Hulu Plus cuts price by 20%. Is it cheap enough?

Did you sign up for Hulu Plus during its trial run? You may want to ask for a partial refund.

Hulu Plus, the online video service’s premium subscription plan, offers web potatoes deeper access into its inventory of movies and TV shows. The service saw its official launch Tuesday, and the finished product is apparently worth 20 percent less than the beta version. The company cut the monthly subscription rate to $7.99 a month from $9.99 a month now that the premium service is ready for prime time.

Hulu is clearly cutting is price to compete with Netflix, which has been offering a streaming video only subscription for $7.99 a month. But for that fee, Hulu Plus subscribers still have to watch commercials. And the selection of movies is inferior to that on Netflix.

The three most popular movies on Hulu today are Visioneers, Pieces of April and Christmas in Wonderland. On Netflix Watch Instantly, the top three are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man and The Proposal. For most movie fans, there isn’t much of a choice there.

But Hulu is doing something right. CEO Jason Kilar recently said revenue would rise to more than $240 million this year from $108 million in 2009. In 2008, Hulu’s revenue totaled $25 million. So the company is growing rapidly, even if its revenue is dwarfed by Netflix’s estimated $2.2 billion revenue for 2010.

Western Digital enters crowded digital living room with new device

This holiday season, technology companies are singing a familiar refrain: “Everybody gather around the TV.” With Apple Inc and Google Inc already rolling out their devices to plug into the home television, the connected living room just got more crowded, as hard drive maker Western Digital Corp has updated its television media player just in time to compete with the likes of Apple TV and Google TV for the almighty holiday shopping dollar.WD TV Live Hub

Western Digital’s latest offering, the WD TV Live Hub at a price point of $199, is an update to the Lake Forest, California-based company’s  last media player. A key difference is this one comes with a 1 terabyte hard drive built-in, while the previous version had to be connected to an external hard drive for stored movies, music and photos. Western Digital also upgraded the interface on the device and gave it  a wireless keyboard made it compatible with wireless keyboards, which users can wield from the couch. Like the previous version of WD TV, this device has Internet connectivity. It can stream movies from Netflix, download films from Blockbuster, access a user’s Facebook page and more.

While Apple TV is priced lower at $99, that device is mostly geared toward streaming rented TV shows and movies over the Web, whereas Western Digital is taking a bet that users will want to download movies and TV shows, not just stream them. Hence that 1 terabyte of storage.

Netflix soars, investors cheer…then Web service crashes.


It’s been a heady few months for Netflix, the DVD by-mail company fast becoming a online video streaming service. Yesterday, its third quarter numbers again beat Wall Street expectations as it revealed it is now the third largest video subscription service behind Comcast and DirecTV with nearly 17 million subscribers. Wall Street analysts at UBS and Oppenheimer, already in love with the company, upgraded it on Thursday morning helping to push shares to a new record high of $174.40 before closing at $172.69. To think you could have bought the stock for $47.56 exactly one year ago.

Analysts were m0st excited about the potential for Netflix’s video streaming-only service, which will do away with the heavy expense of delivering DVDs to subscribers homes across the country. In the words of Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings (here pictured):

“Three years ago, we were a DVD-by-mail company that offered some streaming.” “We are now a streaming company, which also offers DVD-by-mail.”

How much will Google TV cost?

Almost five months after telling the world about its television aspirations, Internet search giant Google is providing more details on its forthcoming Google TV service.

The first devices featuring Google TV, from Sony and Logitech, will be available this month, Google said in a blog post on Monday.

Google also listed a variety of media and technology companies whose content and services will be available on Google TV, including HBO, Netflix, Twitter and music video website Vevo.

from Richard Baum:

The surprising iPad


After all the previews, reviews and hype, by the time UPS delivered my iPad just after noon there seemed little room left for any surprises. Still, there were plenty of unexpected pleasures and unanticipated concerns. Here's a selection:

The screen is stunning. Colors are breathtakingly beautiful.

The screen is worrying. Your iPhone might survive a naked ride in your pocket or a gentle drop to the floor, but the sheer size of the iPad screen lends it a feeling of fragility. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for reports of breakages take to come in and what impact that will have on undecided customers.

I'm less sure of its uses than I expected to be. I'll be taking my iPad on the bus to work on Monday, but I'm not convinced it will be as comfortable a read as I'd hoped. Remember how Steve Jobs rested it on his crossed leg at the launch event? You can't sit like that on my bus.

Wow! My Blockbuster is closed

blockbuster for sale 2b

The fate of the Blockbuster movie rental chain really hit home this weekend when I saw a “for rent” sign on what was once a busy location. That particular shop — on a high-traffic Westchester, NY  strip, across the street from a always-busy mall — was once a bustling spot, particularly on weekends. The economy is rough, of course, but I would have bet it would outlive its smaller neighbors.

Nope. The mom-and-pop pet supply store a few doors down, which is spitting distance from a mega-PetSmart and PetGoods? Still open. The baseball card memorabilia/comic book shop? Open AND buying for sale 2

Sure, Blockbuster, which is facing tough competition from Netflix and Redbox,  has said it planned to close up to 1,560 stores by the end of this year. And I — a Netflix member and cable on-demand user — can’t remember the last time I was actually in that store. Maybe its my fault.

Blockbuster gets kicked when it’s down by cable companies

Blockbuster storeIt’s a tough time to be a video rental store owner wherever you are, but it’s especially tough if you’re Blockbuster Inc and have 6,500 stores to manage, thousands of employees, expensive debt repayments and a sinking share price.

Yesterday Blockbuster warned for the first time that it may need to file for bankruptcy protection and its auditors at Pricewaterhouse raised doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern.

It doesn’t get any worse than that right? No, it does.

According to a story we spotted today from Hollywood Reporter, movie studios and cable companies are joining forces for a $30 million advertising campaign over the coming months to promote awareness of movies available on cable’s video on demand services.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Xbox, Youtube, iPhone

We caught up with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the movie rental company’s event where it awarded a $1 million prize after a contest aimed at improving the accuracy of movie recommendations. He spoke about his hopes of working with Apple on the iPhone, the possibility that YouTube will beef up its movie service, and the future of the DVD.

Reuters: What will Netflix subscribers gain from the improvements in the recommendation system?

Hastings: It’s doubling the quality of our movie recommendation and that helps our subscribers get more enjoyment from movies. Because more often they love the movie they watch. More often the movies recommended will will turn out to be movies that you love. If you watch a couple of movies and don’t like many, you start to watch (sports and other programming). If every movie is incredible, you start to watch more.

Blockbuster sees its digital future

Here’s the thing about Blockbuster: like other cultural icons, its synonymous with its service — renting movies from a local store.

Sure it does other things, rents video games, sells gadgets and point-of-sale popcorn, but most of us hear the name Blockbuster and do a quick mental check — “did I return that rental copy of “To Sleep With Anger”? (Ok, maybe that’s just me.)

But even with the spectre of looming debt, and market talk that bankruptcy might be an option it’s exploring (an idea the company flatly denied), Blockbuster is mapping out a future where Blockbuster = Movies (not so much on the “local store” part).

Thinking about EchoStarSiriusXMSatelliteRadio Inc.

Because of a big upcoming debt payment — and a stock price of about 14 cents a share — Sirius XM Satellite Radio finds itself in quite a predicament.

This, apparently, hasn’t been lost on EchoStar’s Charles Ergen, who may be getting ready to take over the company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ergen has recently acquired part of a $300 million tranche of Sirius debt that matures on Feb. 17: “Sirius recently converted part of the debt to equity, reducing the total debt outstanding to about $175 million. It isn’t clear whether Mr. Ergen participated in the exchange, however. Mr. Ergen could also be buying up senior bank debt, due in May, which trades thinly on the over-the-counter market.”