Hulu & Spotify Reveal How Many People Pay to Subscribe

Hulu & Spotify Reveal How Many People Pay to Subscribe

Hulu and Spotify, streaming services that have begun offering bundles of their two services, have both revealed how many subscribers they have.

Hulu, the popular video streaming service, announced on Wednesday that they had more than 20 million subscribers, according to CNN Money. These numbers aren’t as high as Netflix’s, as CNN Money notes that Netflix has about 55 million subscribers in the United States. But the numbers still suggest Hulu is a decent competitor when it comes to the video streaming game.

They could also potentially gain more subscribers, as well, as some announced changes certainly seem enticing. Hulu, like Netflix, already has some of their own original programming (like the popular Handmaid’s Tale). Until now, though, Netflix offered something Hulu didn’t: offline watching. Hulu now plans to make content available to download and watch offline, says CNN Money. The content would still play with ads, but an internet connection wouldn’t be necessary.

Spotify announced their own numbers on Thursday. Spotify is a popular music streaming service that offers paid and free accounts. According to TechSpot, Spotify now has 75 million paid subscribers to their service, and the number of people who use the service every month is also huge: 170 million. And as TechSpot also mentions, Spotify’s 75 million paid subscribers is far above Apple Music’s 40 million. This only further cements Spotify as the major competitor in the music streaming arena.

Hulu and Spotify both offer their own separate subscriptions, but over the past months they’ve begun offering bundles, as well. Last year they began offering a student plan that bundled the two services for only $4.99 a month. And just last month, a bundle was announced for everyone else that would offer both services for just $12.99, which is higher than the student price but still a significantly less expensive option.

Alexa Has New Alien-Themed Game, Is Getting Major Update

Alexa Has New Alien-Themed Game, Is Getting Major Update

Alexa has gotten an interesting new addition, and in the near future the smart assistant may also be able to continue a discussion without using a wake word.

To correspond with what’s known as ‘Alien Day,’ Alexa has a new skill called Offworld Colony Simulator. According to Fortune, you can use the skill on all devices that have Alexa. The skill is a game that’s similar to roleplaying games and that uses voice prompts and responses to challenge you to get away from a Xenomorph. There have been other voice-based RPGs available on Alexa (like The Magic Door). This one, though, is for sci-fi and Alien lovers.

There’s also news that Alexa may soon gain some more useful abilities. TechCrunch reports that Alexa users will be able to talk with Alexa more naturally and have Alexa remember certain things they choose.

Currently, when you want to use Alexa, you have to use a wake word (like “Alexa” or “Echo”). But in the future, Alexa will not always need you to use the wake word when you’re asking follow-up questions. So if you ask a question and then need more information, you won’t have to wake Alexa up all over again and form a complete new question. This will make conversations with Alexa flow more smoothly and be a little easier to manage.

As TechCrunch notes, you’ll also be able to ask Alexa to remember things. You can ask her to remember peoples’ birthdays or other important pieces of information. Then you’ll be able to ask her about that information in the future and retrieve it easily.

All of this is meant to give Alexa a more expansive and useful memory. It will make her more personal to each user’s account and it will make conversations with her feel a step closer to a conversation with a human (though, of course, we’re not fully there yet).

Offworld Colony Simulator is available to play now, while Alexa’s new memory updates are coming soon (TechCrunch says there’s not yet a launch date).

Choosing a Video Streaming Device

Choosing a Video Streaming Device

Long gone are the days when people had to wait for a show to air and watch it live. For many years now, TV shows and movies have been available to stream online. There are too many streaming services to even remember them all.

Whether you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or any other streaming service, it’s very likely you’ve streamed an episode of your favorite show or a full movie in the not too distant past. You might have watched it by using your phone, your tablet, your computer, or perhaps something like a video game console connected to your TV.

There are many different streaming services and streaming options. One option is to use a streaming device (or a streaming stick). These streaming devices are focused solely on being small, unobtrusive, quick, and easy to use. You’ve likely heard of the most popular devices on the market.

You also might be wondering what the differences are between the devices. For those looking to get a streaming device, it might be difficult to choose. Or you might be wondering why so many people want to use these devices. In this article, I’m going to cover the basics as well as some of your options!

What is a video streaming device?

The video streaming devices this article talks about are typically small devices that plug into your TV. They can be tiny plugins that work with a remote, larger sticks, or other forms. While using one of these devices, people can stream videos from different places depending on the device: from specific services (using apps) or even from absolutely any service or site (using screen mirroring).

Some devices are more limited in what you can watch. Others (that use screen mirroring to let you display your phone, computer, or tablet on your TV) are nearly unlimited in what you can decide to watch.

Keep in mind that you’ll still need to subscribe to services separately. If you buy a video streaming device, you don’t get subscription services included (for instance, you’ll still need to pay to use Netflix).

Which TVs can use these devices?

Video streaming devices use recent technology to work. They typically need to be able to plug into an HDMI port on a TV. For this reason, you’ll nearly always need to have a fairly modern TV. Some devices specifically require you have an HDTV. If you have a pretty old TV that doesn’t have HDMI ports, you’ll very likely need to upgrade to a slightly newer TV.

You can check your TV’s manual to see if you have an HDTV with HDMI ports. Or you can look on your TV to find the TV model and look up its information online.

What’s so great about them?

Video streaming devices like those in this article are fairly popular at the moment, and they have been for years. One reason they are so well-liked is that they typically offer a wide range of streaming options. With most of these devices, you can choose between just about any service you use—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, you name it. This means your video streaming might be entirely controlled through one device.

They’re also great because they’re usually very small and portable. They’re typically small sticks that can be quickly unplugged and used in a different TV. So if you buy a new TV, there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords to figure out. Or if you’re going to watch TV with someone else, you can easily transport the device to their home and set it up there.

Another positive is that there are some pretty affordable options. You don’t have to buy a new computer or use a gaming console to stream your shows. Those can be kind of pricey (though, of course, they do a lot more than just stream shows). If your main concern, though, is to stream TV and movies, you won’t have to splurge on an expensive, larger product.

And with these devices, controlling them is easy and convenient. Some of them have small remotes for controlling what you watch. Some of them also work through apps on phones. It’s no trouble at all to use the devices.

What are the most popular options?

There are a number of streaming video devices out there. If you’ve heard people talking about them, though, you’ve most likely heard them mention one of the devices listed below. The four devices in this article are some of the most popular and well-liked choices you have. Of course, they’re not your only options. But these devices are probably your likeliest contenders.

Apple TV
Apple, of course, has a streaming video device. They have more than one model, in fact. They offer the current model of their regular device (the 4th generation Apple TV) as well as the new Apple TV 4K (for use with 4K televisions). The 4K version is specifically designed to work with 4K TVs. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll want this model. It’s designed to run faster and display 4K video.

With the Apple TV, you simply plug the box into your TV with an HDMI cable (not included). The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote so you can control what you watch. Once you’ve purchased Apple TV, you also get access to tech support for 90 days, plus you can get help from the Genius Bar.

Apple TV has many different apps to choose from. The product description specifically lists Netflix and Hulu. It also works with the other apps you’d expect, like YouTube and Amazon Video. It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of all the available apps, but if you’re wondering whether your service works with Apple TV, a quick Google search should tell you. If you have an iOS device, you can also either cast an app to your TV or even mirror your iPhone’s screen to the TV.

Apple TV is currently $149. If you want the 4K version, you have two options: 32GB for $179 or 64GB for $199.

Chromecast is Google’s video streaming device. They also have two current models: their regular 2nd generation device and Chromecast Ultra (specifically designed for use with 4K TVs).

Chromecast is a little different from the other devices. It’s focused on casting from your other devices. Instead of having a remote that lets you choose between different apps, you use your phone, tablet, or computer to pick what you want to watch. Then you press the “Cast” button on the app and it’s displayed on your TV. It works with a number of devices, including those that use iOS, Android, and Windows. And there are many different apps that work with it, including the typical ones like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play.

Screen mirroring is also big with Chromecast. If you have an Android device or use the Chrome browser on your computer, you can display your device’s screen. This means you can watch anything with your Chromecast. If there’s a streaming website that doesn’t have an app, you can simply open it on your Chrome browser, mirror the browser using Chromecast, and watch on your TV.

A regular Chromecast 2nd Generation device is currently $35. Chromecast Ultra is $69.

Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s video streaming device. There are two current models: the regular Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV (meant for 4K TVs).

The Fire TV Stick plugs into an HDMI slot and can be controlled with the included remote. The remote, called the Alexa Voice Remote, lets you control what you watch by either using the buttons or by using your voice. For instance, you can say “Alexa, open Hulu” to launch the Hulu app, or ask Alexa to play a specific show or pull up a genre of shows. And if you don’t want to use the remote for some reason, you can also use your Amazon Echo device to control your TV.

This device from Amazon doesn’t just play Amazon content (I did mention Hulu above). You can launch many different apps, including the ones you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video (of course), and HBO NOW. You can also open web browsers and find content that way.

The Fire TV has some slight differences from the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV isn’t the same kind of stick—it has a “pendant” design, so it looks a little different. It’s also designed to be faster, which is a definite plus. And, of course, it can display 4K content, so if you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will be superior to the Fire TV Stick.

The Fire TV Stick is currently $39.99, while the Fire TV is currently $69.99 (or $74.99 if you get the bundle that includes a TV antenna).

Roku offers a number of different video streaming devices, each a little different. There’s the standard Roku Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ (intended for 4K TVs), the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, (which works on older TVs!), and the Roku Ultra (intended for 4K TVs).

With a Roku device, you simply plug it in and set it up by creating a Roku account (or using an existing one). Depending on which device you choose, you’ll have some different features and options. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s different with each device:

  • Roku Express is designed to be easy to set up (for those who are new to video streaming devices); it still has access to the same apps and it has a remote, but its performance may not be as high, and the remote doesn’t have voice control ($29.99)
  • Roku Express+ is meant to be able to be used on older TVs; it comes with a composite cable as well as the typical HDMI cable, so if you don’t have HDMI ports, you can plug in the oldschool red, white, and yellow cords ($35)
  • Roku Streaming Stick is the standard stick, with access to all the typical apps; it comes with a remote that includes voice control ($49.99)
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ has the capabilities of the regular Streaming Stick, but it’s higher quality (it can stream 4K) and it can work well when further from your internet router, so it’s more easily used throughout your home ($69.99)
  • Roku Ultra is meant for intense streaming and can stream 4K content; it’s designed to be faster, clearer, and it comes with some extras, like headphones, a feature for finding the remote when it’s lost, and other audio features ($99.99)

Though Roku’s devices all have some things in common, like access to typical apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, they all have some slight differences, so make sure to consider each one before deciding.

‘The Lord of the Rings’ Coming to Amazon

‘The Lord of the Rings’ Coming to Amazon

Middle Earth will be coming to our screens again, this time through a show on Amazon! The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been hugely popular works for decades. J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories set in Middle Earth have been a big part of popular culture for a long time. The books themselves have been on most book-lovers’ shelves over the years, and though there have not been too many adaptations, Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings in the early- and mid-2000s brought Tolkien’s world to even those who don’t have the time or desire to read the original works.

The Lord of the Rings films took the world by storm. According to Forbes, the three films made $2.91 billion in ticket sales alone. They were also very well-received by audiences and critics, as I well remember and as can be seen in their scores on Rotten Tomatoes—all three films in the trilogy have a Tomatometer score above 90%.

Since the huge success of these films, there have also been attempts to continue with more adaptations. The Hobbit films took Tolkien’s shorter book and turned it into three films. These films, however, were less warmly received. The second film in the trilogy has a Tomatometer score of 75%, the highest score among the three, while the final film has a score of only 60%. Many fans have criticized the films for being unnecessary, changing the story too much, and trying too hard to replicate the previous trilogy of films.

Perhaps because of the more lackluster response to the Hobbit films, the news of Amazon’s upcoming show has people talking. It’s important to note that over the past decades, Tolkien’s works have often been very difficult to adapt due to Tolkien’s estate. Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien, was one of the directors of the estate for many years and was notably careful with what could be done with his late father’s works. However, in a shocking bit of news, it has now been revealed that Christopher Tolkien exited his role in the estate all the way back at the end of August. Many now question whether this is how Amazon has gained the chance to create its upcoming show.

All the recent news has been confusing and concerning for some fans, while other fans are simply excited. Though it’s too early to guess how Amazon’s show will eventually be received, we do at least know a little bit about what Amazon plans for the series. In Amazon’s recent press release, fans learned a bit more about what to expect. The series is already being called a “multi-season television series,” meaning they certainly don’t plan for the show to be a one-off. And interestingly, it’s noted that the show will be set before the events taking place in The Lord of the Rings. Because of this, fans are left to theorize about what material might be used and what the focus of the show will be.

Again, it’s far too early to really know what to expect. And naturally, though many fans are worried, many others are excitedly anticipating a TV show set in Tolkien’s world. If Amazon can replicate the success of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, fans will certainly be grateful. The whirlwind of news this week has a lot of people talking, but the fact is, it will likely be quite a long while before we know anything more concrete about the upcoming adaptation. I know I’ll be waiting impatiently for more news from Middle Earth!

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Every week, I’m spotlighting at least three tech-related items you can purchase on Amazon! In this week’s article, I’m focusing on some fun and somewhat off-beat products for all ages (and for pets). With the holidays drawing nearer, you might even add some of these to your holiday shopping lists. Even better, go ahead and buy these now and take advantage of that beautiful Prime shipping.

Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

This kit lets kids (or adults, let’s be honest) follow instructions to build their droid. After the droid is built, it can learn different skills and undertake missions. Kids can also customize the appearance of their droids and move the different blocks around to set their droid up in a new way. Some of the things you can do with this toy are mentioned on the product page, like use “Force Mode” to move the droid around, navigate using a joystick in the phone app, and enable an “Intruder Alarm.” This R2 unit is meant to be continually changed and added to by rearranging the blocks and getting new kits to mix things up. The product page also mentions how the droid can be customized with “household items.” You might want this cool tech toy for the kids in your life, since it is directed at children. But of course, it could make a pretty fun toy for Star Wars fans of all ages.

View the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

Petcube Bites Pet Camera

This pet camera is a particularly fun way to keep up with your pet(s) while you’re out of the house, because you’ll be using more than just the typical video and audio. There are lots of pet cameras out there, but this one has some cool special features. As you’d expect, you can set up the camera in your home and check in on the video stream using the Petcube app, and you can share clips with other people after the videos have been caught by the camera. It has a motion and sound detector to capture different moments while you’re gone, and it has two-way audio so you and your cute companion can talk to each other. Possibly the coolest part, though, is the attached treat dispenser. While you’re out, you can open the Petcube app and use it to throw a treat to your pet. The product comes with some sample treats, and after they’re gone, you can use your own. (Take note—depending on the treat size, more than one treat might be thrown when you tap to throw.) This device could be really great for pets that become anxious when they’re left home alone. It gives its users a way to communicate with their pets and reward them for doing tricks or behaving well while they’re gone. If you’re interested in a pet camera, this is a great one to check out.

View the Petcube Bites Pet Camera

Phonotonic Move to Make Music

This product is a cool way to entertain yourself and your friends by making music with your movement. Phonotonic is a device you hold in your hand and move around to create music. You can use the connected app to pick different tracks, and you can save the music you make to share with other people. You can move the device to create rhythm and melody, and if you have more than one Phonotonic, they can work together. You can even take the sensor out of the device it comes in and place it in something else instead. It comes in different colors (cyan, yellow, and fuchsia) and is rechargeable with a micro USB. This interesting little device could be fun at parties or just using it on your own to create music in a unique, active way.

View the Phonotonic Move to Make Music

Star Wars: The Last Jedi—Tickets and a Trailer

Star Wars: The Last Jedi—Tickets and a Trailer

Tickets for the next installment of Star Wars officially went on sale Monday, and tickets are selling fast. The release of the tickets was eagerly anticipated, and things got even more interesting when one outlet offered tickets earlier than planned. According to The Verge, tickets went on sale through Showcase Cinemas unexpectedly, causing some hubbub. Tickets sales were eventually paused and Showcase Cinemas began looking into what happened, though currently, they don’t seem to have addressed whether the tickets they sold will be honored. This minor snafu aside, regular ticket sales caused a stir online as people waited impatiently for their chance to buy tickets to one of the biggest movie events of the year. So many people rushed to buy tickets on Fandago that there were long delays, causing a lot of frustration for dedicated fans.

On the same day, Star Wars fans (including myself) got even more amped up as a brand new trailer came out during Monday Night Football. The trailer is about two and a half minutes of footage that wasn’t seen in the previous trailer. It features plenty of dark themes and exciting drama, as well as explosions, cute alien creatures, and intriguing family drama. Oh, and plenty of stormtroopers. The trailer has led to much speculation and detailed analysis, because there’s so much going on in it that there could be a lot of clues about what’s to come. Theories abound about Rey’s future, the meaning behind Luke’s words, and the final brief scene in the trailer (which I won’t spoil for you—check out the trailer!) Some of what happens in the trailer may also be flashbacks, as well, causing some devoted fans to intensely analyze the video and try to piece together a timeline for what we know so far.

As all of this was happening, even more excitement was built as Disney created a bit of a spectacle in Australia. Disney used a helicopter to hold an enormous lightsaber over the Sydney Harbour. This event was meant to build more excitement for the trailer and tickets. Check out GameSpot’s post to see video of the amazing sight during the event.

The excitement has been at a peak since Monday, and now that we’re part of the way through October, it’s a good time for a reminder that Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes out in the US in just over two months. As the release gets closer, it’s safe to say the anticipation will build even more, and we can expect even more exciting releases and fun promotions as December 15th nears.

‘Electric Dreams’ Coming to Amazon

‘Electric Dreams’ Coming to Amazon

With the new film Blade Runner 2049 just coming out and holding a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, there’s been more talk about Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The science fiction novel, first released in 1968, serves as the basis for the original Blade Runner film and, of course, the newly released follow-up film. And Blade Runner isn’t the only successful portrayal of Philip K. Dick’s writing. Amazon’s original show ‘The Man in the High Castle’ has been a huge success over the course of two seasons so far. (‘The Man in the High Castle’ is based on Dick’s novel of the same name.)

Blade Runner 2049 is out now, and ‘The Man in the High Castle’ is set to return sometime in 2018, so there’s no shortage of popular representations of Philip K. Dick’s works. However, fans of the author and of science fiction have another exciting show to look forward to thanks to Amazon. Amazon will be releasing their new show ‘Electric Dreams’ next year. The show is based on Dick’s short stories, and judging by the trailer released at New York City Comic-Con, it promises to be a dreamy, smart, thoughtful collection of episodes.

The show will feature a collection of interpretations of Dick’s short stories, including “Impossible Planet” and “Human Is.” It also has a cast list that’s sure to have some familiar names, like Janelle Monae, Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Steve Buscemi, and Bryan Cranston. Cranston is also executive producing ‘Electric Dreams,’ another piece of information that’s had sci-fi fans eagerly anticipating the show’s release.

‘Electric Dreams’ looks like it will do what much of Philip K. Dick’s writing does—use sci-fi to think about what humanity really means. (The trailer’s tagline says that “the future is still human.”) The anthology will have ten episodes with mostly different casts for each one. There’s not a specific US release date for ‘Electric Dreams’ yet (though it’s already started in the UK), but it’s expected in 2018. With its debut and the return of ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ it’s likely that 2018 will continue the success of interpretations of Philip K. Dick’s works.

Netflix Raising Prices

Netflix Raising Prices

Netflix, the streaming service we all know and love, is raising its prices once again. This comes at a time when Netflix has lots of eagerly anticipated shows coming out soon. Netflix’s streaming service offers plans for SD content, HD content on two devices, or HD and UHD content on four devices (the plans also allow downloadable content on one, two, or four devices, respectively). The Basic plan, which includes standard definition content available on one device and downloadable content on one device, is staying the same price, not moving from its $7.99 monthly fee. The other two plans, however, are seeing a price jump, particularly the plan that was already the most expansive and expensive.

Netflix’s Standard plan includes HD content and downloadable content on two devices. It was previously $9.99 and is now being raised a dollar, up to $10.99 a month. But their Premium plan is being raised even more. The Premium plan features HD and UHD content on four devices, as well as downloadable content on four devices. This plan is going from $11.99 to $13.99 a month, jumping two dollars. This price change will begin next month, and it will affect new and returning users alike.

In the past, this kind of price hike might have drawn discussion about whether it would drive Netflix customers away, but at this point, this seems unlikely. Considering how much of a powerhouse Netflix has become, it might actually make sense for it to cost a little bit more, and many people who stream their shows and movies rely heavily on Netflix. Netflix has gotten better and better over the years, particularly when it comes to its original content. Netflix originals are often widely acclaimed and enjoyed, with offerings like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Daredevil. And with huge new originals like Marvel’s The Punisher and the second season of Stranger Things coming out soon, there’s even more reason to stick around after the price goes up a bit.

If you have a Standard or Premium plan, keep an eye out for Netflix’s upcoming notification of their price change. And while you’re at it, keep an eye on Netflix’s upcoming original content.

Subscription Streaming Services: Plenty to Choose From

Subscription Streaming Services: Plenty to Choose From

For a long while, subscription streaming was simple. You might have heard someone talking about Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime—and you still will, since these three services are still at the top of their game. Now, though, there are far more offerings to think about adding to your list of subscriptions. Recently, Disney announced they would be removing their content from Netflix and creating their own streaming service in 2019. And YouTube is entering the arena with their own service. With so many services to keep track of, it can be difficult to decide which one (or ones) will be best for you. Here’s a list of just some of your subscription streaming options. (Since we all know and love Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, I’ll skip them for this list.)

  • Sling TV

    What it offers: Live TV packages with channels like ESPN, AMC, and History. Subscribers can choose from monthly packages with 25+ channels, 40 channels, or all channels. Sling also offers add-ons, like sports or news packages.
    What it costs: $20-$40 for basic packages; prices vary for add-ons
    Where to go:

  • DirecTV Now

    What it offers: Monthly packages with live streaming and on demand content from over 60 channels, like Disney, CNN, and TNT. DirecTV Now also gives subscribers the option to add premium channels HBO, Cinemax, and Starz on top of their subscription package.
    What it costs: $35-$70 for basic packages; $5-$8 each for premium add-ons
    Where to go:

  • HBO Now

    What it offers: Access to HBO content without a cable TV subscription. Subscribers can use their monthly subscription to watch commercial-free content like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and a selection of movies.
    What it costs: $14.99
    Where to go:

  • CBS All Access

    What it offers: Monthly or yearly subscriptions with live streaming and access to content on demand; CBS All Access offers plans with limited or no commercials. Subscribers can watch shows from CBS, and they can also watch programs exclusive to CBS All Access, like the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery.
    What it costs: $5.99-$9.99 monthly; $59.99-$99.99 yearly
    Where to go:

  • Acorn TV

    What it offers: A monthly subscription with commercial-free streaming of shows “from Britain and beyond,” their website states. Their offerings include programs viewers may already know and love, as well as shows exclusive to Acorn TV.
    What it costs: $4.99
    Where to go:

  • YouTube TV

    What it offers: Access to TV channels with a monthly subscription. YouTube TV allows subscribers to have 6 accounts per household, letting families or roommates share. It also has DVR that uploads your recordings to the cloud and offers unlimited storage space. Right now, YouTube TV is only available in some specific markets, but it will be rolling out to everyone soon.
    What it costs: $35 for a basic subscription; $11-$15 each for add-ons
    Where to go: