Unfortunately for Sprint, Nextel customers have noticed the lack of love for the fading brand and have left in droves, with 866,000 postpaid subscribers leaving during the third quarter of the year. Sprint was able to retain 59 percent of them, though, successfully transitioning those users to the Sprint side of things.
It is also important to note that the Nextel name will be going away for good come June, because of
Softbank's acquisition of 70 percent of Sprint. The company said that when the approval goes through, which should be around summer of next year, it will drop the "Nextel" brand completely. So, while a beloved, older technology fades into the background like that of the Startac, one can only hope a new technology, like enhanced push-to-talk - which will be offered on AT&T's Samsung Rugby II next week - comes to Sprint, keeping its chirp connoisseurs happy for years to come.