Thursday, May 17, 2012
Gavin O'Malley, May 17, 2012, 11:06 AM
Netflix Overhauls Video PlayerCNET

On the heels of revitalized subscriber numbers, Netflix has overhauled its video player for browser-based watching, adding in a host of new features and options, including single TV episode and whole season previews. “Besides beefing up the playback with added options, information, and video accessibility, the video service also redesigned the control bar to be more user-friendly,” CNet notes.

“With the exception of tweaks for new features like HD video and closed captioning, Netflix's Silverlight-based Web player has been largely unchanged for years,” Engadget notes.

“The new player is gorgeous,” VentureBeat gushes. “The design better matches the user interface on Netflix’s main navigation pages.”

Yep, “it’s pretty slick,” GigaOm admits. “The only downside of the new player seems to be that there can be some issues with Chrome on Mac OS … However, a quick test showed that basic playback was working just fine via OS X Chrome.

Speaking at a conference this week, Netflix CFO David Wells said that approximately a third of new subscribers are "re-joins," or people who dropped Netflix but decided to return.

“All those Netflix customers who jumped ship after last year's price hike/Qwikster debacle?”PCMag asks. “It appears that a good number of them have returned to the service.”

“After earning a spot on 24/7 Wall Street's top 10 most-hated companies of 2011, Netflix appears to be winning back some of the consumers that cancelled their subscription last year,” writes Digital Trends.

Netflix keeps customer data for about a year, so that number could be higher, but "but to the extent that we can match the address and credit card information," re-joins are one-third of new customers, Wells said this week -- which he called "encouraging."

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  • Gavin O'Malley, May 17, 2012, 11:19 AM
  • Encouraging the spread of connected (and ad friendly) tablets, Verizon Wireless said it soon plans to offer shared data plans so customers can share their data allowance among different devices. Currently, customers have to sign up for a separate data plan for every device connected to the wireless operator's network. At an investor conference this week, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said he expects the new offering to encourage more customers to connect more devices to its network. “One area where carriers like Verizon have been missing out is tablet computers, as consumers have been hesitant to pay the extra cost of connecting their tablet to the cellular network,” Reuters writes. “But Shammo said this may change with shared data plans.” What about the possibility of subsidizing tablet computers? Alas, Shammo said this would not change any time soon. "We're holding pretty strong with the model of no subsidies on these devices," he said this week. As Reuters adds: “The high price of devices, such as the Apple iPhone, have hurt operator margins as Verizon and its rivals pay hefty subsidies for the device so it can offer the phones at a discount to customers who sign a two-year contract.”       Read the whole story...
  • In an unlikely pairing, Rakuten, Japan’s top e-commerce site, will reportedly lead the latest round of investment in Pinterest. The Tokyo-based Web giant will invest upwards of $50 million in a $100 to $120 million round, which values the super-hot social bookmarking site at $1.5 billion. But, why Rakuten? “While the latest round of funding for Pinterest has been the mostly hotly contested of late in tech circles, one source said Silbermann was looking for a global strategic investor and had talked to several large Asian companies,” AllThingsD reports. There are other investors in the new round, but they had not been announced -- or even decided -- as of late Wednesday. Yet, “sources said Silbermann has been concerned with Pinterest’s global growth as well as fending off international clones, and was looking for a partner with which the start-up could work closely.” Current Pinterest investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital, as well several top angel investors. As of last October, they had valued the company at $200 million, AllThingsD recalls.   Read the whole story...
  • Google’s recommendation service, Schemer, may not be well known, but the search giant is tying to change that. Along with an existing Android version, an iOS version of Schemer just hit the market, and, if Google gets its way, many an iPhone and iPad. Billed as a sort of concierge of cool, Schemer had some experts scratching their heads when it debuted late last year. “When it rolled out, many felt like this would be Google’s answer to Foursquare, but it seems more of a way to leverage the data it collects about people, places and things,” The Next Web writes. When people sign up for Schemer, they’re asked to fill in their locations. “Yes, that’s plural,” TNW noted upon its launch. “This is one place where Schemer is doing something very right. If you’re planning a trip, you can input the location of that trip and find activities that you might not have considered otherwise. If I were to place a bet, I would say that much of the data comes from Google’s somewhat-recent acquisition of Zagat, a company famous for its travel guides.”   Read the whole story...