Netflix officially launches a ‘Latest’ section with built-in reminders – gpgmail


Last month, Netflix was spotted testing a new section in its TV app called “Latest,” which would connect viewers with a personalized list of upcoming content due to be released over the course of the current week and the next. Today, Netflix is formally announcing the launch of the feature with a focus on its ability to remind you of shows and movies you want to watch.

Netflix had confirmed in August that the Latest section would be available on its streaming app for TVs, including Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, and others. But it also had a similar feature available on Android and is testing the feature on iOS, it said at the time.

Today, the company confirms the new tab will now be available on many game consoles and Roku, with smart TVs and other devices getting the upgrade in the next couple of months.

The tab itself will feature content from across categories, like drama, comedy, horror, docs, foreign, original, licensed and kids, the company notes. These recommendations will be organized into three sections: New this Week, Coming this Week, and Coming Next Week.

When you see something of interest, you can click “Remind Me” to receive a notification when the title is available to stream.

Netflix says the new feature was inspired by its popular “Now on Netflix” newsletters which help subscribers keep up with the ever-changing content slate.

The feature’s launch is significant for a few reasons.

For starters, it’s a rare addition to Netflix’s top-level navigation in its app which before was limited to Home, Search, TV, Movies, and My List. The Latest section will now get a prominent position, just beneath the Home button.

It will also be an important tool that Netflix will use to keep viewers engaged with its content so they’ll continue to pay for the subscription service. This is now more of a concern for Netflix, which recently posted a disappointing quarter, where it lost U.S. subscribers for the first time since 2011. It’s also poised to face serious competition from newcomers to the streaming market including, most notably, Disney whose soon-to-launch Disney+ will cost less than Netflix and can be bundled with Hulu and ESPN for the same price as a standard Netflix subscription.

The new addition will help to address another challenge, as well — helping subscribers figure out what to watch. Unlike traditional linear TV, Netflix doesn’t just drop you into live TV — you have to make a decision. This often leads to people scrolling for several minutes to find a show to stream, getting frustrated or overwhelmed by the choices, then just launching an old standby, like “The Office.” With reminders and notifications, Netflix can gently nudge viewers towards titles they already want to watch, which could mean less timing browsing and more time streaming.

 


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Spotify expands its new Premium Duo plan to Latin America – gpgmail


Spotify’s newest paid subscription, the Premium Duo plan designed for two people, first launched this spring as a pilot test in Ireland, Colombia, Chile, Denmark, and Poland. Today, Spotify says the plan is being more broadly rolled out to 14 more Latin American markets.

The new markets include: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

The Duo plan is meant mainly for couples, though it could apply to roommates or any other two people who share the same home address.

In terms of pricing, it’s a step up from a single Premium subscription but more affordable than a Family Plan, as it’s limited to just two accounts. However, the Duo plan is discounted so it’s a better deal than buying two separate Premium accounts.

The benefits are similar to those on the Family Plan. Like the larger group plan, Duo keeps each user’s music preferences and recommendations separate from one another. And like the Family Plan, which recently added a custom mix composed of track everyone in the family enjoys, the Duo subscription also includes its own shared playlist, the Duo Mix. Members can easily share their playlist libraries with one another, too.

Despite now reaching 19 total markets, Spotify still refers to the Premium Duo plan as a “pilot,” which typically means the company hasn’t fully committed to bringing the service to all its users at some point. Instead, that terminology typically implies the company is continuing to evaluate the new service’s impact.

In Spotify’s case, Premium Duo’s launch in March hasn’t yet led to a massive subscription bump. When reporting its Q2 2019 earnings, the company said it added 8 million new subscribers in the quarter, which was below the estimated 8.5 million figure. It now has 232 million monthly users and 108 million paying subscribers.

That said, Duo hasn’t reached many of Spotify’s key markets where such a plan could have more of an impact to subscriber counts, including the U.S.

If you live in a supported market and already have a Premium plan you can visit your Account page on Spotify’s website to add a partner and upgrade. Both plan members will need to share the same home address.


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Pandora now lets you share music and podcasts to your Instagram Stories – gpgmail


Pandora today announced a new integration with Instagram that will allow users to share their favorite music and podcasts to their Instagram Story. The feature comes well over a year after Spotify launched a similar integration with Instagram Stories, and only days after Spotify introduced sharing to Facebook Stories, as well.

In Pandora’s case, accessing the feature is also a quick and easy process — you just tap the “Share” button from the Now Playing screen in the app, then choose “Instagram Stories” as the destination.

A cover art card for the music or podcast will then be generated on your Instagram Story, which you can further decorate with text and stickers, as usual. You can also choose to send the story as a direct message to a friend or a group chat, instead of all your followers.

Where Pandora’s experience differs from Spotify’s is what happens when that story is viewed.

When a friend taps the “Play on Pandora” button from the Instagram story, they can gain direct access to that content — even if they don’t have a Premium account. Those who aren’t paid subscribers will be able to view a short ad then gain access to both the shared content as well as a session of free, unlimited, on-demand music.

This is made possible through Pandora’s Premium Access ad solution, which rewards users for watching video ads with free, on-demand sessions.

That means Pandora’s take on Instagram sharing won’t just be useful to artists looking to promote their music, or fans looking to engage their friends — it will also potentially serve as a way to convert free users to paid subscribers after they get a free taste of what Pandora has to offer.

The feature can also be used to promote podcasts, which a newer battleground between Spotify and Pandora these days. The former has spent on acquisitions and hosts a number of exclusive shows while Pandora is now benefitting from new owner’s SiriusXM’s talk radio programming and its own “Genome” classification technology. 

Pandora says the Instagram Story sharing feature is launching today for select users, and will support sharing songs, albums, podcasts, and playlists.

It’s rolling out to a limited number of Pandora users to start, and will gradually reach the rest of the user base in the weeks ahead.


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Netflix tests human-driven curation with launch of ‘Collections’ – gpgmail


Netflix is testing a new way to help users find TV shows and movies they’ll want to watch with the launch of a “Collections” feature, currently in testing on iOS devices. While Netflix today already offers thematic suggestions of things to watch, based on your Netflix viewing history, Collections aren’t only based on themes. According to Netflix, the titles are curated by experts on the company’s creative teams, and are organized into these collections based on similar factors — like genre, tone, storyline, and character traits.

This human-led curation is different from how Netflix typically makes its recommendations. The streaming service is famous for its advanced categorization system, where there are hundreds of niche categories that go beyond broad groupings like “Action,” “Drama,” “Sci-Fi,” “Romance,” and the like. These narrower subcategories allow the streamer to make more specific and targeted recommendations.

Netflix also tracks titles that are popular and trending across its service, so you can check in on what everyone else is watching, as well.

The new Collections feature was first spotted by Jeff Higgins, who tweeted some screenshots of the addition.

If you’ve been opted in to the test, the Collections option is available at the top right of the app’s homepage — where My List would have been otherwise.

The suggestions are organized into editorial groups, with titles like “Let’s Keep It Light,” “Dark & Devious TV Shows,” “Prizewinning Movie Picks,” “Watch, Gasp, Repeat,” “Women Who Rule the Screen,” and many more.

You can follow the Collection from the main screen, or you can tap into it to further explore its titles.

If you tap a collection that interests you, it smoothly expands to the show the thumbnails of the suggested titles below a header that explains what the collection is about. You can choose to follow the suggestion from here too, which presumably ties into Netflix’s notification system.

Collections are also found on the app’s Home page, for those who have access to the new feature.

“We’re always looking for new ways to connect our fans with titles we think they’ll love, so we’re testing out a new way to curate Netflix titles into collections on the Netflix iOS app,” a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to gpgmail. “Our tests generally vary in how long they run for and in which countries they run in, and they may or may not become permanent features on our service.”

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This isn’t the first time Netflix has toyed with organizing content suggestions into Collections. The company’s DVD service (yes, it still exists), had rolled out a similar Collections feature in its own mobile app.

This test comes at a time when Netflix is working on features to better retain existing subscribers amid increased competition, including that from upcoming rivals like Disney+ and Apple TV+, among others. On this front, it also recently launched a feature allowing users to track new and soon-to-launch releases, as a means of keeping subscribers anticipating what comes next.

Netflix said Collections is only available on iOS. As a test, it won’t show to all users.


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SiriusXM undercuts rivals with a $4 per month student subscription – gpgmail


SiriusXM is making its streaming service more affordable for younger consumers with the launch of a new subscription package for college students. While SiriusXM’s Premier package is $12.99 per month, the new streaming-only student offering will be just $4 per month — a 69% discount. This comes in a dollar less than competitors’ student plans, including the $4.99 per month packages from Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, YouTube Music, and even SiriusXM-owned Pandora.

The move represents a big grab for a growing user base who prefers to subscribe to streaming music services rather than make purchases on digital marketplaces, like iTunes or Amazon.

Though the SiriusXM brand has for a long time been associated with being an upgrade option for vehicles, the service has been working to establish itself as a viable option outside the car. In April, it launched a streaming-only subscription for listeners without cars.

Today, SiriusXM streams across phones and tablets, on the web, and at home on connected devices including Amazon Alexa, Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, smart TVs, Sonos speakers, Xbox, and Sony PlayStation.

Like other student packages, SiriusXM’s student plan isn’t a watered-down subscription. It offers access to SiriusXM’s full lineup of music, including its over 200 commercial-free channels, which feature both music and talk radio-style programming as well as sports, entertainment, comedy, lifestyle, news and more.

This also includes some of SiriusXM’s more recent additions, following its $3.5 billion Pandora acquisition last year, which bring Pandora -powered content to its service. For example, the companies this spring launched Pandora NOW, a station that streams on both services that used Pandora listener data to pull in the most listened-to and the fastest-trending new tracks across Pop, Hip Hop, R&B, Dance and Latin.

Plus, students will have access to the over 100 SiriusXM Xtra channels which allow you to skip through songs, the company says.

The service does not include the ability to stream to cars, however — it’s a student version of SiriusXM’s streaming-only plan.

To join the service, students will have to verify their status as a registered student by providing their university or college name upon sign-up. The verification process is handled by SheerID, which also powers verification for others in the space, like YouTube, Spotify and more.

“Today’s college students grew up listening to SiriusXM in their parent’s car, and now we have a package built just for them,” said Matt Epstein, Vice President, SiriusXM Outside the Car, in a statement. “Our Student Premier Package enables students to have their own subscription and continue to enjoy the SiriusXM programming they love in their dorm room, at home or on the go,” he said.

 

 


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DirecTV Now’s rebranding to ‘AT&T TV NOW’ is officially rolling out – gpgmail


AT&T’s live TV streaming service, DirecTV Now, is getting a new name. The company in July announced that the service would soon be rebranded to AT&T TV NOW at some point later in the summer. The company today confirmed that change is officially rolling out.

The company teased the rebrand’s launch on its Twitter account this afternoon, but didn’t clarify what it meant by “whole new look.” Many assumed the tweet referred to the fact that DirecTV Now brand — which still remains across all app platforms and social accounts — will finally be removed.

A company spokesperson confirmed the tweet was related to AT&T’s prior announcement of the name change.

That being said, the AT&T DirecTV Now apps haven’t yet been updated in the app stores, so this is the first news that the name change is imminent. (The spokesperson could not speak to the exact timing of the rebrand’s arrival).

AT&T had previously explained that DirecTV Now customers would see the rebranding go live around the same time that the new AT&T TV service began its pilot testing.

The latter is the company’s new home TV service that doesn’t require a satellite. Instead, it offers live TV and on-demand titles over a broadband connection, plus a cloud DVR, and access to thousands of streaming apps like Netflix and Pandora, as well as a voice remote powered by Google Assistant.

Both AT&T TV NOW and AT&T TV will utilize the same AT&T TV app on mobile devices and on their TV’s big screen. There will be no change for current DirecTV NOW subscribers beyond needing to re-accept the terms of service to continue streaming.

The DirecTV Now app will update automatically to become the AT&T NOW app when the changes go live, the company said.

DirecTV Now rebranding isn’t the only change to AT&T’s streaming plans in recent months.

The company also rolled out price hikes and new bundles for DirecTV Now customers, punted on its original plans for a multi-tiered WarnerMedia streaming service, and last month announced its new HBO Max service would instead launch in spring 2020 for slightly more than the HBO NOW subscription of $14.99/month.

The new name for AT&T’s live television streaming service comes at an opportune time, as the DirecTV Now brand has been in the headlines due to a nearly three-week-long blackout of CBS stations while the companies negotiated a new carriage agreement.

That deal had impacted 6.6 million people across DirecTV Now, Direct TV, and AT&T’s U-Verse in several major cities including New York, Chicago, and LA. A new agreement was reached last week, just ahead of the anticipated announcement of a CBS-Viacom merger. (Announced today!)

 




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Roku expands its free, live TV selection with 5 more channels, including fubo’s Sports Network – gpgmail


The Roku Channel continues to expand beyond ad-supported movies and premium subscriptions, with today’s announcement of the addition of several more live TV channels available to anyone with a Roku streaming device or Roku TV. The company says today it’s adding five free live TV channels to this offering, including most notably, fubo’s Sports Network.

The fubo Sports Network is streaming service fuboTV’s first-ever TV channel designed for distribution outside its own platform.

Soft-launched this June, fubo produces content for the channel, including original programming, event coverage, behind-the-scenes, and other exclusives. The network is already available to a few streaming platforms, including XUMO, Samsung TV Plus, and LG Channels (powered by XUMO.)

However, distribution to Roku’s popular entertainment hub is a big win for the new channel, given that Roku is now the top streaming device platform in the U.S., with a 39% share of streaming boxes and sticks and a 33% share of smart TV operating systems.

Other new networks arriving to The Roku Channel today include the ACC Digital Network, USA Today, Now This (news), and Comedy Dynamics.

In addition, The Roku Channel now offers the Sports Illustrated streaming service, SI TV, to any interested subscribers through its Premium Subscription lineup.

Roku has been rapidly expanding its Roku Channel hub since it first launched in September 2017 with a focus on free, ad-supported movies — similar to Vudu’s “Movies on Us” or Tubi, for example. But shortly after, the channel began to roll out more content like news, sports, TV shows, and other entertainment offerings both from traditional studios and digital networks. This pushed the channel to become one of the most-watched on its platform.

And this year, Roku launched its own premium subscriptions alongside its free content, allowing The Roku Channel to become not just the place to find free entertainment, but where you tune in to your favorite shows as well. Today, its paid lineup includes top premium networks like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, EPIX, and many others.

The decision to invest in its own content hub gives Roku a powerful selling point for its devices — and that appears to be paying off with consumers and in terms of the company’s bottom line.

Roku recently closed out its second quarter with 30.5 million active accounts, up by 1.4 million from the prior quarter, and average revenue per user up from $19.06 in Q1 to $21.06 in Q2. Revenue was also up 45% year-over-year to $252.5 million.

 


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