TIME Media

The Cable-TV Bundle Is Finally Starting to Unravel

The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013.
The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's not a matter of if more channels will be sold a la carte, but when

It’s been a long time coming. For years, television viewers have griped about having to pay for a massive bundle of channels that they barely watch. In 2013, the average American TV household received 189 channels, but tuned into just 17 of them. A careful, decades-long dance between pay-TV providers and networks has ensured that, for the most part, you need a cable or satellite subscription to watch live TV.

Two back-to-back announcements this week could threaten this extremely lucrative business model. HBO, which has TV shows so valuable that people have actually been begging to pay for them, announced Wednesday it’s launching an online streaming service in 2015 that doesn’t require a cable subscription. If it’s like HBO Go, that means users will be able to stream all the network’s hit shows as they air on TV. CBS made a similar move Thursday by announcing CBS All Access, a new platform that will allow customers to access much of the channel’s past and present content online for $5.99 per month, including live broadcasts in 14 markets.

By making these channels available for purchase individually, CBS and HBO are embracing the “a la carte” TV model, in which viewers would be able to select the individual channels they want to pay for and ignore the rest. It’s a concept that makes intuitive sense in a world where songs, movies, books and news can be consumed individually, on the go and at little cost.

But the model poses a huge threat to cable operators, network owners and even subscribers. If every network did what CBS and HBO are doing, cable and satellite operators would have the core part of their businesses wiped out. Network owners, meanwhile, would have to convince millions of individual customers to buy their channels instead of negotiating with just a few large pay-TV companies. Greater price transparency would hurt most channels—just ask Netflix, which said a $1 price increase caused it to miss its subscriber growth projections in the most recent quarter. While a prestige channel like HBO could command a high price on its own, more niche channels would probably find it tough to turn a profit individually. Many of them would likely fold, according to one study, and the quality and quantity of content of available on TV might actually diminish.

For these reasons, we’re still not close to a world where consumers can buy any channels they want in any combination. The owners of basic cable channels in particular, which are widely distributed and generate revenue even from subscribers who never watch them, aren’t keen to disrupt the current model. And anything involving high-profile sports is likely to remain under tight lock and key—CBS’s streaming service, for instance, won’t play NFL games.

“It would be absolutely detrimental to their current business model,” Erik Brannon, an analyst at IHS Screen Digest, says of the full unbundling of cable channels. “I just don’t see them being willing to jeopardize future affiliate fee growth for a few bucks here and there on the Internet.”

Still, operators and networks are finally being forced to reckon with shifting consumer habits. The number of U.S. pay-TV subscribers declined for the first time ever in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of households that watch TV content solely through a broadband connection has doubled in recent years, according to Nielsen. These are mostly young adult viewers who will define the way TV content is consumed in the future.

“There’s a shift that’s going on in consumer behavior in viewing video,” says Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner. “Consumers are slowly but surely moving away from watching linear television on cable. They’re starting to watch these TV shows and movies more on their mobile devices.”

In the near term, analysts say the networks most likely to mimic the HBO or CBS model are their most direct competitors. It’s easy to imagine Showtime offering an HBO Go-like service, Brannon says, or ABC live-streaming its programming for a monthly fee. And while the cable bundle isn’t going anywhere, it may go on a much-needed diet. A growing number of consumers are picking smaller cable packages, indicating they’re tired of paying for hundreds of channels they don’t watch. And new entrants in the pay-TV space like Dish Network are building their business models around offering smaller, cheaper bundles of channels.

What HBO and CBS are doing suggests the future of TV will be messier and more confusing and perhaps less entertaining than the so-called “golden era” we live in now. But consumers will have more choice of what they watch and how much they pay for it. “It’s not a matter of if” more channels will be sold individually, says Brannon, “but when, and for how much.”

TIME Earnings

Netflix Had a Pretty Awful Day

Netflix's logo
Netflix

Online streaming service revealed Wednesday it had missed growth targets, as HBO announces a rival streaming-only service

Correction appended Wednesday, Oct. 15

Netflix stock took a nosedive in after-hours trading thanks to a confluence of bad news for the company on Wednesday.

The streaming service missed its subscriber growth forecasts for the quarter and is one of the companies most threatened by HBO’s surprise announcement Wednesday that it will begin offering its content in a stand-alone streaming service in 2015. Netflix shares fell more than 25% in after-hours trading, erasing more than $7 billion in company value.

Netflix added 3.02 million subscribers globally during the third quarter, well off the 3.69 million the company had projected. In the U.S., the company blamed the stalled growth on a $1 price hike that went into effect in May. “Slightly higher prices result in slightly less growth, other things being equal, and this is manifested more clearly in higher adoption markets such as the U.S.,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. Netflix also missed the mark in international markets, though it rolled out in six new European countries in September.

The streaming service’s financial results were more positive. Netflix pulled in $1.4 billion in revenue, meeting analysts’ expectations. Earnings per share were 96 cents, beating projections of 93 cents. Overall Netflix generated $59 million in profit.

But the looming specter of a stand-alone HBO that consumers will be able to buy without subscribing to cable may be a greater threat to Netflix than slowing growth. The company did not seem overly concerned, however, about having to convince customers that House of Cards is more worthy of their money than Game of Thrones.

“The competition will drive us both to be better,” Netflix said in its letter. “It was inevitable and sensible that they would eventually offer their service as a standalone application. Many people will subscribe to both Netflix and HBO since we have different shows, so we think it is likely we both prosper as consumers move to Internet TV.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated Netflix’s total revenue in the third quarter. It was $1.4 billion.

Read next: HBO Will Finally Start Selling Web-Only Subscriptions Next Year

TIME Media

6 Crucial Unanswered Questions About HBO’s New Streaming Service

Inside A PCCW Ltd. Store As Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) Data Is Released
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here's why it's probably best to be cautiously optimistic

After years of maybe’s and not yet’s, HBO has finally announced that it will offer its content as a streaming service independent of a cable subscription sometime in 2015. People who don’t subscribe to cable have been begging HBO to take their money for years. Now, it seems, a rising tide of cord-cutters getting rid of cable and young adults who never subscribed to cable in the first place have compelled the network to fulfill their wishes.

But the announcement was painfully light on details. We don’t even know whether this service will be the same as HBO Go, the robust streaming app the network currently offers to its subscribers. Here are the questions HBO still needs to answer:

How much will it cost?

They don’t call it “premium cable” for nothing. The cost of HBO currently differs based on pay-TV provider and region but generally falls in the range of $15 to $20. Many cable operators offer the service at a discounted price of $10 per month for the first year. High-definition streaming on Netflix, for comparison, costs $8.99 per month. It’s hard to say where exactly an independent HBO would fall on this spectrum. Time Warner, which owns HBO, currently splits subscription fees with cable operators, but the operators handle the billing, customer service, delivery of content and some marketing. With a standalone service, HBO would have to deal with those issues itself and charge a fee appropriate to recoup those costs. Two years ago, HBO tweeted that a TechCrunch story that pegged the amount people would pay for the service at $12 per month “has it right.”

Will I be able to watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones?

If this service is the same as the current streaming service, yes. HBO Go allows customers to live stream the network’s TV shows on their laptops, mobile devices, and televisions. But it’s worth noting that HBO didn’t specifically say that HBO Go will be the standalone offering. The company has been notoriously reticent to offer its newest content to people who don’t pay for cable. Even the monumental deal to bring HBO content to Amazon Prime Instant Video for the first time doesn’t include Game of Thrones or more recent seasons of current shows like Boardwalk Empire.

Will the service perform well, technically?

Going by HBO’s past track record, this could be a problem. HBO Go crashed during the season finale of True Detective and multiple times during the last season of Game of Thrones because too many people were accessing the service simultaneously. Obviously a standalone service would be even more popular. No doubt HBO would beef up its servers to handle additional load, but that added expense would place more pressure on the network to raise the price it charges customers.

Will Internet service providers play nice with an HBO streaming service?

This year has seen an ongoing debate between Netflix and several ISPs over who should pay to deliver Netflix’s content to customers. Netflix suffered slowed speeds on the networks of Comcast and Verizon until the company agreed to pay them to establish a better connection. As a streaming service that will also stream its content over ISP’s pipes, HBO could face similar costs. It doesn’t help that many of the ISPs are also pay-TV operators that aren’t likely to be pleased that HBO is giving customers an incentive to cut the cord.

Can I finally dump my cable company?

If you were only keeping it around for HBO, and the new service functions similarly to HBO Go, sure. Otherwise, you’ll still need cable to watch a lot of TV content live, especially sports. But the fact that a cable network as prestigious as HBO is willing to break out of pay-TV’s walled garden in such a big way could have implications later. Other channels that already have robust streaming apps, such as FX and ESPN, could follow in HBO’s footsteps.

Does this matter to me if I still have cable?

It might. Cable operators initially offer HBO at a discount to entice customers to subscribe to the service. Now that HBO is becoming a competitor as well as a partner, they may be less motivated to subsidize the channel. And with HBO having to take on new infrastructure costs, the network may pass those expenses along to both cable and non-cable subscribers.

TIME Media

Netflix Has a Plan to Take Over the World

ABC's "Good Morning America" - 2014
Kevin Spacey talks about the new season of "House of Cards" on Good Morning America, 2/18/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. Ida Mae Astute—ABC via Getty Images

But it'll likely lose money abroad long before it ever makes it there

Like the conniving Frank Underwood, Netflix’s ambitions only continue to grow.

The streaming service is rolling out in six new European countries this week, including France and Germany, two of the region’s largest markets. The expansion, Netflix’s biggest ever, will expose the company to hundreds of millions of potential new customers who have high-speed Internet access. But the challenges and costs of adapting a U.S.-based service for six different cultures won’t be easy—or profitable—for quite a while.

At home, Netflix is still growing at a healthy clip. The company added 2.82 million streaming subscribers in the first half of 2014, up from 2.66 million additions during the same period last year. But the growth rate abroad is even faster as Netflix continues to come online in more regions. The company added 2.87 million international customers in the first half of the year, compared to 1.63 million last year. It’s projecting that it will add 2.36 million international subscribers in the third quarter alone thanks to the new markets where the service is launching.

While opening in new markets will certainly boost Netflix’s subscriber base, there’s no guarantee the service will perform as well as it has in the United States or the United Kingdom. In Germany, TV is less popular than in other Western nations. Germans watch 230 minutes of TV and video content per person per day, compared to 286 minutes per person in the U.S., according to research firm IHS. And the TV they do watch isn’t necessarily the same as what succeeds elsewhere. Seinfeld was famously a bust in Germany because it was “too American.” More worryingly for Netflix, its own high-budget original show House of Cards failed to net even a million viewers when it debuted on the German network Sat. 1, according to Bloomberg. Episodes from season two averaged less than 100,000 viewers.

“The Germans notoriously have different tastes from the rest of the West,” says Michael Pachter, an equity analyst for Wedbush Secutiries. “All of us . . . make the mistake of thinking that ‘international’ is a place. International is 180 independent, different nations.”

While there are similar cultural concerns in France, there Netflix must also deal with entrenched competitors who want to squash the streaming service before it can gain traction. Canal Plus, France’s largest pay-TV provider, actually owns the broadcast rights to House of Cards and recently announced a deal to stream HBO shows through its own Netflix-like service, Canalplay. Another provider, Numbericable, launched an online service with access to 3,000 episodes of TV shows on the same day Netflix launched in France. Meanwhile, content creators and regulators worry Netflix will try to further Americanize French culture while avoiding paying large taxes because it’s headquartered outside the country.

“People are concerned the emergence of Netflix will damage the local content industry,” says Richard Broughton, an IHS analyst. “They really have to make some partnerships in order to make better headway into the French market.”

Netflix has plans to address these issues. A new House of Cards-like drama called Marseille is set in the south of France and will be helmed by French directors. It should help cast Netflix as a collaborator in the country rather than an invader. The company will also try to buy up streaming rights to locally produced shows in the new countries where it launches, Broughton says. The strategy has been effective in the United Kingdom, where Netflix has the rights for many BBC shows. The company has 3 million customers there, according to one estimate.

But building a curated library for each individual market is expensive, and Netflix often has to negotiate individual rights agreements for each different country where it operates. “They have to replicate the wheel every place they go,” Pachter says.

That’s why Netflix’s international business has been unprofitable since it began. The division lost $15 million in the most recent quarter, and Netflix projects that loss will balloon to $42 million in the third quarter due to marketing and licensing costs in new territories. The price to compete will only grow, especially when other U.S. competitors show up in Europe (Amazon Prime Instant Video is already available in Germany).

Early impressions indicate that Netflix’s library of titles in France is not as robust as in the U.S. But analysts expect the company will eventually work out the kinks. IHS projects that Netflix will have 18 million subscribers across Europe by 2018, up from 5.8 million today. That would be a boon for the world’s most popular streaming service, but it’s hardly guaranteed.

“You’ve got to spend an awful lot up front,” Broughton says. “You’re gambling on, over the next few years, being able to accrue sufficient subscribers to offset those costs.”

MONEY Sports

How to Watch Every NFL Game This Season Without Going Broke

guys on couch cheering for football team
Michael Cogliantry—Getty Images

The 2014 NFL season starts Thursday, September 4. Here are 5 essential tips for tuning in to all the NFL action your eyeballs can handle throughout the regular season, and beyond.

Watching the NFL used to be simple. Fans could just plop down on the couch on Sunday afternoon, click on the local broadcast station, and they’d be contentedly screaming at the ineptness of the local team before they knew it. Then came exclusive NFL contracts with pay TV providers and sports channels, plus Thursday Night Football, plus a wide range of streaming options. Let’s not forget about the advent of fantasy football, which brought about the “need” for fans to keep tabs not just on their local team, but on the players they drafted across the league and relied upon to stomp on the teams run by their college buddies and office mates.

Stuff got complicated, at least compared to how it used to be. For help sorting out how and where to watch the NFL this season without spending a fortune, here are some handy tips.

All fans can watch some Thursday Night Football for free. According to NFL.com, “Thursday Night Football” starts one week from today, on September 11. That’s silly, of course. Even CBS Sports acknowledges that Thursday Night Football begins tonight, September 4, with rival NBC broadcasting the season-opening matchup of the Green Bay Packers versus the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Anyone with access to free network TV can watch the game.

What the NFL is referring to is that September 11 is when the NFL Network begins its airing of Thursday Night Football. But even then, it’s not necessary for fans to have a pay TV package that includes the NFL Network. For the first time, seven Thursday night games, between September 11 and October 23, are being broadcast on both the NFL Network and CBS. An additional Thursday night game will be aired on NBC on Thanksgiving night. So unlike in the recent past, when the NFL Network had exclusive rights to almost all Thursday night games, even cheapskate fans without a pricey pay TV package get to tune in to some pro football on Thursdays. What’s more, whereas in the past Thursday night games tended to be dominated by mediocre matchups, this year’s lineup features several premier rivalries of teams with big fan bases, including Steelers-Ravens (September 11), Giants-Redskins (September 25), and Jets-Patriots (October 16).

On Sundays, check out networks for free, or DirecTV at a price. Fox and CBS will broadcast NFL Sunday afternoon games featuring local-market teams—and another game or two, usually—and NBC is yet again the network destination for Sunday Night Football.

For fans who want the freedom of tuning into any NFL game their hearts desire on Sundays, DirecTV is the go-to provider. Thanks to an exclusive contract with the NFL, DirecTV offers two packages to subscribers: the NFL Sunday Ticket ($40 per month for six months) and the supersized NFL Sunday Ticket Max ($55 per month for six months). Both options allow subscribers to tune in to any out-of-market NFL game on Sunday. The Max package comes with extra features including the Red Zone Channel (shows highlights and scoring plays of all Sunday games) and, notably, the ability to stream Sunday NFL games on your computer, tablet, or phone.

ESPN has a stranglehold on Monday Night Football. Nothing new here: ESPN has the rights to air Monday Night Football. The MNF action begins with a double header on Monday, September 8, starting with a 7:10 ET kickoff of the Detroit Lions hosting the New York Giants, followed immediately by a matchup of the Arizona Cardinals hosting the San Diego Chargers at 10:20 ET. If you don’t have a pay TV package, or you don’t have a package that includes ESPN, you’re out of luck (though there are some less-than-fully-legal streaming methods out there). Monday Night Football is available for streaming—for subscribers only—at WatchESPN.com. Subscribers have the option of tuning in via desktop, tablet, Google Chromecast, Xbox Live Gold, and several other methods, but not through phones.

Here’s how to watch games in just 30 minutes. In addition to ESPN and DirecTV streaming options, a variety of Game Rewind packages are offered by the NFL, allowing fans to watch full game replays on-demand on your choice of devices after they’ve aired on TV. As a bonus, subscribers can use a Condensed Game feature, in which the typical, stretched-out 3.5-hour football viewing experience is boiled down to roughly 30 action-packed minutes. Fans have the option of buying Game Rewind for a single team ($30 for the season) or all teams ($40) during the regular season. A Season Plus package ($70) includes all of the above, as well as access to view the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl—on-demand, after they’ve aired on TV.

(The alternative to Game Rewind is simply recording games on a DVR, then fast-forward or replay to your heart’s content.)

Yet another streaming option is available for subscribers to Verizon Wireless More Everything plan. Verizon used to charge $5 monthly for subscribers to live stream nationally televised games on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights, but it dropped the fee for this season. Fans can also use their devices for live streaming local-market games on Sunday afternoons.

For now, hated blackout rules remain in effect. In recent years, the NFL has received pressure from fan groups as well as the FCC to get rid of blackout rules, which stipulate that networks will not broadcast local home games if the stadium isn’t at least 85% sold out within 72 hours of kickoff. The rules threatened to ruin several Sundays for many fans around the country last season, even during the playoffs, but several teams ran last-minute ticket promotions to boost attendance and thereby avoid blacking out broadcasts. In a few cases, local corporations or the NFL franchises themselves bought thousands of tickets and distributed them free of charge so that games wouldn’t be blacked out.

Lately, the league has been threatening to move all NFL games to cable if the FCC insists on eliminating the blackout rule. That, in effect, would black out the games for everyone who doesn’t have a pay TV package. So for now at least, the blackout rules remain, and fans of local teams that have trouble selling out—Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, we’re looking at you—are likely to face the choice of paying up for a ticket or missing the game a few times this season.

TIME Gadgets

A Built-In Roku TV Is Coming Soon

The Roku 3 television streaming player menu screen featuring Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Hulu, and Redbox Instant is shown on a television in Los Angeles on Sept. 12, 2013.
The Roku 3 television streaming player menu screen featuring Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Hulu, and Redbox Instant is shown on a television in Los Angeles on Sept. 12, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Available in September

Roku is working to streamline the video streaming process.

While consumers have long been able to use a Roku box to watch streaming internet TV on their screens, the company announced Tuesday that it will bring the screen to the Roku, with its first ever built-in smart television available in stores come September.

The Saratoga, Calif.-based company is working with Hisen and TCL to create a line of Roku-powered TVs that offer streaming options from thousands of apps — including Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and music sites apps like Pandora — just like the box version. According to Roku’s site, pre-orders are available on Amazon.

The 32-inch to 55-inch TCL Roku televisions will be available for between $230 and $650. Hisense will be offering four different sizes, ranging from 40″ to 55″, although prices have yet to be announced.

TIME Earnings

Netflix Crosses 50 Million Customer Streams

Updated July 21 at 5:38 p.m.

Netflix’s customer base has passed 50 million members, the company announced in its quarterly earnings report Monday. The streaming service added 1.69 million new members during its second quarter, bringing the total to 50.5 million customers and generating $1.1 billion in revenue, slightly missing analysts’ projections of about $1.2 billion.

The company had earnings of $1.15 per share, missing projections by a single penny. Overall, Netflix generated $71 million in profit, triple the figure from a year ago.

In a letter to shareholders, the company touted the success of its original programming, noting that Orange Is the New Black is now the most-watched series on the service in every territory. The next shows on the company’s production docket will be the final season of the cancelled AMC show The Killing and a new adult animated comedy called BoJack Horseman, both of which premiere in August.

Netflix is also planning an aggressive international expansion later this year. The streaming service, which already has almost 14 million customers abroad, will launch in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg in September. Netflix is prepping some original shows aimed specifically at foreign audiences, such as a soccer comedy that it will air in Spanish.

The company reiterated that it does not want to pay interconnection fees to Internet Service Providers to get its video content delivered to customers, an issue it has tried several times to fold into the zeitgeist of the ongoing net neutrality debate. “In the cable industry, there’s been constant conflict between the networks and cable distributors,” CEO Reed Hastings said in a video call with analysts. “We would hate to see ISPs brownout or blackout certain Internet sites while they try to extract payments.”

Netflix has also formally opposed the proposed merger between ISP giants Time Warner Cable and Comcast, unless the two companies are specifically banned from charging interconnection fees.

 

TIME Television

Community Is Graduating to Yahoo. Can It Get Even Weirder?

The NBC version of Community, which will return on Yahoo in the fall. Vivian Zink/NBC

The search-engine-turned-content-creator saves the cult sitcom, and gets the chance to show that streaming TV can do a network's job as well or better.

It skated on the edge of cancellation at NBC for five years, then finally fell off. It flirted with a resurrection deal with Hulu, then it fell through. But now, having promised “six seasons and a movie,” Community will be able to deliver at least the first half of that promise, thanks to Yahoo Screen, which you may not have known was a thing until now. Under the terms of the deal, Yahoo will make 13 episodes of the series, with creator Dan Harmon and the full remaining cast (not counting the departed Donald Glover and Chevy Chase). Which means we do not–per Abed’s warning at the end of season 5–have to assume that the story ended because an asteroid destroyed human civilization.

Should it have, though? Season 5 was not the show’s best, despite a handful of inspired episodes–but assuming Harmon had a vision that needed an extra year to complete it, I’m happy to find out. Yeah, I’m ambivalent about the idea that every show with a passionate audience can and should be kept alive, even past its peak, by Netflix (which is bringing back The Killing), or Yahoo, or, I don’t know, is HotBot still around? Sometimes you need to know when to say goodbye. But even a bad season 6 of Community won’t negate the greatness of the show’s past–and it could get very interesting.

The closest comparison seems to be the revival of Arrested Development on Netflix. There too, you had a wildly imaginative show with an impassioned creator who had bumped up against the restrictions of network TV. The Netflix fourth season of Arrested Development was an entirely different beast from what aired on Fox, and in some ways it suggested that the show was better with network limitations; the time limits of commercial TV, for instance, forced the Fox version of the show to create a dense, rapid-fire language of comedy, and the Netflix version sometimes felt slack and oddly paced. But the new version was rewarding in its own ways, and to its credit, it attempted to become a new kind of show for the new format.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Yahoo version of Community, though early reports indicate that it will be produced more like a network show than a Netflix one: Vulture’s Joe Adalian reports that the show will likely release episodes weekly, not all at once (and that the budget will be in line with a network budget). Still, Community has been the story of Harmon’s attempt to make a sitcom be as many things as he could make it be: a cartoon, an 8-bit videogame, a pop-culture parody, and a bittersweet character story. Theoretically, a Community produced online could become even more: if Harmon needs ten minutes more (or less) for a given episode, why couldn’t he have it? If Mitch Hurwitz could create an elaborate, experimental intersecting narrative without network-TV constraints, I can only imagine what Harmon will do with that toolbox–though I also wonder how he’ll deal with not having those constraints to define himself against.

And no one should assume by now that a revived Community on Yahoo will be a lesser, cheaper Community. We’ve seen from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (whose Transparent may be the fall show I’m most excited about) that online outlets can make TV that’s as impressive as anything on the slightly-bigger screen. Yahoo, meanwhile, should have every reason to invest in a version of Community it can be proud of. It’s been trying for a while to establish itself as a force in online video–see its hiring of Katie Couric as its global anchor. In any case, it seems fitting that Harmon, who co-founded the indie-TV/short-film website and festival Channel 101, should be part of online TV’s bid for the big time.

I’m happy for Harmon and crew that they’ve kept their show alive, but I also hope they think of this less as the sixth season of Community and more as the first season of something new. One thing’s for sure: now that the sixth season has been assured, I’m not betting against the movie, even if it has to be made entirely in Abed’s Imaginarium.

TIME streaming

Netflix’s Daredevil Finds a Best Friend

The 18th Annual IFP Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals
Eldon Henson during The 18th Annual IFP Independent Spirit Awards J. Vespa--WireImage

Marvel casts Elden Henson as Franklin "Foggy" Nelson, rounding out the cast for the 13-episode superhero series heading to Netflix

Netflix’s Daredevil has found a best friend. Marvel announced Thursday that they had cast Elden Henson of Mighty Ducks fame in the role of Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, the best friend of Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox) for the series heading to Netflix next year.

“Elden plays one of the most important characters in the world of Marvel’s Daredevil, and we’re thrilled to see Foggy Nelson brought to life by such an incredibly talented actor,” Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s head of television, told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “He perfectly captures the heart and soul of this series, bringing an added resonance to Matt Murdock’s fight against the injustice in their great city.”

In addition to Cox and Henson, Marvel has also cast Rosario Dawson and Vincent D’Onofrio in the updated series about a New York City attorney who is blinded by radioactive substance that heightens his other senses.

Daredevil is one of five Marvel series headed to Netflix— along with Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, as well as miniseries The Defenders — in what will be a massive partnership. Daredevil will be the first to debut, hitting the streaming service sometime in 2015.

[THR]

MONEY Shopping

Amazon Fire Phone Seem Too Pricey? Discounts Bound to Come Soon

Amazon Fire Smartphone with 3D map feature
An Amazon representative shows off the 3D map features of the company's new Fire smartphone at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington June 18, 2014. Jason Redmond—Reuters

If you think the brand-new Amazon phone is too darn expensive, sit tight. Discounts and promotions are bound to pop up within a few months, if not sooner.

Jeff Bezos unveiled the long-awaited Amazon Fire Phone on Wednesday, and the reaction in tech and consumer circles has been near universal: The phone has some very cool features, but at a price point starting at $199, with a two-year AT&T contract required, it simply costs too much to make a big impact on the smartphone market.

The “uninspired price tag is a surprising disappointment,” wrote the New York Times’ influential Farhad Manjoo, pronouncing the Amazon Fire phone a “missed opportunity.” It’s “Just Too Expensive,” a tech column Huffington Post headline declares bluntly.

Sure, the Amazon phone hasn’t even been released for sale yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about when it will be discounted. As anyone who follows the consumer electronics world in general—and smartphones and Amazon in particular—might guess, the Fire Phone is not likely to remain in the “too expensive” category forever. It’s not a matter of if but when the discounts and deals appear.

According to Louis Ramirez, senior editor at the deal-tracking site dealnews.com, the typical Android phone experiences a 50% price drop after two months on the market, and what “with better and cheaper Android phones being released every other month,” the pace of markdowns is on the rise. “The Galaxy 5S, for instance, saw multiple 50% discounts just one month after its release.”

Because this is Amazon’s first phone, and because AT&T is the exclusive provider, it’s not likely the phone will be discounted that aggressively in the near future, but experts foresee bundled deals and/or short-term promotional price drops fairly soon. “I think around the holidays is definitely a safe bet,” Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, a leading analyst in e-commerce for Forrester Research said via e-mail. (A note “Sent from my iPhone,” btw.)

Ramirez says that Amazon regularly hosts a “Penny Pincher” smartphone sale around Black Friday, when popular Android phones are sold for 1¢ when signing a two-year contract. “Now that they have their own phone,” Ramirez says of Amazon, “it’s very likely that phone will join their Black Friday sale. They may not cut it down to a penny, but you can expect it to see steep discounts come November.”

(MORE: Four Theories on What Amazon and Jeff Bezos Are Really Up To)

Forrester’s Mulpuru-Kodali agrees with the consensus take that the current Amazon Fire Phone price point is too high. But she stressed there was solid reasoning for why it wasn’t set cheaper. “That’s so they have room to bring the price down if units don’t move,” she said.

By putting an initial price on the Fire phone of $199 (with a two-year AT&T service plan) or $649 (with no contract), Amazon is also locking in the idea that this is how much the device is truly worth. The concept is called “price anchoring,” and it allows the seller to create the perception of an amazing, can’t-pass-up deal when the price is suddenly marked down. The J.C. Penneys and Kohl’s of the world make a regular habit of utilizing the tactic, in order to make their “sales” seem all the more impressive.

Smart consumers know to tune out these never-ending sales and just assume it’s unnecessary to buy anything at “full price.” Amazon generally doesn’t discount its devices left and right in this manner. On the other hand, Amazon doesn’t go the full Apple route either by offering discounts only on older gadgets—and only when a newer version is about to hit the market or has already been released. What Amazon tends to do instead is roll out deals here and there, somewhat randomly but regularly, so that consumers don’t think of the full price as a total joke, and so the discounts seem truly special.

(MORE: It Doesn’t Matter That Amazon’s Streaming Services Are Lame)

The folks at dealnews noted that the recently released Amazon Fire TV streaming device is likely to remain priced at $99 for quite some time, but that Amazon has already discounted it by including it in bundles packaged with an HDX tablet. They also say it’s all but guaranteed that the streaming device will be marked down during one or more holiday season promotions.

Complicating matters for Amazon is the fact that, as the (Jeff Bezos-owned) Washington Post pointed out, this is an especially difficult time to jump into the smartphone market. Pretty much everyone who wants a smartphone already has one—likely one that they’re pretty happy with too, after switching and upgrading a few times. While many of the Amazon Fire phone’s features are indeed cool, it’s unclear how many people will summarily dump their Apple or Samsung phones for a device from Amazon, a company that has had some glitches when launching new products, as Bezos mentioned during Wednesday’s unveiling. “I’m a little skeptical that what they’re bringing to the table is enough to make people put down their current phone and change to a new device,” Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen told the Washington Post.

Of course, one way to encourage people to switch phones is a substantial discount on the purchase price. Such a discount won’t bother AT&T, which makes its money via monthly subscriber bills. And it may not be anathema to Amazon, which in the long run makes its money not by selling devices but by getting consumers to do more and more of their shopping on its site. That’s the purpose of services like Amazon Prime, of course.

It’s no coincidence that Prime is included for a year at no charge with Amazon Fire Phone purchases. “Think of the Amazon Fire as a Prime subscription-selling machine that also happens to make phone calls and send text messages,” New York magazine observed. The phone’s Firefly feature, which allows the owner to scan almost anything imaginable and soon be able to purchase it via Amazon, was also obviously created with the idea of boosting Amazon sales into the next stratosphere.

If the tradeoff for such sales increases is that Amazon has to sell its phone at cost or take a loss during promotional sales, that’s a trade Amazon can probably live with. Anyway, for consumers, the moral is: If you like shopping at Amazon and like Amazon’s new phone but think it’s too expensive, don’t preorder it, and don’t pull the trigger within the first couple weeks it’s officially for sale. Wait a bit, and you’re sure to be rewarded with a better deal.

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